As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, many people are staying in their homes to help prevent the spread of the disease. Feeling lonely from time to time is natural, but this unprecedented time of social distancing could lead to increased loneliness.
There are some easy ways to feel connected to others, even when you aren’t seeing them in person. Consider these tips from Dr. Doug Nemecek, Cigna chief medical officer for behavioral health.
• Use technology … but not too much. Social media is a favorite and easy way to stay connected to family and friends, but too much use can leave you feeling lonely. Cigna’s 2020 U.S. Loneliness Index found that 72 percent of very heavy social media users identify themselves as lonely.
Balance technology use with disconnecting and taking time for yourself. Use real-time interactions with others, like video chats, to build meaningful connections and limit time spent passively scrolling social media. Read a book, take a walk or do a puzzle after screen time. It may help you feel more connected when you spend time online.
• Join a virtual club or group. There are plenty of resources available to find virtual book clubs, craft communities or even fitness challenges. You can start a new hobby, learn a skill or find others who are interested in the same things as you, remotely. Once the guidelines for social distancing are lifted, you’ll have new friends you can meet in person.
• Spend time outdoors. Simply leaving your house to take a jog around your neighborhood or to walk your dog a few blocks could improve your spirits, refreshing you for the next time you virtually connect with others.
• Ask those you reach out to how they’re really doing. How you connect with those in your network makes a significant difference in how lonely you feel. People tend to feel less lonely when connecting on a deeper level.
Cigna’s study found that those who do not feel they have close relationships that give them emotional security and well-being have an average loneliness score of nearly 15 points higher than those that do. When video chatting with friends, ask them for their most honest response when you ask how they’re doing. Everyone will likely feel better for it.
• Rethink working hours. We spend about 90,000 hours at work over our lifetime, so how we spend that time will play an important role in how we feel overall. Improving your work-life balance and connecting with colleagues can reduce loneliness. Your employer may also benefit from you feeling less lonely.
Lonely employees are less productive, produce lower quality work and miss more days of work. So, talk to your boss about slight changes you can make to how you spend your working hours. This could help you feel less lonely and benefit your company.
Being unable to spend time with others in-person will likely cause many of us to feel lonely, but there are ways to help lessen those feelings during this challenging time.