WebMD BlogsRelationships

How to Lessen Your Loneliness

woman with a cat looks out window
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD - Blogs
By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhDPsychologistSeptember 23, 2020

Considering the social isolation required by COVID-19, it’s no surprise that many people are struggling with loneliness. Loneliness is a very real problem with emotional, and even physical, consequences. Research has shown that loneliness can reduce our life span as much as cigarette smoking or obesity. If you’re fighting loneliness, it’s important to keep in mind that not all relationships provide the same sense of connection: the “quantity” and “quality” of connecting can make a big difference in reducing loneliness and increasing happiness.

With regards to quantity, how often you talk is important. You may have longtime friends with whom you can fall back into old rhythms after not having spoken for years. These friends are treasures. As poet Joseph Parry advises, “Make new friends, but keep the old/Those are silver, these are gold.” However, having friends to talk with regularly is important in reducing loneliness. Georgetown University professor Deborah Tannen, PhD, has written about how the frequency of talking with someone is what makes people happier -- not what they talk about.

While Tannen makes an important point, the actual connection people make is also vitally important. It’s not so much the content of their conversations that is important, but how well they connect. And as Tannen notes, both men and women are equally capable of deep connections -- even when they adhere to gender stereotypes in the way they communicate. For example, men can connect when fishing quietly together or bantering about football. Women might -- or might not -- feel connected as they pour out how they feel about their relationships and the details of their day. What’s most important in making people happy is that they feel understood, valued, and validated.

To accomplish this feat of having a quality connection, people must be able to relate to each other. They must be able to “speak the same language.” For example, a long-time business colleague just simply showing up at a partner’s daughter’s wedding can express deep layers of support and caring. This means that, in both words and actions, friendships foster happiness when people interact in ways that connect for each of them. Otherwise, the people are just filling time. They might feel less lonely from having the interactions, but those interactions can feel hollow.

When you talk frequently and connect openly, you are likely to keep loneliness at bay as you warm yourself with true companionship.

 

WebMD Blog
© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.
Blog Topics:
About the Author
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

Dr. Becker-Phelps is a licensed psychologist in NJ and NY, and is on staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset. She is dedicated to helping people understand themselves and what they need to do to become emotionally and psychologically healthy. She accomplishes this through her work as a psychotherapist, speaker and writer. She is the author of Bouncing Back from Rejection and Insecure in Love.

More from the Relationships Blog

View all posts on Relationships

Latest Blog Posts on WebMD

View all blog posts

Important: The opinions expressed in WebMD Blogs are solely those of the User, who may or may not have medical or scientific training. These opinions do not represent the opinions of WebMD. Blogs are not reviewed by a WebMD physician or any member of the WebMD editorial staff for accuracy, balance, objectivity, or any other reason except for compliance with our Terms and Conditions. Some of these opinions may contain information about treatments or uses of drug products that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. WebMD does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment.

Do not consider WebMD Blogs as medical advice. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your care plan or treatment. WebMD understands that reading individual, real-life experiences can be a helpful resource, but it is never a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a qualified health care provider. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or dial 911 immediately.

Read More