Loneliness can shorten your life and certainly make it less enjoyable. All people need contact with others. We are a social species. Some people need more connection than others, and it will even look different from person to person.
But there are some things that most people can do to manage their aloneness, which is time alone that has very positive aspects, versus loneliness, which is when we really need human contact.
Eating out: A key to combating loneliness is to find two or three places to eat, where you go often. You get to know the staff, you ask their names, they know your name, they know what you like to eat. It is some recognition that you exist and people want to interact with you. While you are not with your best friends, it is a bit like having a family dinner. Eating with others is essential.
Friends: Friends are essential. We need people we can confide in, who know what we are going through, who make regular contact with us. Being alone does not mean being lonely. Facebook and Instagram are not enough. You need to talk to people. Meet them for exercise, catching up, a movie, something with in-person contact with others, where you are warmly greeted and genuinely missed and cared for.
Join Groups: MeetUp is an excellent starting point. After you register with the site, search for local groups and activities. You are looking for people with mutual interest. Book groups, movie groups, spiritual groups, exercise groups there is a bit of everything on there. You can also start one of your own. You like photography or drawing, or long walks in the mountains, and there is no local group? Start one and find others into the things you like to do.
Yoga or Exercise Groups are also a way to connect with others. The key is consistency in whatever you do. Making friends takes time. You get to know them, and they get to know you. A bond might be formed and in time, you’re meeting for coffee to get to know each other and then maybe dinner or a movie, as you find mutual interests. Repetition makes people more comfortable with you, and you with them.
Massage: We all need to be touched. The touch of being hugged when greeting someone or departing is affirming and needed. Massage releases all kinds of hormones and feelings in our bodies. Take the time and make an effort to be touched. Find a practitioner you like, and their touch. Then set up appointments for at least once a month, or as often as you can afford, it will make a big difference to your well-being.
Sex: A friend with benefits or just a sex friend, this is connected to touch, but goes much deeper. Sex, when done right, is intimate and the more often you have good sex with the same person, it should increase intimacy. Masturbation is easy and useful, but being desired, held and touched reminds us that we are important to another in some way.
Pets: The unconditional love of a pet is powerful. They touch us, greet us, and are happy to see us. They can make life worth living when we feel so isolated. One of the concerns about having a pet is that it restricts what else you can do. You cannot linger after work with a colleague if you have to rush home to take care of the dog. A date cannot last overnight. Animals are wonderful, but they are not a substitute for human companionship. Both are nice, but we need human contact to reduce or even eliminate loneliness.
Volunteer Work: Become a docent at a museum or botanical garden, usher at the local theatre, or become an advocate for a political party or cause. You get to choose what is meaningful for you, and make a commitment. You will be meeting people with similar interests; that is the foundation of friendship and a starting point for getting to know each other.
Religious/Spiritual Groups: Churches and other groups are, for many people, the core of their social lives. This is not for everyone, but for some, it can be a match. Make sure that whatever group you join, that their values match yours, and that you don’t give up yourself or your values just to be a part of something.
The major downside of loneliness is depression. We can feel unwanted, alone, and worthless. Seeing couples, families, and friends out socializing can make that even harder to bear and make us feel like the only one who is alone. Why not focus on seeking out other people who are alone? Why not start a conversation with someone? It could change both of your lives.