The Dangers of Loneliness -- and Tools for How to Overcome It

We are in an epidemic of loneliness... and many of us don't know how serious this condition is nor how to overcome it. It's another facet of our broken and unhealed world that needs to be fixed.

Having a strong support system is vital for our existence and happiness -- but also critical for our healing journey. It is essential to have a circle of loving and supportive people in your life.

Loneliness has major potential for negatively affecting our health -- mental and physical. Strangely, feelings of loneliness can actually result in deeper isolation and work/life burnout.

While there are a myriad of reasons why people have become so isolated, I want to call out the pandemic, work-from-home, and social media.

  • The pandemic -- including the sheltering at home lockdown orders -- caused massive fractures in families and friends when people became polarized over everything relating to it. We are not meant to be hermits, and the reaction to the pandemic caused permanent problems.

  • Work from home -- while many people have rejoiced in being able to work from home, others have felt increasingly isolated, missing the interactions with their "work family."

  • Social media -- while many of us have "friends" or "connections" on social media, how many of us truly feel connected to those people? (Furthermore, how many of us hurt ourselves even more by comparing our lives to all the "perfect" lives we see on FakeBook?)

Loneliness is so pervasive in the U.S., that on May 3, 2023, Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy released an advisory calling attention to the public health crisis of loneliness, isolation, and lack of connection in our country. In fact, the Surgeon General states that loneliness is more dangerous than smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

Loneliness: an unpleasant emotional response to perceived isolation -- often felt as social pain -- and associated with a perceived lack of connection and intimacy. It is a state of distress or discomfort that results when a person senses a gap between the desire for social connection and the actual experience of it. (FYI, people can be surrounded by others or in a long-term relationship, and still experience deep and pervasive loneliness; it's the quality of relationships, not quantity.)

Loneliness vs Solitude: Loneliness is a sense of lack of connection, lack of love, or feelings of being left out. Solitude is the choice of taking time to be with oneself, alone -- and it can have numerous positive benefits.

A recent meta-study of previous research studies found that loneliness has been linked to weaker immune systems, poor sleep, and high blood pressure -- and has the same health risks as smoking or heart disease! Furthermore, lonely people are also twice as likely to develop Alzheimer's disease.

It's not just physical health issues, but in fact, a state of chronic loneliness can trigger depression and other mental health conditions. Furthermore, lonely people tend not to exercise, while also eating poorly, drinking too much alcohol (or using other self-medicating drugs), and smoking cigarettes more frequently -- all of which can result in further deteriorating health conditions.

Not surprisingly, researchers suggest that having a strong social network is beneficial for well-being and health, and maintaining existing relationships and forging new friendships are important for disease prevention... but how does one accomplish this?

How to Overcome Loneliness

Here are some well-tested strategies for building real community and making true connections and friendships.

1. Reframe Your Situation. Loneliness can swiftly spiral out of control when we start expecting rejection and hostility; it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The key is to begin learning how to reframe things when those negative thoughts arise; once many of those negative thoughts are quashed, people discover a fresh way of approaching meeting new people -- with a focus on optimism and positivity.

2. Volunteer. Enough cannot be said about the positives that come from volunteering. Separate from this loneliness discussion, volunteering is a win for the organization and the people it serves while giving the volunteer a sense of pride. In terms of loneliness, volunteering is a wonderful way to meet people with similar mindsets and interests. I can attest from personal experience, I have crafted numerous friendships with people I met while volunteering.

3. Take a Workshop, Class, or Join a Group -- In Person. Now that we can hold in-person events again, seek an educational opportunity that interests you -- whether quantum physics at the local community college or basket-weaving at the local co-op. Find local groups or clubs -- book, sewing, gardening, dancing, etc. Again, like volunteering, you are going to meet people with similar interests -- a strong base for friendships.

4. Strengthen Existing Relationships. It's pretty easy to get distracted or so deeply involved in our own issues that we neglect the people currently in our lives. Perhaps the easiest way to overcome loneliness is by fixing, improving, strengthening existing friendships/relationships. Be humble, make apologies (not excuses) and develop a plan for rekindling and improving your core set of people.

5. Grow An Existing Hobby -- or Start a New One. Creative outlets are proven to boost mood and help us live more in the moment. It's less about meeting new people, though almost every hobby has a community of like-minded people, so you may be able to meet new folks. This tool is more about giving your confidence and creativity a boost by engaging in an activity you enjoy.

6. Get Out in Nature. This tip could be used for just about any situation, as nature has so many healing properties; however, in this context it's about reconnecting and grounding yourself with the natural world... it's a chance to use all your senses -- smelling the flowers, hearing the birds calling, seeing the beautiful sights, feeling leaves and tree bark, tasting wild berries or the salt from the sea.

7. Exercise/Move. One of the greatest tools we have for lifting our moods and boosting brain health while also strengthening our bodies is exercise. When we exercise, we release endorphins. This hormone helps relieve pain, reduce stress, and improve our sense of well-being. If that activity is part of a group class or in a gym, it also offers the opportunity to meet new people.

8. Attend Spiritual/Religious Services. At the same time as this loneliness epidemic, we have also seen a major decrease in people partaking in organized religions. Studies show the value of spirituality in our lives -- of having the faith and understanding of a higher power -- to boost our feelings of connection and well-being. And, again, actually attending services in person is another opportunity to meet people with similar values and beliefs.

9. Adopt a Pet. The value of pet ownership and the benefits pet owners receive from their pets is well-documented, especially for people who live alone. During the pandemic, pet ownership skyrocketed -- and as one person shared with me, many people acquired their "covid canine." Pet ownership is a huge responsibility and some people can't afford a pet or can't have one because of their living arrangements, which is why this tip is last. Take some time before jumping into pet ownership.

Useful Resources for Battling Loneliness/Meeting New People

Final Thoughts on Loneliness

We all experience bouts of loneliness, especially if we have experienced loss -- and holidays and special dates are some of the worst offenders -- which is why self-care is so important. It's possible to experience loneliness even when in a relationship -- when that relationship is empty, devoid of connection.

Of course, it's all about perspective. We can reframe how we feel and instead of focusing on feelings of loneliness, we can focus on the fact that we have more time for our hobbies, uncompleted projects, and adventures.

One final key to fighting loneliness is focusing on gratitude and being in the moment, aka, mindfulness. As those negative feelings and thoughts creep in, change your focus to all the big and little things that make you happy, grateful. Gratitude is conscious appreciation of any aspect of our life experiences.

Loneliness is real, and painful, and can take us into a downward spiral. If your feelings are getting too intense or too dark, please call 988 (the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline) or text the Crisis Text Line (by texting HOME to 741741)... to get free and confidential support from a trained counselor.

Additional Loneliness Resources

Dr. Randall Hansen is an advocate, educator, mentor, ethicist, and thought-leader... helping the world heal from past trauma. He is founder and CEO of, a network of empowering and transformative Websites, including

He is the author of the groundbreaking Triumph Over Trauma: Psychedelic Medicines are Helping People Heal Their Trauma, Change Their Lives, and Grow Their Spirituality and the well-received HEAL! Wholeistic Practices to Help Clear Your Trauma, Heal Yourself, and Live Your Best Life.

Dr. Hansen's focus and advocacy center around true healing ... healing that results in being able to live an authentic life filled with peace, joy, love. Learn more by visiting his personal Website, You can also check out Dr. Randall Hansen on LinkedIn.