Coping with Loneliness

Americans are lonelier than ever. In a study conducted by Eastman Kodak Company earlier this year, researchers found that sex in ten participants felt they have fewer meaningful relationships than they did five years ago, and 67 percent of those surveyed felt there is more loneliness in today's society than there used to be.

In another study, conducted by Duke University researchers, the number of people who said there was no one with whom they discussed important life matters tripled between 1985 and 2004.

Even with the advent of social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn and Twitter, Americans are still reporting in high numbers that they are lonely.  In fact, according to a recent New York Times article, the average person experiences loneliness about 48 days a year.

Many experts, including John T. Cacioppo, a neuroscientist at the University of Chicago and coauthor of Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, agree that social media sites should serve as a supplement to, not a replacement for, face-to-face interaction.  Furthermore, a number of experts contend that social media can actually amplify feelings of loneliness and isolation.

Loneliness has been defined as an aversive emotional response to a perceived discrepancy between a person's desired levels of social interaction and the contact they're actually receiving. What's interesting is that the quantity of friends someone has does not necessarily relieve a person's loneliness.

"People can feel lonely even when they're surrounded by other people," says Nicholas A. Christakis, MD, a physician and social scientist at Harvard Medical School. And since people tend to measure themselves against others, they can feel particularly lonely in communities where social connection is the norm.

If you are feeling lonely or isolated, you are definitely not alone. Although loneliness is turning commonplace in America, it is not something you should try to ignore. Studies have shown that loneliness can cause stress levels to rise, weaken the immune system, and has been linked to a variety of physical and mental ailments, including high blood pressure, sleep disorders, and an increased risk of depression and suicide.

If you are suffering from loneliness, try some of these coping strategies below.

7 Strategies to Cope with Loneliness

1. Admit that you are lonely. The first step to any change is acknowledgement. Admit you are lonely to yourself first, then to a friend or family member, and if necessary, to a health professional.

2. Invite a friend to join you for an activity. Being involved with others can relieve loneliness, take you outside of your own problems and, in effect, lift your mood. Call a friend to go for a walk, share a meal, or do another fun activity together.

3. Create a group of confidantes. Find someone who lives on your street or in your apartment building who might welcome your friendship and strike up a conversation. Go out of your way to initiate a conversation, introduce yourself to others and show an interest in them. Take your time building trusting and worthy friendships. Having a group of confidantes is great medicine to relieve loneliness.

4. Use your hobbies as a way to meet new people or take a class. When you sign up for a group or class revolving around a subject you are interested in (or better yet, passionate about), you are sure to meet like-minded folks. A shared passion can go a long way toward building intimate relationships.

5. Join a volunteer group. As you open your arms to others, you'll develop important relationships with a range of people. By volunteering your time and sharing your skills and your heart, you'll be a part of others' lives in a significant way. By helping others, you'll help yourself.

6. Exercise. Don't allow yourself to sit around and internally complain about feeling lonely. Get up and do something. Exercise releases endorphins, which have been proven to improve your mood. Exercising not only helps you feel good through the release endorphins, but also gives you an opportunity to meet others--whether at the gym, the yoga studio, or out walking your dog. 

7 Meditation. Coping with loneliness through meditation may sound counter-intuitive because it is a solitary activity, however meditation can remind you that you are not alone. When you meditate, you connect with a deeper part of yourself and ultimately get a sense that you are connected to something bigger than yourself. This can bring about feelings of deep peace, satisfaction and a sense of well-being and joy. 

Important Note: Loneliness is a form of depression and can carry the risk of suicide. If you have had thoughts of suicide, contact a health care professional right away for assistance. Coping with loneliness can be challenging. Reach out for help if you feel you are at risk.


Americans are Lonelier than Ever, Despite Being Increasingly Connected by Technology, Pictures Can Help. PRNewswire. June 25, 2009. Accessed Dec. 18, 2009.

Cornblatt, J. Lonely Planet. Newsweek. Aug. 21, 2009. Accessed Dec. 18, 2009.

Fountain, H. The Lonely American Just Got a Bit Lonelier. New York Times. July 2, 2006. Accessed Dec. 18, 2009.

Parker-Pope, T. Why Loneliness Can Be Contagious. New York Times. Dec. 1, 2009. Accessed Dec. 18, 2009.

Understanding is the Key to Coping With Loneliness July 24, 2009. Associated Content. Accessed Dec. 18, 2009.