Socialization is a critical aspect to good health for kids and adults. That’s why constant connection through social media, chatrooms, texting, and online gaming has become irresistible to us. For help managing in the online world and avoiding costly digital injuries, check out Dr. Bennett’s positive parenting and family coaching videos on our GKIS App. We all need each other online and off. Afterall, the early people of our species were hunters and gatherers. Having a tribe was critical for our survival. In modern times, with many families living away from extended families and our lives as busy as ever, it’s often hard for adults to make friends. Today’s GKIS article covers the costly results of loneliness and offers suggestions for how to break out of our loneliness and enter the realm of meaningful connectedness.
The Prevalence of Loneliness
Higher rates of loneliness are found among young adults, seniors, those who are visually impaired, victims of abuse, and the unemployed. Due to its prevalence, numerous outlets including Time, Forbes, US News, Cigna Insurance, and the Health Resources & Services Administration have referred to loneliness as an epidemic in the last decade.
Feelings of loneliness can result from a lack of friendships, intimacy, or emotional connection. The long term impacts of loneliness include poor sleep, depression, suicidal ideation, increases in cortisol (a stress hormone), compromised immune responses, and inflammation. Chronic loneliness has also been linked to the progression of Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, and other chronic diseases. Further, loneliness is associated with poor lifestyle habits which include sedentariness and smoking.
To avoid unfortunate outcomes, we must carve out the time to hang out with friends and family. For kids and teens, school is an easy resource to draw from. But for adults, social resources can be hard to find. To help you reach out and find more connection and community in your life, we’ve uncovered some novel ideas and resources!
Volunteering is a fantastic way to meet friends, give back, and cultivate a sense of belonging. Research has found that volunteering is particularly helpful for those who have recently lost a loved one. In a study by Dawn Carr and colleagues observing over 5,000 recently widowed spouses, subjects who volunteered two or more hours per week had lower rates of loneliness than those who did not volunteer at all.
Volunteering also has benefits for the whole family. The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension notes that youth volunteerism can help with the development of identity, empathy, skill-building, self-esteem, and relationships with like-minded people. A study by Sandi Nenga from Southwestern University notes similar improvements with youth volunteerism. But Nenga also emphasizes that volunteering can connect multiple, diverse communities, creating better outcomes in future civic roles for youth volunteers.
Many gyms offer classes like Zumba, pilates, yoga, kickboxing, and barre. Attending exercise classes provides opportunities to talk with others and explore your workout journeys together!
Exercise is associated with decreases in stress hormones including cortisol and adrenaline, and promotes the production of mood-enhancing endorphins. For those who have social anxiety, these feel-good-feelings can help you gain your confidence in seeking and maintaining new relationships.
Join a club or team
Clubs and teams offer great opportunities to make new friends and work together. Bulletins for clubs and teams may be found at your local college campus or community recreation center. A study by Scott Graupensperger and colleagues notes that being on a club sports team results in greater prosocial behaviors. Additionally, being on a team creates a strong sense of community and bonds, thus enhancing identification with others. A greater sense of identification can improve one’s mental health, social life, and well-being.
Online resources have made meeting like-minded people easier than ever. Today’s platforms allow us to connect with a host of individuals and groups that offer various forms of entertainment whether it is sushi classes, book clubs, or family potlucks! Of course, proper cautions are necessary when meeting people online. To help tweens and teens prepare for the potential hazards that await them on social media, we recommend they take our Social Media Readiness Course. This online course not only offers the information they need to stay safe, Dr. Bennett also shares critical wellness strategies she’s developed in over 25 years of clinical practice! Here are 4 GKIS recommended online platforms to help you connect with others
Meetup.com is a great website to start your search for like-minded people. The groups available are diverse and range from substance abuse support groups to groups for beginner hikers! Some groups are also geared towards entire families and may host events to bring families together. You can also create your own group, however, a monthly charge to Meetup is needed to keep your group active.
Hey! VINA is a free new app with a design similar to the dating app Tinder. Hey! Vina is geared toward women and nonbinary people looking to make friends with other women and nonbinary people. The VIP membership gives users special access to certain features including faster matches, seeing who swiped right on (liked) your profile, and more.
The Dinner Party
The Dinner Party is an organization founded in 2018. The purpose of this organization is to bring grieving individuals who are ages 20 to 39 together. The intent is to connect and provide support for each other over dinner. They also expanded to create dinner parties for a wider audience of individuals who may be dealing with a different type of issue and would like a companion to talk to. To accommodate the recent COVID-19 guidelines, individuals are currently hosting Zoom dinner parties as a safer way to get together.
Eventbrite is a popular platform used to get tickets for live events ranging from stadium concerts to yoga meetups at the park. While the service is free, the organizer of the event may require a small fee to attend while others offer their events for free.
I’m the mom psychologist who will help you GetKidsInternetSafe.
Onward to More Awesome Parenting,
Tracy S. Bennett, Ph.D.
Mom, Clinical Psychologist, CSUCI Adjunct Faculty
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Carr, D. C., Kail, B. L., Matz-Costa, C., & Shavit, Y. Z. (2018). Does becoming a volunteer attenuate loneliness among recently widowed older adults? The Journals of Gerontology: Series B: Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, 73(3), 501–510. https://doi-org.ezproxy.csuci.edu/10.1093/geronb/gbx092
 de Guzman, M. (2007). Youth Volunteerism. Retrieved from https://extensionpublications.unl.edu/assets/pdf/g1750.pdf
Nenga, S. K. (2012). Not the community, but a community: Transforming youth into citizens through volunteer work. Journal of Youth Studies, 15(8), 1063–1077. https://doi-org.ezproxy.csuci.edu/10.1080/13676261.2012.697135
 Harvard Health Publishing. (2011). Exercising to relax. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/exercising-to-relax
Graupensperger, S., Panza, M., & Evans, M. B. (2020). Network centrality, group density, and strength of social identification in college club sport teams. Group Dynamics: Theory, Research, and Practice, 24(2), 59–73. https://doi-org.ezproxy.csuci.edu/10.1037/gdn0000106