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A Main Line expert shares tips for forming healthy relationships and avoiding loneliness for happier living.
We’ve all felt lonely from time to time. It’s an inescapable part of the human condition. Pervasive and lingering feelings of loneliness, however, can lead to a great deal of emotional distress, contributing to depression, anxiety and substance abuse.
Loneliness is defined as a general feeling of sadness stemming from solitude and disconnection from others. Even those who appear to have a wide network of family, friends and colleagues can feel deeply alone—and the pandemic and social media have only exacerbated these overall feelings of loneliness. Emotional intimacy comes when we feel safe to share our true feelings, be our authentic selves and reveal our vulnerabilities to someone who responds with genuine understanding, affirmation and care. Emotionally intimate relationships aren’t one-sided—they’re reciprocal.
Here are some tips to help deepen your relationships in 2023.
1. Accept your need for close connections.
For many, feelings of shame and irrational fears around dependency inhibit their ability to get close with others. Remember, our brains and bodies are wired for close connections. Accepting this need is a sign of emotional strength and maturity.
2. Be present with others.
Show interest and really listen to people’s feelings, opinions and life experiences.
3. Make spending time with others a self-care priority.
Regularly schedule time to be with those you feel closest to. We’re most happy when we have a tight network of people who are irreplaceable.
4. Let go of unhealthy relationships.
Negative relationships wear you down emotionally and can have detrimental effects on physical health. Signs of an unhealthy relationship include feeling controlled, disrespected or criticized.
5. More isn’t always better.
Don’t get caught up in the false idea that you need to have a certain number of friends. It’s the quality of friendships that enrich our lives, not the quantity.
6. Use social media to connect.
Don’t just mindlessly scroll through other people’s social media feeds, Instagram posts or TikTok videos. Interact with virtual friends and use these platforms to boost real-life relationships.
7. Consider seeing a therapist if feelings of loneliness linger.
Therapy can help you to understand your relational style and the obstacles keeping you from developing deeper connections and enriching friendships.