FIRST, UNDERSTAND FEELING LONELY IS NOT AN ILLNESS, IT'S A STATE OF MIND
Loneliness is not a condition to be treated but rather a natural part of the human experience. And that's a good thing says Mayra Mendez, PhD, LMFT, program coordinator of mental health services at Providence Saint John's Child and Family Development Center in Santa Monica, California. 'The most helpful thing to know about loneliness is that it isn't something that happens to you, it's something you can control,' she says. 'It's okay to be lonely sometimes, it doesn't mean there's something wrong with you.'
DO A LITTLE GOOD
Serving other people is one of the best ways not to feel lonely and even make some lifelong friends, Mendez says. Volunteering at a local school or library, knitting blankets for babies at the hospital, bringing meals to the elderly, being a Big Brother/Big Sister, teaching a scout troop—the options are endless. Service will get you out in the community and help you feel like you're making a real difference: two essential things for living a full, happy life.
SKIP BORING SMALL TALK
Mendez has three simple rules when it comes to starting a conversation with a potential friend (and everyone can be a potential friend!): First, talk about your shared experience. Whether you're waiting for a bus, in a long line at the store or working out at the gym, you're both doing something right? Talk about that. Second, keep it simple and light. There's no need to spill your whole life story. Third, skip news and politics. No one wants to hear a diatribe! Check out these tips to avoid awkward conversations.
FIND SOMETHING TO BE PASSIONATE ABOUT
What do you do that gets you out of bed in the morning? What events make you excited for the future? Anything that gives your life meaning and happiness is a great way to connect in a very authentic way with other people. For many people, their job is their passion, Mendez says, but it doesn't have to be. Hobbies like an outdoor sport, crafting, singing, or cars all offer opportunities to make new friends while improving your skills and having fun. The best part? You already know you have something in common to talk about!
EMBRACE YOUR SPIRITUALITY
Religion can be a great way to connect with like-minded people and become part of a close-knit, loving community. But even if you're not particularly religious, you can still bond with people on a spiritual level, Mendez says. It's about recognizing the things we all have in common as human beings living on this planet and building from there.
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Charlotte Hilton Andersen