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Loneliness can have a major impact on mental health; how to start feeling connected

One factor that can impact one’s mental health is loneliness, an issue that’s increased since the pandemic with isolation and working from home. But it’s hard to know if someone might be feeling lonely based on how their life appears.

Some of the most famous celebrities have admitted to feeling the loneliest they’ve ever felt even when surrounded by adoring fans and people in their personal life. Someone can be physically around people all the time, whether at work, school, or in their family, but the feeling of loneliness and the feeling of being disconnected can lead someone to feeling negative effects on their mental health such as worsening depression, anxiety, mood disorders and cognitive decline, and on their physical health, leading to higher rates of cardiovascular impairment, chronic pain, and fatigue.

But being physically alone and feeling alone are two different things. For some, being physically alone can feel like solitude, this is when we have gratitude for the alone time we’re experiencing while still feeling connected to others. When someone feels disconnected to others, this is when the impact of loneliness can have negative effects both physically and mentally if not addressed over time.

Humans are social beings searching for communities, groups, and acceptance within those groups. We seek community to feel safe and secure in our survival. If we feel alone due to discrimination, bullying, or rejection from our communities, our instinct tells us that we will not survive, thus activating varying emotional responses both physically and mentally.

So how do we help ourselves and others feel more connected in a world that has been so disconnected? Below is a list of ways to invite connection within yourself and within your community:

• Make eye contact and smile at others when you pass them on the sidewalk, hallway, etc. • Say “hello” to strangers as you pass them • Wave to strangers with gratitude/greeting when driving or walking • Ask someone how they’re doing today (even if the answer is usually ‘fine,’ most people just appreciate being addressed) • Send someone you care about or haven’t talked to in a while a note in the mail, email, text, phone call, etc. • Make your neighbors some baked goods or notes of appreciation (I always feel so much gratitude when I find a yummy baked good from my neighbor on the porch after a long day) • Volunteer in your community • Join a support group or community group • Invite safe and consensual touch with others through hugging, holding hands, pats on the back, shaking hands, etc. • Invite gentle touch to yourself by putting a hand on your heart, wrapping your arms around your shoulders for a supportive hug, right hand on your forehead and left hand on the back of head

Remember, that you are never alone. Whether you find support through friends, family, therapists, doctors, spiritual or religious figures, animals, or plants, we are never alone. We are all connected.

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