There are steps you can take to feel more connected. Listening to music, calling a friend, taking a walk outside, and other activities may help reduce your sense of isolation.

girl walking dog alone at crosswalk
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Loneliness is going around, and it’s having a pretty big impact.

Even before psychological distress and loneliness increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, a January 2020 survey reported that over three in five Americans felt lonely.

Prolonged loneliness can make life seem pointless. It can lead to physical symptoms, including sleep problems and a weakened immune response.

“Loneliness is not the same as social isolation. You can be alone. You can feel lonely when you are around other people. Loneliness occurs when you feel alone, while social isolation occurs when you don’t interact with other people.”

13 tips can help you navigate loneliness and keep it from wearing you down.

It may be easier to navigate feelings of loneliness if you cast a different light on what it means to be alone.

Loneliness happens when your needs for social interaction and human connection go unmet. Different people have different interaction needs, so this doesn’t happen at the same point for everyone. For example:

  • If you spend most nights with friends and loved ones, you might feel lonely.
  • If you prefer being your own person, you might be happy to see one friend a week.
  • You might feel lonely when you return to an empty house.
  • “If you can’t connect with a live-in partner, you might feel lonely.”

Most people need close relationships in order to thrive. That said, research suggests that some amount of solitude — or quality alone time — is also important. Solitude creates opportunities for self-discovery, creative thought, and self-reflection.

Time alone can also open the door to greater mindfulness, which may help reduce anxiety and depression.

Accept loneliness as it comes. Maybe you can listen to music, pick up a forgotten sketchpad, or just sit and listen to your feelings and goals.

Whatever you choose to do, finding ways to make the most of your alone time can help you lean into solitude and use it to your advantage.

It may be hard to notice positive things in your life when you are lonely, but taking a few minutes to practice gratitude each day may help you feel better.

It is possible to practice gratitude by thinking of small things you enjoyed recently, like talking to a friend or eating a meal. You can try to do that.

  • Write down a few things you are grateful for.
  • Take a moment to remember a few positive moments.
  • Tell them about how you feel.
  • You can relive a happy experience from the past.

A 2019 study found that participating in a daily gratitude writing exercise reduced loneliness and improved health among older adults.

Music and other sounds can help push loneliness back.

Sound can help fill the space in your environment and thoughts, which can make it feel less overwhelming. For example:

  • Music may boost your mood, according to research, while audiobooks might provide distraction and a temporary escape.
  • The conversation on talk radio may help create a sense of connection.
  • “Even if you don’t sit down and watch the show all the way through, it can break the silence.”
  • It is possible to feel more connected to the world by opening a window.

Even if you don’t see all your friends or family regularly, you can still maintain your closeness. Research from 2021 suggests that virtual interactions, especially when you’re connecting to a larger number of people, may help reduce loneliness and benefit mental health if you can’t meet others in person.

Sometimes a quick text can seem like the easiest way to connect, but don’t underestimate the power of speaking to another person. A 2021 study found that even a regular 10-minute phone call may help ease loneliness.

Simply spending time around others won’t always relieve loneliness. A 2021 study found that being in overcrowded areas actually increased feelings of loneliness.

The number is not the sole indicator of the quality of your interactions. That is why you might feel lonely in a group of people but happy with your friend.

How you spend time with others can have a big impact. Sometimes, you need a company and can enjoy a movie with a friend or work on a project while sharing space.

Try to find ways to make your interactions more meaningful when you feel like you need to connect on a deeper level.

  • Emotions and personal experiences can be shared.
  • Ask questions, and really listen to what your loved ones have to say.
  • Talk about things that matter.

It is possible to avoid talking about current events, but you should still be aware of what is happening in the world. It may be helpful to center your conversations around things that bring you both joy rather than worry about the news.

A change of environment can help you deal with loneliness. Getting out of the house can remind you that you are not alone in the world.

Time in nature can also help ease emotional distress and boost your overall wellness.

There are a few ideas to try.

  • Visit your favorite park. Try to identify different birds — both birds and birdsong can have a positive impact on well-being, according to recent research.
  • Take a walk around your neighborhood. Explore streets you’ve never visited and greet neighbors when your paths cross.
  • A scavenger hunt with friends is a good idea.
  • If possible, support local businesses.

Getting out on a bike can make you sleepy.

A research review from 2020 suggests that loneliness may be linked to worse sleep quality and insomnia, but the effects don’t stop there. Sleeping poorly can affect daytime functioning, which might, in turn, increase your sense of isolation.

Emotions tend to gather under the surface and intensify when they go unacknowledged. Expressing your feelings out loud, however, may diminish their power to cause distress.

Telling a loved one you feel lonely can make it easier to get important emotional support that helps loosen the grip of loneliness.

Talking about difficult emotions can also help empower your loved ones to share any feelings they might be struggling with, making it possible to explore coping strategies together.

Sharing painful or unwanted emotions with others can feel difficult, especially if you aren’t used to talking about your feelings. If you’re not feeling up to it, journaling offers another way to express and sort through feelings privately that, research shows, can promote well-being.

Creative pursuits like art, music, and writing can help improve mental health. If these activities bring you joy and help you feel more connected, they may also help reduce feelings of loneliness.

Creation can leave you with a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction, which might challenge a prevailing mood of loneliness and sadness.

Find your flow

A flow state is a key benefit of creativity. Flow, often as a sense of being in the zone, can happen when you challenge yourself with an activity you love.

Finding your flow means reaching a point where you can focus on your art, music, or anything else, because distraction and emotions temporarily fade away.

A 2020 study during COVID-19 lockdowns in China found that participants who reported reaching flow also experienced more positive emotions and less loneliness.

While a fresh canvas or blank page may not completely erase loneliness or keep it from coming back, art can be used to create something permanent and moving, one where you can harness your emotions to create something permanent and moving.

Animals may not be able to talk (unless, of course, you have a vocal bird), but they provide companionship all the same. The presence of another living creature can comfort you, and their antics can help lift your spirits and relieve stress, as thousands of pet videos on the internet can confirm.

Research also suggests pet ownership can improve both mental and physical wellness. As another bonus, having a dog gives you a reason to head outside on a regular basis.

If you don’t have a pet of your own, consider looking into volunteer opportunities at local shelters. This may have a dual benefit, as research indicates that spending time volunteering may reduce loneliness.

For a quick fix

“If you can’t have a dog, you can visit a dog park. Explain that you love dogs but don’t have one of your own, because anyone would ask why you’re there. Everyone there is likely a dog lover, so you can probably even toss a ball to their dog.”

While social media often seems like an appealing way to maintain connections with loved ones, it can sometimes increase feelings of loneliness.

“A loved one posting a happy, free post can make you think they don’t miss you as much as you do. It can be hard to see others spending time with romantic partners or family members.”

“You can’t really know what your loved ones are thinking without asking, because social media never shows the whole picture. Some of those posts might be used as an approach to counter loneliness.”

Research also suggests that comparing yourself to others on social media may be linked to increased loneliness.

“It’s always a good idea to close those apps and connect with a phone call or text.”

It feels difficult to think about things you enjoy when you are lonely.

Still, favorite hobbies can fill the time until you’re able to see loved ones again. Doing things you enjoy or that are meaningful to you — from yoga to video games to baking — may also ground you and help you find inner calm.

Don’t forget that hobbies and relaxing activities also benefit mental health, according to research, which plays an important part in overall well-being.

However overwhelming it feels, loneliness won’t last forever. Acknowledging that fact can sometimes bring some relief. Know also that the feeling is widespread, so you’re not alone in feeling this way.

Sometimes it can take a little time and effort, but it’s always possible to reach out and strengthen existing connections or forge new ones.

If loneliness leaves you feeling low and alone, you might need a listening ear or some help to get through a crisis.

You can call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline or text the Crisis Text Line 24/7 to get free, confidential support from a trained counselor. They’ll listen to whatever’s on your mind and help you explore strategies to find some relief.

You can get in touch with us in the U.S.

There are a lot of things you can do to escape loneliness.

If loneliness doesn’t seem to improve and you feel low more often than not, talking to a therapist can help.

You can in therapy.

  • Get more information on what is happening.
  • Skills to manage distress in the moment are learned.
  • Strategies to help manage loneliness in the future are explored.

Crystal Raypole worked as an editor for GoodTherapy. Her interests include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. She is committed to helping us decrease stigma around mental health issues.