5 Ways to Beat Loneliness

Alone at a cafe in Venice Beach

You Can Be Lonely Even When You Are Surrounded by People.

Hanging out at Venice Beach

I’m from the Midwest, and back there people have distinct impressions of Los Angeles, many of which are connected to popular myths about movie stars on every corner. But no matter where you are from, Los Angeles seems like a place where everyone is hanging out together on the beach, or together at clubs in Hollywood, or together at Pilates or yoga or Equinox. People are always together in groups—this is the myth.

 What is the reality? Well, I don’t know about other big cities, but I suspect that it is probably the same whether you are in Los Angeles, or Chicago, or Miami. Big cities are hard places to make friends. There’s a lot going on, but people are much more isolated than it appears.

And, as a direct result of the importance of social media, people who are isolated think that they are the only ones; everyone else is out there having a great time with hundreds of close friends. The fallacy in this argument seems obvious, but so many of my clients feel isolated and alone while right in the middle of literally millions of other people.

But it wasn’t always this way.

It used to be that people took time away from work, time to relax, even time alone to do nothing. Socializing was much less structured, and people would just hang out on their front porch and talk to whomever wandered by. In fact, in the 1950’s, back yards were meant for hanging out your laundry and burning your trash, and front yards and porches were where people gathered to relax and socialize.

Things have changed.

Tall hedge in West Los Angeles

Nowadays we need building codes that restrict just how high people can build the walls that separate their front yards from the public sidewalk and the street. In Los Angeles, the city’s four-foot height restriction is not enough for many people, so they plant hedges that go six feet high or more.

watching movies at home in Marina del Rey

Now, behind these “safe” barriers, we can continue to insulate ourselves from all the people who might make demands on our time that take us away from our busy schedule. After all, we can socialize all night long on Facebook or Instagram when we are all done with everything else and too exhausted to go out with anyone IRL!

Loneliness is Linked to Depression

Lonely in West Los Angeles

Michael D. Yapko, Ph.D., posits in his 2009 book, Depression is Contagious, that depression is not only an increasing problem for our modern society, in many cases it is actually caused by our modern society.

Humans are social animals, and when society encourages us to isolate ourselves from others, we become depressed. We are alone in our apartments, we see “everyone else” having fun on social media, we get depressed, it gets harder and harder to get out of the house and do something social.

5 Things You Can Do to Connect With Other People:

Many people would like to be more active socially, but they don’t know where to start. Here are some of the suggestions I give them:

1.  Reduce your time spent on social media.

Social media is fake socializing. It will give you the illusion of being connected, but will also leave you feeling empty, maybe without even understanding why. It will probably leave you with a feeling that there is something wrong with you, not to have a life as perfect as those of your “friends”.

There are apps and hacks that can help you restrict and/or monitor your own social media use. Experiment and see which ones might be helpful for you. You will be surprised at how much lighter you feel when you significantly reduce the amount of time you spend on social media.

2. Volunteer

WVolunteering in Venice Beach

If you’re not sure what exactly you want to do to meet people, volunteering is a great place to start. When you take the pressure off of yourself to make new friends, and focus on the goal of making someone else’s life better, you will be surprised at how much better you feel about yourself as a result. Studies have shown that volunteering will reliably increase your mood.

3.  Re-connect with old friends or distant family members

Many of my clients have been surprised to find how much they enjoy connecting with distant family members to help them fill out the genogram (family tree, more or less) that we are working on in our sessions. I don’t always do genograms with my clients, but I do encourage them to reach out to family members and ask them about their family stories. Connecting with family members has a double effect: you connect with others, and you feel more connected to your own family history.

4. Get a dog

Walking your dog in Venice Beach

Not everyone is able to do this, but walking a dog around your neighborhood is a sure-fire way to encourage people to talk to you, and it will force you to go out and get some fresh air and exercise on a regular basis, besides! If you don’t have your own dog, you can offer to walk someone else’s dog for them once in a while.

5. Do anything.

It’s common to feel lost, even paralyzed, by not knowing the best thing to try. Know that whatever you choose doesn’t have to be perfect. In fact, your experience can be fairly unsatisfying (in that you make no new friends) and it will still serve to pick up your mood, if you merely talk to, engage with, or even simply be in the presence of, other people. So just do something.

What We Know

Loneliness, depression, and anxiety are all inextricably intertwined. Practicing these 5 ways to combat loneliness will help you feel a sense of agency in your struggle with all three. It’s a win-win-win!

If You Need More Support with Lonliness, Anxiety, or Depression

find a therapist in Los Angeles

If you struggle with depression and anxiety, you made need support beyond life hacks and self-help articles and books. Please feel free to call me at 323-999-1537 or email me at amy@thrivetherapyla.com for a free phone or in-office consultation. We will chat about your specific situation and how therapy can help. I’ve helped many people who struggle with loneliness, anxiety, and depression, live happy and fulfilling lives, and I can help you, too!