How to Combat Pandemic Loneliness

How to Combat Pandemic Loneliness

How to Combat Pandemic Loneliness

How to Combat Pandemic Loneliness

In a time of social distancing, this might mean calling, texting to check in, dropping off a gift or driving by and waving. “By providing support to others, it can provide a sense of meaning and purpose,” Dr. Holt-Lunstad said. “It can strengthen social bonds, and in turn lead to less loneliness.”

When seeking out connections, focus on your most unconditionally supportive friends and family. Some research shows that people feel more stressed and disconnected when their friendship networks include people who have betrayed them, weren’t there for them during tough times, frequently argue with them or otherwise cause negative feelings. A call with a close friend, in other words, will probably help more than a college reunion over Zoom.

“Simply increasing social contact is not sufficient,” said Bert Uchino, a professor of psychology at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. “You need to increase contact in the relationships that are important and very positive to you. I think those are relationships that will get people through.”

This might also be a good time to help out your neighbors. Using the neighborhood social app NextDoor to randomly assign people to perform small acts of kindness — like delivering groceries, chatting over a fence or participating in a neighborhood cleanup event — Dr. Holt-Lunstad and her colleagues found that loneliness rates dropped from 10 percent of people to 5 percent in people who did the kind acts.

Research suggests you don’t even need to know the people you’re helping. Just donating money to a good cause might help, Dr. Uchino said. In a series of experiments, researchers found that people who gave money to others were happier than if they spent it on themselves.

But if you’re overwhelmed by giving, it can become detrimental. Instead, try hobbies like cooking, gardening, writing in a journal or even listening to music. Creative arts can reduce loneliness, too, and while singing in person in a choir might not be possible right now, singing from balconies or through virtual groups can be powerful.

Loneliness can strike at any age, but young people may bear the brunt of canceled activities and lost social time. An estimated 73 percent of Generation Z adults reported feeling lonely in a survey released by the American Psychological Association in October.


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