When loneliness creeps in, turn to these tips.
Although it already feels far longer than just a few weeks, our new shelter-at-home lifestyle is still a shock to the system. For families not accustomed to 24/7 togetherness, the mental and emotional strains are significant (even though live-in companionship does stave off loneliness).
But for those who live by themselves, finding connection in this age of physical distancing is more challenging than ever and the resulting feelings of isolation can have a negative impact on physical and emotional well-being. Combat the ill-effects with this advice:
Defuse the negativity bomb
Social distancing! Self-isolation! Quarantine! All these words can easily induce or escalate feelings of fear, anxiety and separateness, especially since we’re hearing them around the clock these days.
While it’s hard to stop the tsunami of triggering words coming at us, we can start stripping them of some of their power by mentally reframing them. Try not to think of this "new normal" you are living as either positive or negative — aim for neutrality. Functioning mostly on your own requires cultivating a new skill set (whether you want to or not), but the more we do it, the better we become and the easier it gets. These simple practices can clear negativity energy.
Rely on Video-chat Apps
With in-person gatherings off the table for the foreseeable future, spending time online with family and friends is the safest and easiest way to connect — and it’s never been easier to do. Interacting via FaceTime, Houseparty, Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype or other video-chat apps and platforms is a more personal and meaningful way to tend to those relationships than simply texting.
Don’t underestimate the sense of connection video chat provides — being able to see reactions and read body language instantly elevates the experience. Better yet, video chatting may also help stave off depression in older adults.
That said, let's not forget about a good old-fashioned phone call, either! If you have elderly friends or relatives who aren’t tech-savvy, ring them up. Ask them to share family stories and their experiences getting through tough times in the past — you'll both feel closer after that kind of quality conversation.
Find your virtual tribe — but reach out in real time
Under normal circumstances, my advice is always to connect more in-person than via social media. In-person experiences help naturally nurture relationships and create feelings of community and connection. For the time being, however, we’re going to have to select aspects of the virtual world to fill the social engagement gap.
Pre-recorded fitness classes and crafting webinars have their place, but try to invest more time in participatory, interactive online experiences — think: dinner dates, book clubs, study groups, live classes, small group conversational language classes... you get the idea. Go for live, two-way (preferably speaking, not chat) conversations in real time. It can help to expand your social circle in an organic and accessible way.
There is, however, one extremely fun exception to the speaking-in-real-time rule: DJ DNice’s Instagram Live Saturday night “Club Quarantine” dance party. He spins hip-hop, R&B and party classics live from his living room, lifting people's spirits by encouraging them to dance in their living rooms. Who’s in the "room" with you? Over 100,000 people, including Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama and Rihanna!
Be One With the world
The next time you start to feel negative stuff bubbling up, like when you're in a blocks-long line at the grocery store, pause for a second and remind yourself to connect with an African spiritual practice called ubuntu, which basically means: what makes us human is the humanity we show each other. It’s about basic caring, having respect and compassion for others. Ubuntu helps build bridges between people instead of chasms, so practice it daily, from a distance of course.
Another idea: Find some way of giving to others, or by supporting organizations and individuals — especially nurses, doctors and first responders. Donating time (virtually), money or supplies where they’re needed most will help you feel more connected to your local community, as well as to the whole family of humankind.
Got neighbors? Figure out small and simple ways to be of service to them. If you’re braving the crowds at the local market, touch base and see if you can pick up anything for them or offer to walk an elderly neighbor’s dog.
Small acts of kindness benefit more than just the recipient. When you are kind to another person with no expectation of anything in return, you experience the “helper’s high.” The pleasure and reward centers of your brain light up, as if you received the good deed yourself. Your levels of serotonin rise, and cortisol and blood pressure go down, thanks to the hormone oxytocin, the love and bonding chemical.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of kindness is that it takes you out of a single-point perspective where you are consumed by personal problems (which we are all facing now), and shifts you into a shared experience of life. For that moment, or for as many moments as you can string together, you remember that we’re all in this together. Kindness is a universal language that crosses imagined boundaries.
Make at least one daily gesture of unsolicited kindness —tell your food-delivery person how much you appreciate her or pay for a coffee for someone standing six feet behind you in line. Kindness is a muscle that grows the more you use it. It’s also contagious. Witnessing acts of kindness stimulates feel-good chemistry in others and inspires similar acts.
Kindness is a universal language that crosses imagined boundaries.