How to feel less lonely

Feb 18, 2024

Most people feel lonely from time to time, and even our most extroverted friends feel isolated sometimes.

Feelings of loneliness are on the rise, and recent surveys show that about half of all adults nationwide are negatively impacted by these feelings. According to the U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, loneliness increases the risk of developing depression, anxiety, heart disease, and stroke, and can be as dangerous as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

The good news? Small and simple acts of social connection have been shown to boost our mood, decrease anxiety, and improve our overall well-being. These acts can give us a sense of purpose, help us learn more about ourselves and others, and can make each day feel more interesting. So how can we orient our lives towards connection, and away from isolation?

Our team has one idea we'd like to try this week: Dr. Murthy just launched the 5-for-5 Connection Challenge — for 5 days in a row, he encourages us to pick 5 actions to connect with people in our life.

At focused, we're big believers in the power of human connection, so we're going to give it a go!

To participate alongside us, each day this week we invite you take 1 simple action of your choice to express gratitude, offer support, or ask for help.

The next three sections have simple ideas you can try for each of the categories. P.S. If you're setting your goals in the app this week, we suggest reserving one slot per day for one of these actions!

Expressing Gratitude

Communicating your appreciation for individuals or groups that are important to you can be a powerful reinforcement of your bond. Research shows that practicing gratitude in our daily lives is linked to reduced feelings of loneliness and stronger social bonds.

Here are three ways you might consider showing gratitude to someone in your life:

❤️ A Shared Memory: Think of a time you felt a strong bond with someone in your life and how that memory made you feel more connected to them.

❤️ Quality Compliments: Think of a friend, colleague or family member that you really appreciate. What traits do you love about them? Or what positive thing has that person done for you that really had an impact.

❤️ Positive Relationships: Think about a positive relationship in your life. Write down 3 good things about the relationship.

With all of these, consider sharing your reflections with the person through text, a phone call or writing them a note to further build your connection with them.

Offering Support

Research shows that helping the people around us can improve our own well-being as well. Lending support to others is associated with a reduced risk of mortality and activities such as volunteering are linked to better mental and physical health and life satisfaction.

Here are 4 ways you might consider giving support to others:

Sharing Presence: Give the gift of time to someone you care about—whether it means doing something with them or something for them

✅ Acts of Service: Think of some acts of service you can do for a friend or loved one going through a difficult time, and reach out to offer support. Some ideas are: dropping off dinner, helping them with household chores, or going on a walk with them.

✅ Pay It Forward: Think about a recent act of kindness that was directed towards you. Make a plan to pass that kindness forward at some point this week.

✅ Giving To Your Community: Get involved in your community through volunteering alongside others. For ways to find volunteering opportunities, look at the website of some of your favorite charities and causes.

Seeking and Receiving Support

Seeking and receiving support can have powerful impacts on our health. In fact, research shows that confiding in others helps protect against depression even among people who are already at higher risk due to their history of traumatic or otherwise adverse life experiences.

Here are three ways you may consider seeking and receiving support as a way to increase connection in your life:

🌿 Asking For Help: Think of a situation in your life where you could use a little help. Maybe you are struggling to make a decision or to balance your obligations. Identify a person who’s in the best position to help you and reach out to them.

🌿 Accepting Help: Think about a time when you asked for help and someone in your life came through. Reflect on the lessons you learned from this memory and reach out to ask for support with something you need help with in your current life.

🌿 Having Someone to Lean On: Who in your life can you depend upon and call any time of the day? Who can you reach out to for help during emergencies? Think of a person or two and jot down qualities that make them dependable.

Final Thoughts on Connection

Before I go, I’m going to share a few ways you can deepen your relationships with others:

🔆 Ask Meaningful Questions: Think of someone you feel comfortable with and practice active listening during your conversation by asking open-ended questions and showing genuine interest.

🔆 Build Family Ties: Reach out to a parent or older family member. Ask your family questions that you wouldn’t normally ask. Some questions could be: how would people have described you when you were 8 years old? What’s a memory you’ll cherish forever? If you aren't close with your family, try asking your close friends some deeper questions 🤍

🔆 Find Things You Have in Common: The next time you meet someone new, strike up a conversation to learn about the things you have in common. Nothing beats getting curious!

🔆 Neighborly Chats: Get to know the names of different people in your community. Try starting conversations with your neighbors or other people you come across.

Remember: High-quality relationships can help us cope better with stressful situations to minimize their negative impact. Our relationships with family (or close friends!) can be an important source of meaning and purpose in our lives.

Thanks for reading, and hope you have a great week ahead!

— Scott