Making Meaningful Connections to Beat Loneliness

We all know how horrible it is to feel alone when you don’t want to feel alone. During the pandemic social isolation increased people’s feelings of loneliness and human connection causing a spike in mental illness. Although we are arguably no longer in the pandemic and social isolation is not mandatory, loneliness is still impacting people across society. 

It is important to acknowldege the major difference between social isolation and loneliness. Social isolation is defined by Healthline as the lack of social connection, whereas loneliness is the feeling of being alone. Unfortunately, they both have negative effects on people and society. In this recording by NPR reporters discuss the impact of social isolation on crime rates, reporting that in areas that have lower social connectedness tend to have a higher crime rate. Unfortunately though, social isolation and loneliness do go hand in hand and do cause a multitude of negative effects on the individual. PsychologyToday notes that social isolation can cause the following health problems: depression, accelerated cognitive decline, poor cardiovascular function and impaired immunity.

Unfortunately though, loneliness can be present regardless if the individual is facing social isolation – I am sure we have all felt alone regardless of how many people are around us. Although loneliness can produce some similar negative health problems as social isolation. Mental Health America notes that loneliness can both trigger and increase symptoms of depression, anxiety, substance use, and psychosis. According to Forbes, loneliness can also increase the release of stress hormones in the brain causing anxiety and stress. Forbes also notes in their article that loneliness can affect cognition in such a way that there is an increased risk of dementia in older individuals. 

Thankfully there is a simple way to beat loneliness – meaningful connections with others. So what is a meaningful relationship or connection? Centerstone defines a meaningful connection as a connection with someone else that feels significant in your life that includes mutual respect and trust, and makes the individual feel valued. According to Samaritans, having community provides a place for people to find a sense of belonging and purpose. Community also provides a sense of support from others, offering you connections in times that you might feel lonely. 

However, you might be wondering how you might be able to create a meaningful relationship with others – especially when you are feeling lonely. Well the first step is to be true to yourself! According to NAMI and Tiny Budha, being your true self is the number one way to create genuine and meaningful connections with others. Having things in common with the person you are trying to create a connection with can strengthen your connection. According to MeetMindful, having a shared interest for songs, media, or movies can strengthen your bonds with others, but you can also have philosophical conversations with them to better understand your friends. However, meaningful connections are a two way street. It is important to nurture meaningful relationships and show an interest in the other person. 

We hope that this information helps you battle your own feelings of loneliness and make new connections with people!