Studies indicate that being socially connected can help improve your mental health, may help you ward off the common cold—and could even help you to live longer. But sometimes being social is easier said than done. If you just moved in to a new space, you may not have established any connections yet. It’s easy to get busy and lose touch with family and friends. And it can be hard when a pal moves away and you have to seek out new friendships. But the good news is that there are many ways to increase your social network. And feeling more connected may even be easier than you thought.
Here are a few expert-backed tips on how to tackle loneliness:
1. Maintain and strengthen your current relationships
“While building new relationships is helpful, deepening your current relationships is just as important,” says Davina Tiwari, a registered social worker with Choosing Therapy. (Tiwari, D., MSW, personal interview, Oct. 12, 2021) Make a point of checking in on those in your network. Send your daughter a text, give your sister a quick call or ask a neighbor to grab lunch. You can even schedule weekly appointments, like a Friday at noon call with a loved one or a weekly game night with your buddy across the hall.
2. Try out some technology You can stay in touch with family and friends on social media, FaceTime your grandkids or send text messages to your friends. And if you’re not tech savvy, that’s OK! “Ask your loved ones to teach you and do trial runs with you so you get a chance to practice your communication technology skills,” Tiwari suggests. And don’t get overwhelmed by feeling like you have to be up-to-date on every new app, phone and computer program out there. Have your family help you find one mode of communication that works best for you and stick to just that one. For instance, maybe prioritize FaceTime and use that to make all of your video calls.
3. Join groups Ambriant Life and other senior living communities have a variety of on-site groups. Check out what’s offered in your community and look for a match with your interests, like a walking club, garden club or bridge club. There are also a variety of online groups you can partake in. Platforms like Facebook have everything from groups for vintage typewriter enthusiasts to those for animal lovers, automobile fans, coin collectors and more. Chatting with people who share your interests, whether online or in person, can be a great way to stay socially active.
4. Explore your hobbies Do you enjoy music, art, gardening, pets, walking in nature, or other things that aren’t on this list? “Think about what brings you joy and focus on that,” says Tiwari. Whether it’s game night, arts and crafts class or a group fitness session, Ambriant Life has many activities that you can partake in. “Not only will taking some classes bring you happiness, but it also might help you connect with like-minded individuals,” Tiwari adds.
5. Give back “Volunteer efforts can reduce loneliness,” says Dr. Carla Manly, a clinical psychologist and author of Aging Joyfully. (Manly, C., Ph.D, personal interview, Oct. 12, 2021) It can also be a tremendous way to meet others. Giving back can do wonders for your health as well. Studies link volunteering to a better mood and indicate that it can be a great way to stay connected to others. Search for volunteer opportunities through your local community center or at VolunteerMatch.org.
6. Get outside “Whether you take a walk, go to the store, or sit in the park, use time outside to engage with others, even if only to smile, chat, and feel the world around you,” says Manly. And even just walking down the hall in your building to look at the daily activity calendar, to the café to grab a snack or to the patio to curl up with a good book will put you in a position where you’ll encounter other residents. Even if you don’t stop and chat with them, simply being with other people may just be enough to help boost your mood.
7. Accept invitations—and reciprocate If someone asks you into their apartment for a cup of tea, to sit next to you at dinner or to accompany them to movie night on Friday, say yes. And next time you go to the dinning room for dinner, ask someone sitting alone at the table next to you to pull up a chair and join you. Or sit down next to a group of others. “Friendships can evolve from dining room conversations and companions,” says Tiwari. And if you get an invitation, make a point to return the favor. Invite that neighbor who had you over for tea in for a cup of cappuccino. Or make sure to ask your new movie night buddy to join you at the next one.
8. Snuggle up to your pet You’ve probably heard that having a pet can be good for your health. Well here’s why. Research suggests that the bond between people and their pets can help lower your blood pressure, decrease your triglyceride levels, reduce your cholesterol and make you less lonely. Pets can also help keep you active and are great at helping you to socialize – how many times have you walked down the hall with your pup and had people stop and ask to pet him? This can lead to conversation and possibly new friendships. And one study found that even just making eye contact with your dog can increase your oxytocin, the hormone associated with bonding.
9. Don’t be afraid to ask for help If you find yourself feeling lonely, tell someone. Communicate to your friends and family members that you’d like to talk to them more regularly. Tell an Ambriant Life associate that you need help finding more people to talk to. They can help you brainstorm ways to feel more connected, whether that’s suggesting a certain class that you can take, a group outing to attend or helping you to schedule in-person visits with your family. Our staff can also help refer you to someone to talk to, like a therapist, who can give you some professional pointers.