In 2020, over 70% of millennials and Gen-Z'ers report feeling lonely—and that research came out before the coronavirus pandemic. Since then, our social interactions have nearly disappeared (and let’s be honest, Zoom happy hours are great but not the same).
Clearly, feeling lonely isn’t uncommon. We’re more digitally connected than ever, but social media often exacerbates feelings of isolation. With the help of loneliness expert Kyla Sokoll-Ward, we created this list of 18 things to do when you’re feeling isolated, lonely, or a little bit down and out. Rather than scroll endlessly, invest in yourself with these tactical ideas and practices to turn your loneliness into positivity.
1. Make a list of affirmations.
Channel your inner Jessica and break out a list of your finest qualities (or do a mirror chant of them while standing on the sink if you’re feeling bold). According to about a dozen studies, daily affirmations can lead to reduction in stress, greater adaptability, and less ruminating—all will help in managing loneliness.
2. Reach out.
Send a funny GIF to five friends, reminding them you think they’re awesome. “The biology of loneliness has us focus inward—turning our attention outward is one of the most important steps we can take,” Sokoll-Ward says. “It creates a powerful, positive experience and allows us to help others.” Plus, putting more positive connections into the universe can up your chances of receiving those warm fuzzies back.
3. Turn up the volume.
Listen to this UnLonely Playlist, curated by The UnLonely Project, a six-song list built on the recommendations of other lonely people. You can submit your ideas for its next iteration, and read up on how The Foundation for Art & Healing is helping people (like me and you) combat loneliness with creativity.
4. Get a global pen pal.
Postal workers rejoiced when an 11-year-old sent colorful mail around to brighten her mailman’s day. Postcrossing opens up a world of new friends by pen, with a network of 793,500 global communication enthusiasts who have sent more than 56 million postcards. You can see recent photos of postcards uploaded too.
5. Join a digital community.
Sometimes you just need a little check-in. Love Touchpoint hosts one daily at 6 p.m. ET, which allows you to join a diverse community that meets to talk about human connection and love. A wide range of characters will welcome you warmly and share deeply personal stories—it’s common to feel an unexpected connection to the narratives of perfect strangers. When we gather, albeit virtually, it’s easier to recognize that we’re in this together even when we feel alone.
6. Laugh out loud.
Netflix is stacked with comedy specials that can help you find a little levity. Hearing the crowd giggle is good for you too—just hearing laughs has been proved to reduce stress on the nervous system. Some of our favorite ladybosses on the stage are here and ready to hang with you.
7. Listen to an uplifting audiobook.
Have you read Untamed, yet? Because wow, what a journey of self-discovery Glennon Doyle invites you to go on. Try the audiobook to feel like she’s hanging out life-coaching you from the heart through your headphones. For other book ideas, check out our favorite books of 2020.
8. Adopt a pet.
9. Twerk it out.
305 Fitness is an upbeat twerkout-workout full of positive energy. Your instructor will probably be wearing bright colors and tell you you’re amazing for showing up. You are, don’t forget it. Exercise has long been lauded for the happy rush of endorphins it triggers, but according to the Journal of Experimental Biology, exercise can also induce the production of endocannabinoids. In other words, not only will you get endorphins and serotonin, working up a sweat will literally put you on a high.
10. Go on a virtual date.
Hear us out: Even if you have no interest in actually finding a match, services like Quarantine Together are offering a new way to connect with people you would typically never meet. It can be a great, no-pressure way to chat with someone new.
11. Do a social media detox.
A University of Pennsylvania study showed that those who spent 30 minutes a day or less on social media experienced less loneliness, depression, and FOMO (yes, there’s research on FOMO). In a Harvard Health blog, Jeremy Nobel, M.D., urges us to monitor what makes us want to “snack” on social media, and what else might “satisfy those cravings.” If you find yourself absentmindedly opening Instagram, try picking up a new hobby like knitting to keep your hands busy while you watch The Great.
12. Embrace Mother Nature.
A deep breath of fresh air, rain on your skin, or feeling grass between your toes all can help us connect with nature and ourselves, says Sokoll-Ward. When you’re feeling isolated, getting outside and going for a short walk can help you shake the funk.
13. Take yourself on a date.
Celebrate you, on your own, and channel loneliness into self-care, with a full day or evening of what you love: favorite foods, shows, a fresh coat of nail polish, or a nap. Think about your perfect hour or day, and make it happen. Me time can be a celebration of being alone, reframing your loneliness.
14. Get zen.
Meditation, mantras, and yoga can all help you sit with or shake off the loneliness you’re feeling. Headspace offers an accessible 10-part audio course called Reframing Loneliness and many other beginner meditation courses. (And it's currently offering free memberships for those who are unemployed.) If meditation isn’t your thing, a soothing class with Yoga With Adriene is a positive mental health booster.
15. Prioritize pleasure.
Sexual pleasure is a vital part of well-being—spending some time with your body’s erogenous zones, exploring self-pleasure, can be a powerful form of self-care. Maybe that’s trying out a new toy, exploring a new video, or just working with your hands. Orgasms release a flood of oxygen and brain chemicals that boost your mood, and come with a variety of other health benefits.
16. Organize a reunion.
If you’re feeling lonely because of the pandemic, organize a digital reunion to catch up with friends or family. Turn it into a themed party with a dress code or suggest everyone bake the same thing (like the perfect chocolate chip cookies) so you can feel like you’re all sitting around the same table.
17. Light a candle.
The Danish concept of hygge, or coziness, involves lots of candles and blankets. Creating warmth in your space will help light you up internally too and feel better. You can take it a step further with the advice of Barbara, an Irishwoman in her 80s who lit candles because seeing the flame flicker about gave her a sense that someone else was around. You light up the world, Barb.
18. Turn on a TV show.
Sometimes sitting with your thoughts isn’t the best for a lonely mind. Use the passive conversation of others to take the quiet out of your space. My personal faves: Great British Bakeoff and Queer Eye for the Straight Guy: They’re so damn nice to each other it makes me believe in humanity over and over again.
If your thoughts of loneliness have your thoughts spiraling, Crisis Text Line is here to help you—trained supporters are standing by via text at 741741 to chat with you about your loneliness. And maybe you’ll be able to train up as a volunteer and pay it forward someday when you’re feeling up to it. You’re not alone, you’re not the only one feeling this way, your feelings are valid, and there is something you can do about them. Even though we may be feeling lonely, we can at least be lonely together.
Originally Appeared on Glamour