Volunteer (To Fight Loneliness)

Loneliness, it seems, is an ever-increasing epidemic, which seems to grow in direct proportion with how interconnected we are online – the irony though.

One good idea to combat loneliness is to simply spend your time helping other people, thus increasing your sense of purpose and meaning in your life:

Participating in volunteer opportunities may help alleviate loneliness and its related health impact for several reasons. The first and most obvious is that it’s a meaningful way to connect with others and make new friends.

I experienced this firsthand when I moved to San Francisco and knew almost no one. After joining a young professionals volunteer group, getting involved with a local nonprofit serving seniors and adults with disabilities, and both organizing and assisting with neighborhood events, I felt my own sense of community and social support increase dramatically.

Second, volunteering can make up for the loss of meaning that commonly occurs with loneliness. Research using the UCLA Loneliness Scale and Meaning in Life Questionnaire has shown that more loneliness is associated with less meaning. This makes sense, given our deeply rooted need for belonging.

By volunteering for social causes that are important to us, we can gain a sense of purpose, which in turn may shield us from negative health outcomes. For example, purpose in life has been linked to a reduced likelihood of stroke and greater psychological well-being.

I’ve seen this in my own life in so many different ways, but, there is something distinctly “magical” that happens when you find a way to focus more of your time on others and less on yourself (but not at the cost of your own health, of course).

For a number of reasons, whenever I find myself focusing on my own needs and my own issues and my own frustrations for a long, sustained period of time, I find myself more depressed, more upset, and more lonely.

But, as I spend time focusing on folks outside of myself and as I consider ways to support them, I find the exact opposite happens: I’m more alive and more hopeful and I definitely feel less lonely.

This is one of the reasons I’ve been working on being inwardly sound and others focused as part of my leadership and CEO coaching that I’ve been receiving for the past year, especially as I look to upgrade my own.

Get out there, help others, and you’ll get a lot in return – it’s pretty much 💯 guaranteed.

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