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You are not alone in feeling lonely!

Global health service company Cigna (NYSE: CI) released results from a national survey in June 2018 exploring the impact of loneliness in the United States. The survey, conducted in partnership with market research firm, Ipsos, revealed that most American adults are considered lonely. Nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone (46 percent) or left out (47 percent).

From the Cigna report we learn the following:

• One in four Americans (27 percent) rarely or never feel as though there are people who really understand them.

• Two in five Americans sometimes or always feel that their relationships are not meaningful (43 percent) and that they are isolated from others (43 percent).

• One in five people reports they rarely or never feel close to people (20 percent) or feel like there are people they can talk to (18 percent).

• Americans who live with others are less likely to be lonely (average loneliness score of 43.5) compared to those who live alone (46.4). However, this does not apply to single parents/guardians (average loneliness score of 48.2) — even though they live with children, they are more likely to be lonely.

• Only around half of Americans (53 percent) have meaningful in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family, on a daily basis.

• Generation Z (adults ages 18-22) is the loneliest generation and claims to be in worse health than older generations.

• Social media use alone is not a predictor of loneliness; respondents defined as very heavy users of social media have a loneliness score (43.5) that is not markedly different from the score of those who never use social media (41.7).

There are some good suggestions for combating loneliness, but a lack of confidence could be the real reason why you are not interacting with others. Loneliness is a feeling and not a fact. It starts with you, not the world around you. If you are lacking the self-confidence to speak to others freely, I strongly suggest seeing a psychotherapist to work on the negative beliefs you have about yourself.

Most of the time we are our own worst enemies and assumptions will bring you nowhere. You will never know what you are missing out on if you do not take a leap of faith and start a conversation with someone you would like to get to know a little better. All healthy relationships started with a simple “hello”.

Here are a few simple but effective ways to combat loneliness…

1. Reach out to others. Just remember – it’s all about taking a chance. Everybody has to go through the same process of saying hello and standing a chance to either walk away with a new friend’s phone number or feeling like a total failure and even more lonely. But each time you puck up the courage to say hello you learn, become stronger and wiser and stand a chance to win a new friend. So worth it!

2. Stop the self-deflating thoughts. You and you alone think that you are a loser or unworthy or silly or whatever you tell yourself. We are not mind-readers and there is no way you can know for sure what people are thinking about you. And really? Who cares? What they think about you does not matter at all. There is a lid for every pot out there and if you keep your head high and stay positive and keep trying, you will meet your match.

3. Focus on others and focus less attention on yourself. What you give may come back to you.

4. Find others who have common interests. But ensure that these are your true interests. Remember, you are the most important person here. Don’t pretend to like something just to impress someone or be accepted into the “cool crowd”.

 5. Always show up when meeting with others. Don’t stand people up. You would not like it if someone stood you up or made you wait. Do to others what you want done to yourself.

6. Be interested in other people. Listen to what they are saying and doing. Take the focus off of you. People love talking about themselves and if they notice that you are a good listener, they will love hanging out with you.

7. Be kind. Some people are rude but most people will respond to kindness. Being mean, rude and a jerk will earn you a reputation you don’t want.

8. Find a group with whom to connect such as church groups, exercise groups, music groups, Alcoholics Anonymous, sewing or baking groups or folks who simply gather for coffee.

Talking, listening, kindness, showing interest in others, participating and helping others will help you in overcoming loneliness and build your self-confidence. Do it for yourself, not for other’s sake. You will soon start to develop long-lasting healthy relationships.

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