After nearly a year of living through the COVID pandemic, many of us have dealt with bouts of loneliness. The feeling stems from all sorts of places: you might be lonely because you’re spending time in actual isolation, or you might be lonely because you’re feeling disconnected from yourself and your pre-pandemic life. Whatever the cause, feeling lonely can be deeply unsettling, with negative consequences for our mental health. And while we can’t always control the circumstances that trigger our loneliness, we can build a toolbox of strategies that help us cope.
We asked our Thrive community to share with us the strategies that help them feel less lonely and more connected, both to themselves and the world around them. Which of these will you try?
Reach out to an old friend
“Whenever I feel lonely, I reach out to someone I have not been connected with in a while. I will think of something that would make them happy, like sending them a poem or a new recipe I love. I’ll make sure that it is something that will make them smile and put some joy in their day. Doing something nice for a loved one always makes me feel better.”
—Annie Gaudreault, nutritionist, Toronto, ON, Canada
Pick up a forgotten hobby
“I’ve found that learning to savor this time and truly enjoy our solitude makes all the difference when we feel disconnected. This is a skill that can be learned and becomes habitual, one I’ve been reminding myself to practice during time. I’ve been upping many of my favorite activities that fell to the wayside before the pandemic: working out, playing tennis, reading. And I’ve also been adding new ones, like learning Spanish and creating self-care YouTube videos. It’s helped to remind myself that I deserve to enjoy this time alone. Aloneness is an opportunity to befriend ourselves.”
—Arlene B. Englander, licensed psychotherapist and author, North Palm Beach, FL
Take a walk in nature
“Last year, I moved to a new city, lost my job, gained weight, and was feeling depressed. Then, the pandemic hit, and I started taking walks in nature with my dog Sadie, reconnecting with myself and calming my anxiety. Walking quickly became a way to connect with other people in my community, even if I didn’t know them. Being outdoors helped me get away from the constant barrage of negative news. The birds were singing, the squirrels were running, and nature was still thriving despite everything. When I’m walking and watching nature, I know that I am OK, and things will work out.”
—Mary Ann Lopez, freelance writer, Austin, TX
Carve out time to meditate
“To combat feelings of loneliness, I’ve developed a habit of ‘going inside.’ I sit or lie down for about 30 minutes in a silent place, and try to clear my mind completely. This meditation helps me calm down, reflect, appreciate the little things in my life. The feeling I experience afterward is so peaceful, and I’ll even do some yoga or listen to cool music. I forget that I’m alone during that time, as it helps me connect with myself.”
—Monicah W., credit analyst, Nairobi, Kenya
Start a writing club
“I formed a virtual writing practice community called ‘Write Now Mind,’ where we focus on spending ten minutes each week writing responses to a prompt and then offering each other anonymous feedback. The writing is unedited and raw, helping us get in contact with the feelings that have arisen this year. Reading the anonymous responses engenders compassion for one another and also the sense that we are not in this alone, as many responses begin to sound similar. It has become a real community and a safe place to explore our feelings and feel more connected.”
—Marijke McCandless, corporate communication specialist and writer, N.C.
Go somewhere that inspires you
“When I feel lonely, I decide to go somewhere I know I will be inspired and feel safe. In my neighborhood, there is a garden and a local museum, both open from Thursday to Sunday. Both places are never crowded during the week or in the mornings on weekends. When I am in line, I talk to the people around me and I always speak to the crossing guards and the owners of local neighborhood stores. The ritual helps me feel less alone.”
—Nancy Torres, educator, Bronx, N.Y.
Join an online networking group
“As a naturally shy person, I’ve always struggled with making human connections in person. With the pandemic, I find that I am much more social and engaged. I’ve joined networking groups online and talk to people every day, either over social media, email, or video chat. Most of these relationships would not have existed without the pandemic. For me, I am much more connected to the world and individuals because of our social isolation. My inner circle has grown and it makes me feel happier and helps me cope with everything else that’s going on.”
—Michelle Forsyth, author coach, Calgary, AB, Canada
Schedule check-ins with friends
“I schedule regular ‘pop-ins’ with people at the beginning of each week. It gives me something to look forward to while working from home during the day. I’ve found that connecting is still possible and making it a priority has been so helpful for my mental well-being.”
—Kristin Meekhof, author and author development consultant, Royal Oak, MI
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