We would love it if all our readers could be in the company of their loved ones this holiday season, but with the coronavirus continuing to surge, we know that’s not exactly a possibility for everyone. That, sadly enough, opens the door to loneliness.
While we cannot help you bring the family together, science does offer us a few ways to feel connected and alleviate loneliness even when there’s nobody around. Below, you’ll find four science-backed ways to relieve loneliness when you find yourself alone.
Engage in a hobby: Spending time with friends and family can bring meaning into your life, but that’s not the only way you can experience meaningfulness. When you engage in a hobby like cooking or painting, you can turn your alone time into something that feels meaningful and fulfilling, which in turn, can soothe feelings of loneliness and improve overall well-being. In one study, researchers found that people who spend time alone of their own volition experience less loneliness, suggesting that when we see time alone as an offering or opportunity, we can feel less lonely when we’re by ourselves.
Avoid watching TV and scrolling social media: Extensive research from author Robert D. Putnam examined various factors that might explain why our social engagement has been shrinking in the last few decades. What he found was that nothing decreased social engagement as much as the creation of the TV. Putnam argues that TV steals time and “seems to encourage lethargy and passivity,” which has been linked to loneliness. And although Putnam’s research came before the advent of social media, newer research suggests a link between time spent using social media and loneliness. Best to avoid it and grab a book instead.
Look for the best in everyday things: Have you ever heard of an “awe walk?” It’s essentially a daily fifteen-minute walk in which you spend time noticing everyday beauty, like the vibrant colors of the fall leaves. In one study, researchers found that an “awe walk” can help people feel more socially connected than a control group of walkers. Additionally, other research has established links between gratitude and loneliness, which suggests that if we look for things to be thankful for, we’ll feel more connected—even when we’re by ourselves.
Practice loving-kindness meditation: One practice researchers have found to be effective for increasing feelings of social connection is known as loving-kindness meditation. This involves meditating on the love we have for those around us. To learn about loving-kindness meditation, check out this video here.