Recent research, published by the AARP in 2018, indicates that more than one in three adults over the age of 45 suffers from chronic loneliness. The survey also found that loneliness is a complex issue, influenced by many different factors.
For example, even those who suffered the death of a spouse were often able to overcome that setback and enjoy positive social health, while others struggled significantly even in the absence of a single devastating event. Those with larger and more complex social networks were less likely to suffer loneliness, regardless of other events in their lives.
Since loneliness and emotional health can contribute to physical well-being, it is important to take steps to combat the feeling. Here are five things you can do to begin overcoming feelings of loneliness, or to prevent the problem from sneaking up on you after retirement.
Explore more. Whether it’s a nearby park, a new shopping center, a cultural event, or a trip to a foreign country, simply getting out of the house will work wonders. If you face mobility limitations or financial restrictions, remember that you don’t need to go far. Your neighborhood church or a local community center offers plenty of social interaction.
Get creative. Creative endeavors can provide the perfect distraction and emotional outlet. Once you’ve retired, now is the time to write a book, take up painting, or enroll in a pottery class.
Practice gratitude. Adopt the practice of naming one thing for which you feel grateful every day. It could be your continued good health, a close friend, a hobby you enjoy, a pet, or just a beautiful sunrise. Those who practice a mentality of gratitude are often more positive overall.
Volunteer. Volunteering not only gives you a chance to make a difference in the world; it’s a terrific social opportunity as well. You will make new connections with like-minded, generous, and positive people.
Adopt a pet. Visit your local animal shelter, and spend some time with the cats or dogs available. Many of them are lonely, too, and would provide grateful companionship if you decide to take one home.
And of course, if loneliness is impacting your health, emotional state, or quality of life, it’s time to talk to your doctor. He or she will have more suggestions, including perhaps a referral to a therapist or support group to help you learn more coping strategies.