I recently read a report stating that nearly half of the American population is lonely. The fact that people are lonely doesn’t surprise me so much as how many are affected. When I met a friend for lunch a few months ago, she told me she’d been experiencing some loneliness. I had been, also, which is why I had invited her to have lunch with me.
If you know me personally, you’re probably surprised by the fact that I was lonely. I have lots of friends. Why then, would I be lonely? The only thing I can say is having friends is different than spending time with them.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that if a person is experiencing loneliness, the Christmas season can be pretty rough. If the statistics are correct, then quite likely half of the people reading this blog today are struggling and thinking that it’s most definitely NOT the most wonderful time of the year.
So, what can you do to alleviate loneliness? Here are a few things that I’ve done that have helped me.
- Call a Friend – If you already have friends in your life, think of whom you’d really enjoy spending some time with and give her a call. Set up a date for a meal together, or coffee, or shopping, or a game of tennis. Whatever you enjoy doing. My friend and I now make it a point to have lunch once a month. It can be challenging because we both have busy schedules, but we make it a priority. If you don’t have a friend you can call, keep reading.
- Join a Book Club – Now, I don’t recommend this if you hate to read, but if you enjoy reading, finding a book club to join would introduce you to people with a similar interest. I actually started a book club as a small group at our church. We have a great time every month meeting for dinner and discussing our most recent read. Speaking of small groups . . .
- Join a Small Group at your church – Most churches have small groups that get together for Bible Study or specific interests. Joining one is a fantastic way to meet people!
- Join an Exercise Class – An exercise class is not only a good way to meet people, but the exercise releases endorphins that will, in general, help you feel better. If it’s an outdoor exercise class, triple points for you—or at least double endorphins. Or, you could simply call a friend to meet you for a walk two or three times a week. John and I joined a Water Volleyball class a couple years ago. We’re all horrible players but we have so much fun, and there is always so much laughter that we can’t help but feel good when we leave.
- Volunteer – There are so, so many places you can volunteer and it’s a great way to meet people. You could try volunteering at the local hospital, at your church, at a food shelf or homeless shelter, with Habitat for Humanity, or at an animal shelter. Really the possibilities are limitless. Just do an Internet search for volunteer opportunities in your area.
- Take a Class – Whether it’s through your local community education program, church, the community college, or a local university, taking a class is a great way to meet people with similar interests. Some stores—like fabric stores, craft stores, kitchen stores, etc.—offer classes or short workshops. I once met a friend at a sewing class and we’ve spent many a fun day together since that time.
- Court someone to be your friend – Okay, this one may sound a little bit odd, but don’t dismiss the idea. Just because you’re not going to marry the person, doesn’t mean you can’t work on being friends with her. Is there someone you think would be fun to hang out with? The way I got to know that friend from the sewing class is I walked over to her and said, “You seem like a fun person. I’d really like to get to know you. Would you like to meet for dinner before our next class?” Admittedly, she thought I was a little crazy, but she said yes anyway. I’m known for being somewhat bold, you might prefer a little more subtle approach. Maybe just start with, “Hey, where are you from?” and go from there. If she/he blows you off, don’t be discouraged; there are lots of people in the world, just move on to someone else.
I hope these ideas will help you kiss loneliness goodbye! Whatever you do, don’t just sit around being lonely. It’s no fun, and it’s bad for your health. Who needs that?