There’s a big difference between being alone and feeling lonely. Being alone is something we have all experienced in our lives, sometimes by choice, sometimes as the result of circumstances beyond our control. “Being lonely” involves how we interpret our situation.
Unfortunately, as our social circumstances shift, more and more baby boomers are finding themselves slipping away from “being alone” and towards “being lonely.”
If left unchecked, our feelings of loneliness can have an impact on every aspect of our life and may even lead to depression. So, if you are feeling lonely, it’s important to take positive steps as soon as possible.
Here are a few suggestions for where to get started.
The first step is to understand what is contributing to your loneliness. Are there certain “triggers” that bring on feelings of loneliness and isolation?
Are you influenced by a somber anniversary? Do you feel worse when the weather is bad? Do you feel trapped in your house? Do you feel anxious when reaching out to others? No two people experience loneliness the same way and before you look for solutions, you need to understand the problem.
In my interview with Susan Piver, we talked about the fact that lasting happiness requires both happy and sad days. I encourage you to watch this video and see if any of the recommendations that Susan makes help you to get closer to your true self.
Another way to deal with loneliness and depression is to get out into the world. Even the simple act of going to the grocery store can help you to feel more connected.
Do something simple. Take a walk around the city. Ride the bus to a nearby city. Sit at a café and people-watch. Whatever you do, do something!
Physical activity of any kind will stimulate your brain and body to produce feel-good hormones. You don’t have to join a gym to get healthy. Why not try walking every morning, riding your bike around the park, learning Tai Chi or trying belly dancing?
Don’t stress if it takes a while to see a positive change in your mindset. Remember that small changes add up over time.
I once read a sign that said, “Don’t be afraid of getting older – be afraid of getting boring!”
Feelings of loneliness often emerge when we lack direction in our lives. So instead of looking at loneliness as a limitation, why not look at it as an opportunity to do anything your heart desires?
Try something new – take a class, learn to play an instrument or take up a new hobby. Do something that challenges and fascinates you. If you learn to find yourself interesting, others will too.
If you doubt that you are an interesting person, start writing your life story. You will quickly discover that you have already lived a fascinating life – and it’s only getting started.
Experiencing loneliness after 50 can be a bit overwhelming. When you are feeling a little blue, you may even feel like withdrawing from the world, which only makes things worse.
Don’t be afraid to pick up the phone and call a friend. Share your thoughts and feelings with someone. You will almost certainly find that your fears of rejection were overblown.
If you don’t feel comfortable reaching out to anyone in your current social circle, why not try an online friend-finding service, like Meetup?
As in medicine, one of the most important rules when dealing with loneliness is to “first do no harm.” Many people feel that, by the time they reach their 50s, “the damage has been done.” As a result, they continue to smoke, drink too much and live a sedentary existence. I don’t need to tell you that this is an awful idea. The truth is that there are plenty of bad habits that are still worth kicking in your 50s or older.
Investing in your health is one of the best ways to counter loneliness at any age – and this is especially true for people in their 50s and 60s. Your first order of business should be to address your bad habits. As you do this, you will find that you have more energy to get out into the world.
Then, as your energy increases, look for small ways to get in better shape. Set yourself an egg-timer to remember to get up and stretch every hour. Make walking a daily ritual. Start shopping from a local farmer’s market, or, start growing your own food. As you improve your body, you will heal your mind.
Loneliness is often made worse by feelings of helplessness. When we feel out of control, we lack the energy to make positive changes in our lives.
One of the most powerful techniques that you can use to get on the road to positivity is to increase your sense of control over the small things in your life. Instead of focusing on lofty goals like “I’m going to lose 20 pounds by summer,” or “I’m going to get out there and make new friends,” focus on small accomplishments.
Want a place to get started? Find out how the “1-minute technique” can help you to achieve anything in just 60 seconds a day.
Loneliness is a complex problem. Fortunately, some of the best ways to deal with it are simple. Start by identifying your loneliness triggers. Follow your passions and get out into the world. Focus on what you can control.
Most of all, remember that you are an amazing person. You deserve all the happiness in the world.
How do you deal with your feelings of loneliness in a positive way? Are there any pleasant rituals or small tasks that help to keep you happy? What advice would you give to a friend who is struggling with loneliness? Please join the conversation.