Loneliness provides lots of inspiration for songwriters, especially country music composers.
Though it can be good song material, feeling lonely can be detrimental to your health, research shows.
According to research by AARP, 35 percent of survey respondents age 45 and up were lonely.
And additional research has tied loneliness to metabolic syndrome, an array of health conditions such as abdominal obesity, high blood pressure and insulin resistance; plus, it increases the risk of stroke, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.
Not to mention: “Feelings of loneliness and isolation are often underlying factors for chronic pain, substance abuse and depression,” says Dr. Jennifer Caudle, an assistant professor at Rowan University School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford, New Jersey. Here are 10 strategies for combating loneliness:
1. Understand what loneliness is
There’s a difference between solitude and loneliness, says Sanam Hafeez, a licensed clinical psychologist in New York City and a faculty member at Columbia University Teacher’s College.
“Both mean a person is alone; however, the mindset is different,” she says. “It’s a typical feeling someone has when they believe the validation of others [and their company] is needed to feel worthy and at ease. Solitude is rooted in choice and peace. When someone revels in their solitude, they appreciate their connection to themselves first. They may enjoy time spent with others but don’t need it.”
And, according to the Cleveland Clinic, lonely people often have difficulty making meaningful connections.
2. Start with small steps
When you’re feeling isolated, it may seem daunting to re-engage with others socially. Start by taking small steps.
If you feel isolated or disconnected, or you recently lost a loved one, you’re not alone. Get out and about by going to the supermarket, the gym or volunteering, says Dr. Sachin H. Jain, president of CareMore, an integrated health plan and delivery system based in California that focuses on managing the needs of seniors and others in seven states.
It’s important to keep moving and take small steps toward engaging with others in whatever form works for you, Jain says.
3. Meet people IRL (in real life)
Looking at Facebook and Instagram photos of the amazing vacations your friends are taking – or studying their social media updates on personal and professional successes – can promote feelings of loneliness.
“It’s counterintuitive, but increased use of social media may exaggerate feelings of loneliness,” Caudle says. “While social networks can offer real connections, remember that curated platforms often over-emphasize the success of others.”
Instead of spending too much time reading about people in cyberspace, close your laptop, put down your phone and spend more time with people you know in real life. “There’s no substitute for face-to-face interaction,” Caudle says.