5 ways to overcome loneliness
Keeping a daily routine and serving others can help alleviate loneliness after the loss of a loved one. Gail Deckert, who leads devotions at the Good Samaritan Society, shares her suggestions for overcoming loneliness, particularly as we grow older.
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1. Be honest about your feelings.
Don’t sugarcoat your emotions with yourself or others—family, friends, caregivers. “If you don’t express your feelings, people can’t really help you,” Gail says. She looks to David’s openness in Psalm 42 as an example: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?” he asks himself.
2. Practice positive self-talk.
“Encourage yourself,” Gail says. “Tell yourself, ‘You’re not going to sit at home again. You’re going to call the girls and meet them for tea.’ Then take the initiative and do it.” Here too Psalm 42 serves as inspiration: As David reminds himself, “Put your hope in God.”
3. Continue doing what’s meaningful.
People tend to withdraw when they can’t quite do what they used to. Dial back the intensity as needed, Gail says, but “maintain some version of your routine”—whatever gives your life structure and meaning. That might mean taking a daily walk, going to a worship service or seeing a friend. When her mom moved into an apartment building for seniors, Gail noticed the neighbors with dogs were out and about. “Pets are great company,” she says. “And they give you something to talk about.”
4. Get with God every day.
Recent studies suggest that faith protects against loneliness: Partly it’s the social network that a church or synagogue provides, and partly it’s the sense of connection to a loving higher power. Gail uses her daily 15-minute drive to work to talk to God about what’s on her mind. Don’t forget to seek wisdom in Scripture. For comfort and strength when you’re lonely, Gail suggests Psalm 37:23–25, Psalm 68:5–6, Isaiah 26:3, Deuteronomy 31:6 and 1 Peter 5:7.
5. Do something for someone else.
Research shows that doing good helps us feel better. “It can be as simple as inviting a neighbor over for coffee or baking something for a friend,” Gail says. “If you’re looking to do more, many places need volunteers.” Search community websites. Ask at your church or local library. “Volunteer opportunities often don’t require money or special skills, just willingness and time.”