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It’s striking that you’re not alone when you withstand periods of profound isolation. Recent surveys show a dramatic increase in feelings of chronic loneliness in adults over the last few decades. Researchers now claim levels range between twenty-five and forty percent of the population. That means as many as seventy-eight million people in the United States crave more social contact than they currently experience.
These feelings are not reserved for the socially awkward or shy. You can be popular, in a romantic relationship, or occupy an office with fifty coworkers and still grapple with a sense of isolation. People of all personality types suffer mentally and physically because they are starved for meaningful contact. Those who are persistently lonely often exhibit signs of depression, anxiety, and early cognitive decline. In fact, studies reveal they have lowered immune and cardiovascular systems and a higher mortality rate than obese people.
Most experts point to technological advancements as the primary reason we are combating loneliness in record numbers. After all, cell phones, cable, and social media make it possible for us to live in a virtual bubble. These tools help us communicate, but interfere with intimacy. In her book Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other, MIT professor Sheryl Turkle describes how our relationships are being damaged by daily online interactions.
Even work has evolved into a solitary endeavor where we email and text our way through projects and problems until the day is done. While on break, we check our Facebook or Twitter accounts or shop online. It’s no wonder we experience feelings of detachment from time to time. The struggle lies in our unwillingness to change routines and become part of to the office community. If you’re open to forming or improving your human connections, here are 5 powerful ways of combating loneliness on the job:
1. Exercise: Work It, Girl!
Why not be extra efficient and combine social bonding with physical activity? Talk about killing two birds with one stone! Ask a few peers if they’d like to jog or bike or go to the gym before or after work. You could even get together on the weekend for tennis, golf or a yoga class. These face-to-face interactions could lead to additional get-togethers and develop casual friendships.
If you can’t find a willing office mate or you work from home, you’ll have to be more resourceful. Consider using apps to pair you with exercise or sports partners in your area. While this approach won’t add to your work connections, it will expand your network and get you talking. Here are a few options to investigate:
2. Midday: Are You Free For Lunch?
Has an endless parade of sandwiches and leftovers made you tired of brown-bagging it every day? If your answer to that question is yes, then get out of the office and bring someone with you. According to the Food Marketing Institute, forty-five percent of adults now eat lunch alone. So, make a promise to yourself to ask a coworker to lunch once a week or as often as you can afford. At first, this may be uncomfortable, but after a few successful outings, you may look forward to it.
If you simply can’t bring yourself to ask in person or you work alone, there are websites that make it easy to arrange a lunch date that is either friendly or romantic. Remember, when combating loneliness; you must increase your opportunities for social interaction. So, don’t forget to include your love life. If you work anywhere near your partner, an occasional lunch date may reduce feelings of alienation. Others may find it necessary to use sites like these to find a mealtime companion:
— Jen Monks (@lifewiselady) February 13, 2017
3. Charitable Acts: Any Volunteers?
Volunteering makes you feel good. It also puts you in close proximity to other do-gooders and those who desperately need assistance. Many companies encourage employees to participate in existing volunteer programs on and off the clock. This could be a fantastic opportunity to join your peers and make a difference in your community while getting to know them.
When working for a smaller business, it’s more likely you’ll have to take the initiative and start a donation or volunteer program yourself. While this may be socially awkward, you’ll have a vote on which organizations benefit from the collective generosity. You could ask peers to donate non-perishables to a local food bank or blankets to an animal shelter or supplies to a school in a poorer community. The possibilities and needs are endless. For more options, try:
TeachingKidsBusiness mentoring program
VolunteerMatch pairing people with various causes
DressForSuccess supporting and providing professional attire for women
4. Technology: Fighting Fire With Fire
Whether you’re chained to a desk or your office is located remotely, your smartphone and computer will likely be the tools used for combating loneliness. In this case, your only alternative may be to utilize video calling apps to engage with friends and colleagues and get the face-to-face contact you need. Fortunately, there’s a wide array of choices depending upon the devices at your disposal. Here are a few to mull over:
Facetime for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Mac
Skype for iPhone, Android, iOS, Mac, Windows
Facebook Messenger for iPhone, Android, iOS, web
Viber for Mac, Android, iOS, Windows
WhatsApp for Android, iOS, Nokia
5. Support: Time To Get Serious
Perhaps you’ve noticed your mood or mental state have been drifting toward the dark side for a while. Feelings of isolation often lead to depression and anxiety. It may be time to cut this off at the pass by participating in a support group or seeking therapy. Just click on the links below to get the process started.
Loneliness.SupportGroups.com has over 45,000 members who join discussions, create posts, and send private messages to each other. There are dozens of other support groups on the site to help you through the rough patches in life.
GoodTherapy.org reaches an estimated seven million people per month. It’s one of the largest therapist directories on the internet and has an informative blog with articles on various topics to inform and support you.
Theravive.com is a network of licensed clinical therapists and psychologists dedicated to getting you the assistance you need. You can find workshops, seminars, and therapists in your area. The best feature may be the online and phone counselor listings that allow you to conduct sessions via webcam, phone, email, and instant messenger if you live in a rural area.