It’s no surprise. According to the US Department of Health & Human Services, women can expect to live a long life–with an average of 81.3 years. Longer and more productive years may require us to reinvent and redirect our lives from the mid-point on. As we pivot into our second half of life, we may need to reassess the bonds we felt early in life with co-workers, parents of our children’s friends, and even friends from previous marriages. Many of these connections are breaking down and changing; some are replaced with virtual connections. The result? You might feel more lonely and isolated instead of less. Social media tricks us into believing that we are “better connected” yet our online networks of “friends” provide little in the way of actual human interaction. Your phone (or computer) can do many things, but they cannot give you a hug or hold your hand!
Not surprisingly a 2010 AARP study reported that over 1/3 of adults ages 45+ feel lonely. Both chronic and situational loneliness comes with many negative stereotypes. Many women feel embarrassed that they feel periodically lonely–that this must suggest a weakness of character or a flaw in our ability to connect. That, in turn, can lead to self-doubt and more isolation. But one of the best ways to deal with loneliness is to leverage the feeling and use it to identify the moment to direct our energies in a new way.
By understanding that loneliness is not something that “happens” to us or “owns” us but is a transient sentiment that occurs to everyone during periods of transition, we can actually use it as a personal signal that it’s time for a change.
Here, fourteen new–and resourceful–ways to redefine and leverage that feeling into actions that offer positive results.
1. Rethink what makes you feel fulfilled. Your life is overstuffed–but is it fulfilling? What do you secretly dream of doing while you are busy doing something else? This is the perfect moment to shift from what you’ve felt obligated to do in the past to what you want to do in the future. Now, take control of the moment, reset and rebalance; make the future the present. Ask yourself how can you impact and redirect your legacy with the decisions you make today?
2. Cultivate your inner voice. Spend some time alone with your thoughts instead of being busy with everyone else’s demands and you will have the ability to recognize your own inner voice. This is your inner truth, your best friend, the piece of yourself you left behind while you were doing chores for everyone else. Be curious, and ask your inner voice questions. Listen for your own intuitive answers. Write a letter to this forgotten self and tell it your innermost secrets and desires. Read the letter out loud. What actionable steps can you take now, based on this inner wisdom to reset your goals and pivot toward new possibilities?
3. Draw up a new challenge–and make it a big one. What can you do that you have never done before that pushes you out of your comfort zone? For example, don’t just take a class; teach a class! Thought of writing a book? Go to medium.com and start a blog. Don’t wait to be invited: invite others in. Don’t just spend time online; spend time in life.
4. Daydream. When was the last time you mindfully decided to do absolutely nothing? Take ten minutes every day and just dream. Technology has robbed us of downtime and that pathway to a creative connection to ourselves. Daydreams can help manifest what’s next in your life. Create a vision wall to record all your crazy ideas–both big and small–that pop into your mind. Use Post It Notes and markers and pin-up quotes, pictures, words, and thoughts that resonate. Select a wall in a location that you pass by every day. Ask yourself: What story do these posts tell? How can they help me to manifest and drive my destiny?
5. Play. Like a child. Laugh. Have fun. Ask yourself the following: What would you be doing if it was 10 years ago and nothing was stopping you? Now, go do that–or some small part of it.
6. Practice gratitude. Gratitude grounds you in the moment and combats fear and isolation. Create a morning ritual of journaling three things you are grateful for. Pick a milestone date, like your birthday or New Year’s Day, to review your journal and reflect.
7. Say YES! Give yourself permission to explore by saying yes to things you’ve always wanted to do–and never had time for or were fearful of. Say yes to forgiveness. Say yes to YOU! Create a Yes Jar. Every time you give yourself permission to do something out of your comfort zone, jot it down and place that note in the jar. At the end of the month celebrate your decisions and your successes.
8. Unplug. Stage a tech detox one day each week. Show up at a live event instead of just online. Re-engage in your community. Make eye contact. Hug someone. Really listen to others. Meet for coffee. Bond with nature. Now, get out your calendar and plan this day out every week. How will you use your detox time?
9. Move. Far away. This year! Relocate to a college town, and if you’re single, take on a roommate; plant yourself closer to family, or even return to your roots. Switch jobs, or companies, or start the business you have been talking about for years. New venues and new ventures create new opportunities to connect. Begin small by spending a weekend in a college town, visiting the city in which you were born, or by inviting a friend to stay with you for a week.
10. Blend generations and become a Perennial! Move out of your age-appropriate circle and seek cross-generational attachments to both younger and older people. Teach an older or younger person your expertise. Mentor a child. Document the stories of the elderly. Vacation with your adult children.
11. Be of service. Make yourself invaluable to others. Ask how can you help or support someone in a local business or in his or her personal life?
12. Challenge yourself to become a connector. Introduce people. Listen and demonstrate empathy. Where can you be a memorable and important link for someone else?
13. Invite the world in. Sometimes, without even realizing it, we push the world away by allowing our comfortable routines to create isolating inertia. Start a club; invite people over to cook, to watch an awards show, or a sporting event. Start your own Meetup. Make a list of all the feelings that come to mind regarding making new friends and inviting the world in. Write down all of your excuses and judgments. Say them all out loud in front of a mirror. Now rewrite the list in the positive. (Example: “I do not have many friends” becomes “I am an amazing friend!”)
14. Create community. Networks of women such as CoveyClub are inviting the world in. All you have to do is participate! Start now!
This article was originally published in CoveyClub https://www.coveyclub.com/blog_posts/how-to-leverage-your-loneliness/