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Wellness & Beyond

Finding Connection to Combat Loneliness

December 12, 2023

By D.C. Bar Lawyer Assistance Program Staff

Many people struggle with feeling isolated during the winter season. Loneliness is a universal humanwomen getting coffee together experience across the lifespan, and it is also a subjective state based on the perception that you lack the social connections you need.

While loneliness may be common, with more than half of adults experiencing it, it is not a condition to ignore. In 2023 the U.S. Surgeon General raised the alarm, calling loneliness a public health crisis with significant mental and physical health consequences. Social connection is such a vital component of our health and well-being that lacking it increases the risk of premature death by more than 60 percent.

There is no one right way to counter the experience of loneliness. Some people may need to strengthen current relationships, others may need to cultivate new connections, and still others may need to turn inward.

Addressing loneliness doesn't necessarily require grand gestures. Small, purposeful actions can foster meaningful connections and strengthen relationships. Here are some simple ways to connect with people in your daily life.

Practice self-compassion. Research shows that self-compassion directly impacts loneliness; it can help counter destructive, self-critical tendencies and help people recognize interconnectedness they may have overlooked.

Send thoughtful messages. Texting a friend a funny meme, an article you like, or a simple “thinking of you” message can make someone’s day. Small gestures show others that you care about their happiness.

Explore local businesses. Frequent local cafes, shops, or restaurants in your neighborhood. Becoming a regular customer can lead to interactions with staff and patrons, creating a sense of belonging.

Commit random acts of kindness. Leaving a friendly note for a coworker, sending a care package, or offering to help a friend with a task can go a long way in strengthening the bond between you.

Express gratitude and appreciation. Taking a moment to text, call, or write a thank you note expressing how much you value a person can make them feel acknowledged and loved while helping you focus on what you do have.

Volunteer. Volunteering is good for boosting your mood and helps develop social connections with people who share similar values. Find local opportunities and engage in activities that resonate with you.

Use names. Addressing people by their names when you speak to them shows that you recognize and respect their individuality and is an important element in building connections.

Schedule a time to talk. Take 10 minutes to call a friend every Wednesday while walking your dog. Set aside 20 minutes in the evening to call a different friend weekly. Even better, make it a video call. Developing a consistent routine of reaching out to the same person or different people at the same time each day/week/month will create a habit of connection.

Strike up a conversation. Initiate conversations with people you encounter daily while walking, standing in an elevator, or waiting in line at the store — small talk can lead to deeper conversations over time. Even if it doesn't, small talk on its own is a positive social interaction that feeds the need for connection.

Ask open-ended questions. Instead of asking yes or no questions, use open-ended questions that encourage extended and meaningful responses such as “What did you do over the weekend?” versus “Did you have a good weekend?”

Take up new hobbies. Find a class, workshop, or group related to your interests, whether it’s a sports league, book club, language course, gardening society, or role-playing group. Joining these communities can help you connect with like-minded individuals and cultivate relationships over time.

If you want help addressing loneliness or developing connections, the D.C. Bar Lawyer Assistance Program (a free and confidential resource) is here for you. You can reach us at 202-347-3131 or [email protected]. LAP also welcomes D.C. Bar members and law students in the District to join our free and confidential support groups. The groups are currently accepting new members and are designed for participants to find support and connection during challenging times.