If You're Lonely, Chances Are You're Not Alone

by Cynthia Bryant, LICSW

In the course of my work as a Clinical Social Worker at CJFS, I often visit senior living communities, apartment complexes and neighborhoods where it seems that nearly everyone I meet is experiencing loneliness. Some days, I wish I could knock on all the doors and introduce everyone to each other!

In reality, I know the solution to one person’s loneliness may not work for someone else. Even for adults, making new friends can be challenging, and for many people, it’s hard to know where to start. As families spread out geographically and community ties change, loneliness is a growing problem – but there are steps each of us can take to develop new friendships and deeper interactions:      

  • Be friendly - If it would make your day to receive a smile from someone, then be that person for someone else. Smile! See what happens.  Smile again if needed.
  • Be a giver - Share with others. Do you have too many garden veggies, too many breakfast muffins? Who doesn’t love muffins?
  • Be less serious - Do you let yourself laugh?  Give it a try.  Watch something silly.  It really will be ok. The more you can laugh with others and at yourself, the more people will be drawn to you. You can find interesting events through www.meetup.com. You can enjoy movies or speakers at your local library or senior center; exercise through Silver Sneakers or the LJCC; or even join a group of lively seniors on a chartered bus to a casino!   
  • Be a lifelong learner - Anyone will be bored and lonely if they are looking at the same four walls and TV shows. Take a class through UAB’s New Horizons program or the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Alabama. Even if your body cannot move, let your brain travel. You can listen to podcasts or check out books or audiobooks online1. You can even join a team of home-based volunteers who help renowned UAB archaeologist Sarah Parcak review her findings!
  • Be an oasis - Reach out to friends, loved ones and acquaintances. Send a card. Ask how you can be of help to them. Everyone is overstressed by life and longs for moments of calm. Can you become a person who sees their strengths and efforts, encourages them and makes them feel seen and heard?  If so, you will be like an oasis in a desert, and people will appreciate it.  
  • Be a volunteer - Let people see who you are and what you have to offer. This is also the perfect way to focus less on your own concerns and focus on others. The volunteers at our CJFS CARES respite program have lots of fun and interaction - and the lunch is great, too! 
  • Be forgiving – Sometimes, people remain isolated because they fear rejection or think others will be judgmental or critical. In fact, many people who make this assumption will admit that they personally have judgmental tendencies.  If you automatically judge others, you may feel certain that the world has you under the same microscope.  By learning to accept the flaws of others, you’ll find you are less self-conscious.  If you can allow others to be themselves, you will make this same allowance for yourself. Welcome to the human race!   
  • Be legacy-minded - What would happen if you were purposeful in your conversations with your friends and family? Do you have relationships to repair or even create?  You do not need an invitation to be a role model, a loving shoulder to cry on, a fishing buddy or the neighborhood cookie lady. 

Mahatma Gandhi may have said it best: If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. 

CJFS provides individual and group therapy for family, relationship and parenting issues, as well as depression, anxiety, grief and other problems. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact Clinical Director Marcy Morgenbesser, marcy@cjfsbham.org or 205.879.3438.