How to fight loneliness, the Daily T.Lo Method for happiness

One of the reasons I write about relationships is because I believe that human beings need to feel connected to one another to live healthy lives. Those who value superficial things like money or status over human connection often neglect their friendships and family and end up alone, and loneliness is apparently more of a public health threat than obesity or smoking.

The AARP released a study that 42.6 million people over the age of 45 suffer from chronic loneliness, and the number is expected to rise. Loneliness is a crappy feeling, that's for sure, but it actually can harm you physically. According to Business Insider, "Researchers believe loneliness is so deadly because it can lead to a number of issues, including disrupted sleep patterns, high levels of stress hormones, increased inflammation, and worsening immune systems. Any one of those risk factors puts people at a greater risk for disease and life-threatening injury."

So what can people do to fight loneliness? As someone who mostly works from home and has a limited social circle, I want to share with you how I found joy in editing my interactions with people and how I spent my time. Hopefully, this will help those out there who may be introverted in nature or do not have access to a lot of quality people.

1. I made a list of what made me happy and what upset me. 
In college and years after, I was a social butterfly, going from party to party and trying to collect as many contacts as I could. Every weekend was packed, and I had racked up thousands of Facebook "friends." Yet, I noticed that I had more quantity than quality. At parties, I engaged in superficial conversation or was just there, not really connecting with anyone but showing up to take that huge group photo that made it look like I had a shit ton of friends. Online, my "friend" number was huge, but there were times when I would actually see those people in real life and they'd walk by, not knowing who the hell I was.

This type of superficial connection actually made me feel lonely, and I started to read books about happiness. A lot of them had the same suggestion--figure out what brings you joy and what doesn't.

So I started to cull my social media friend lists to only people I felt would say Hi to me if they saw me in real life or strangers whose content I admired. If there was anyone who I knew in real life who had parties and never invited me, I deleted them. My mindset was 1) we aren't actually friends 2) I didn't want to feel excluded so why subject my online experience to this and 3) fuck them.

Then I made a list. I wanted to know who was a true friend, so I wrote out who would actually come pick me up somewhere if I were in a true emergency. That was my barometer. I was lucky enough that I had at least five friends, not including family members, who would do that for me. With that knowledge, I decided to stop focusing on looking popular and instead focus on loving the people who actually loved me.

2. I made a list of activities that truly made me happy. 
As many of you know, I moved out to Los Angeles to become a screenwriter. After years of career exploration and soul searching, I developed a solid career as a journalist and author, and those jobs made me happy and paid the bills. But it was hard for me to completely give up my initial dream so I often went to Hollywood networking events or spent time with industry people who either annoyed me with their desperation or arrogance. I logged probably hundreds of hours with these folks, and I always knew that they didn't really like me. They just wanted to keep me in their pocket in case I could be useful in the future. As time passed, I eventually decided that it was better to focus my energy and time on the genuine friends I had.

Next, I reevaluated what actually was fun to me, and I realized that I loved exercise classes and trying new foods. When I started to only do things that I loved, not out of obligation to a job that wasn't even lucrative for me, I met wonderful people with shared interests. Even if we didn't stay in touch, we got along at those activities because we were sharing a mutual passion and expecting nothing else in return. We organically connected.

3. I make a point to talk to a loved one and one stranger at least once a day. 
I'm often asked if I get lonely working from home since I am single and live alone, but I can honestly say I do not. But that's because I make a conscious effort to interact with people on a personal basis daily. For instance, I will chat with my sister or grab lunch with a friend, and I go to an exercise class or to a coffee shop to be around friendly people. With strangers, it helps to have a kind interaction each day, even if it's small.

For people who are starting out isolated and want to get out of their funk, they should join a gym, volunteer, go to church, do a Meetup, or find some way to slowly integrate with kind strangers daily. Internet interactions are not enough to ease loneliness, and sometimes social media can make us depressed because we falsely believe other people's lives are better than ours based on what they post. If you want to combat loneliness, you gotta get offline.

4. Get a pet. 
I have a cat, and having her around really brings me happiness as I work or hang out at home. The healing power of pets are so strong that many mental health professionals recommend people to get pets for emotional support. If you live in an apartment building, you are legally allowed in most jurisdictions to keep your animal if a therapist writes a note, verifying Old Mittens is an Emotional Support Animal.

Have you battled loneliness and want to share your story? Send me an email at teresalowriter @ gmail, and I may feature your story. 😊