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5 Ways to Beat Loneliness

5 Ways to Beat LonelinessDon’t be ashamed of feeling lonely: Half of us are flying solo. These community-boosting ideas will help you make that often difficult first step. From The Creativity Cure: A Do-It-Yourself Prescription for Happiness, by Carrie Barron, MD and Alton Barron, M.D.

One study of social life in America showed that half of all adults lack even a single close friend on whom they can depend. Over the years in my practice, I have learned that many people feel alone and ashamed of their loneliness. One simple but underused solution to loneliness is community connections. A chat with the clerk at the post office, sharing greetings and news when you meet a neighbor on the sidewalk, or talking to the café owner who’s pouring your coffee can make you feel less lonely. This small step might pave the way to a better situation for you.

In a recent study reported by Michael B. Sauter and colleagues, Denmark ranked number one in the happiness arena. There is a strong sense of community among the Danish people, 97 percent of whom reported being able to rely on someone else besides a family member.

I once had a client who was an only child raised by a single mom who worked alone in an office. When he was sick, he went to the office with her. He told me that the worst thing about his childhood was the loneliness.

Here are some ways to handle loneliness:

• Volunteer for an hour. This helps others and gives you a sense of belonging and may inspire you to do more.

• Get involved in a community cultural organization.

• Chat with the people at the local farmer’s market, coffee shop, or post office. It can lead to something more.

• Even if it is tempting to stay in, go out. One client told me that she went to an American movie alone in a foreign country and sobbed during a sad scene. The boy sitting next to her stopped her afterward and asked her to meet him the next day at a café. She made a new friend.

• Join a self-help group that can support you as you cope with a situation, an illness, or a psychological challenge.

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