As the holiday season approaches, many individuals like Renate Bello, 56, ﬁnd
themselves grappling with the reality of loneliness. Renate, without family or close friends nearby, spends her holidays pet-sitting in Easthampton, Mass. While she cherishes the joy of caring for pets, she yearns for deeper human connections.
Loneliness can evoke feelings of inadequacy, contributing to a societal stigma that often exacerbates the problem.
Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, the surgeon general and author of “Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World,” emphasizes that loneliness is a universal human experience. It is essential to dispel the shame associated with it and recognize that everyone, at some point, feels lonely. Addressing loneliness involves acknowledging the need for social connections and actively seeking meaningful
relationships. Here are some strategies to overcome loneliness and foster genuine connections:
Recognize Shared Experiences:
Understanding that loneliness is a common experience can alleviate the sense of isolation. Social connection is vital for overall health, impacting heart health, brain health, and immunity. Despite the prevalence of loneliness—reported by more than half of Americans in a 2021 poll—people often underestimate that others, even those with many friends, can feel lonely. This shared understanding can foster empathy and reduce the stigma surrounding loneliness.
Being surrounded by people doesn’t guarantee freedom from loneliness. Effort and honesty are crucial in strengthening connections. Dr. Murthy advocates for honest, authentic human connection, which can have a transformative effect on one’s
well-being. In an era dominated by digital communication, genuine connection involves being present and allowing room for others to be human alongside you. Switching from texting to phone or video calls can add a personal touch to communication.
Look for Commonalities:
Building connections involves ﬁnding common interests and values. Understanding one’s unique ways of initiating communication and maintaining relationships is
essential. It’s crucial not to expect too much initially and recognize that relationships
take time to develop. Whether casual or intimate, having friends with common interests provides a sense of belonging.
Offer Support to Others:
Volunteering is a meaningful way to broaden social networks and reduce feelings of isolation. Numerous studies highlight the positive impact of volunteering on mental health and social connections. Websites like Volunteer Match, AmeriCorps, United Way, and the AARP can help ﬁnd volunteer opportunities. Offering support to others can
boost conﬁdence and provide a sense of purpose.
Taking even small steps toward building social connections can make a signiﬁcant difference. If struggling with loneliness, don’t hesitate to seek support from relatives, friends, therapists, or healthcare providers. Initiating contact or expressing feelings of social isolation can empower individuals to take control of their situations.
Have you experienced loneliness during the holidays, and how did you navigate it? Share your insights, tips, or personal stories in our forum to foster a supportive community.