Building Bridges to Ease Loneliness
People are lonely because they build walls, not bridges.
Loneliness….It’s something most people have experienced at some point in their lives. For some, the feeling occurs after losing someone important to them, such as a spouse or partner, family member, or close friend. For others, it’s the loss of a job or moving away from friends and an established lifestyle that triggers it. Even the loss of a beloved pet can leave one feeling lonely.
Did you know you can be lonely without being alone? You can be in the middle of a crowd and yet still experience loneliness. If you have less social interaction and sense of connection than you would like, chances are you will feel lonely.
In a recent gathering, Caryl Geiger, RCFE activities director for Eisenberg Village, lead a discussion of this topic with Jewish Home residents. Many of the participants have experienced loss and major changes during their lifetime and are familiar with this sad feeling of being apart from others. Even a move to a warm, welcoming place like the Home can result in feelings of loneliness. To help deal with this side effect of transition, the Home assigns buddies to show newcomers around, make them aware of all the opportunities for socialization the Home offers, and introduce them to others.
The positive effects of banishing loneliness are many. Physically, it can lead to a decrease in blood pressure and cholesterol. Cortisol levels can be lowered, which helps lessen anxiety, digestive problems, heart disease, problems with sleep and obesity. Your immune system can get a boost, leading to less susceptibility to colds and “bugs.” And less loneliness can lessen the incidence depression and, ultimately, risk of suicide.
So what can you do if you’re feeling lonely? Our residents came up with a few great suggestions for relief:
Read a book. Books are great company and can take you to an entirely different world.
Listen to music. Music has the power to mesmerize you. It entertains, relaxes and rejuvenates.
Dance. Dancing can let your frustrations out and help you forget your loneliness.
Take a walk. Walking makes you part of the world around you while relaxing your body and mind.
Exercise. While you’re becoming stronger and feeling healthier, you might make a new friend in yoga class or try out the latest group fitness class.
Paint. Express yourself without worrying about the outcome.
Garden. Let your garden delight your senses and chase away your loneliness.
Meditate. Meditation will help you be at ease, whether you are alone or with others.
Clean. While not as much fun as the other ideas, it’s an opportunity to focus on the task at hand and put your house in order.
Sleep. A nice nap can help you feel refreshed and renewed.
These suggestions can be very helpful in providing short-term relief. Some of them can actually motivate you to reconnect to the world – you may find you’d like to join a book club, or perhaps on your walk you make a new friend, or you are inspired to take an art class. In other words, you begin building a bridge to help end your loneliness.
For many people, trying a new activity or talking to someone they don’t know is out of their comfort zone. This can be true for anyone at any age. By taking the focus off of yourself and putting it on others, you can take the first step to making a connection. Smile, say hello, and ask how someone is. People are often eager to talk about their lives. As simple as that, you may be on your way to making a new friend.
If you are experiencing chronic loneliness, please reach out to someone you trust – a family member, friend, rabbi or other spiritual leader, or professional counselor. Therapy is often helpful for discovering the reasons for your loneliness, developing coping skills, and moving forward to a happier, healthier life.