Why Being Lonely is Ruining Your Life, and What to Do About It

Loneliness is so common in our society that we think it’s normal. Only 11% of single men and 15% of married men feel that they have someone they could turn to in a time of crisis. Let’s face it, our Facebook friends aren’t there when the shit hits the fan. Sure, they’ll like those pictures you post showing how great your life is, and they may even offer you advice. But will they be there when you are getting a divorce and moving your stuff? Will they attend the funeral when someone you love dies? Of course not. They will be living their own lonely lives with little genuine concern for yours.

Chronic Loneliness

Chronic loneliness isn’t the transient loneliness that everyone feels from time to time. It’s a feeling that you have no one that you really connect with on a personal level for a long period of time. At first, you may feel the loneliness acutely. Over time, you get used to it. You start feeling that this lack of connection is a normal part of life, and you may even push away those who try to make a meaningful connection to you. If you’ve ever seen the movie Grumpy Old Men, or had an elderly neighbor who seemed to dislike everyone, you’ve seen a portion of what chronic loneliness does. However, it isn’t just elderly people that experience chronic loneliness. Young and old alike are at risk. Even married couples can experience it, sometimes the most acutely of all. There is nothing more lonely than not connecting with the person you pledged to love for the rest of your life.

Social isolation is defined as a lack of opportunities for social engagement and mental stimulation. Many people believe that Facebook and other social media apps give them the connection that they need to stave off social isolation. Think of a long distance relationship. Consider the difference between chatting with the person via your cell phone or Skype, vs. being physically present with them. There is no comparison. There is nothing like being with the person you love physically, and technology facilitated communication is but a poor imitation of it. This same concept holds true for all relationships. We need interaction with people in our real life.

Physical Effects of Loneliness

Chronic loneliness can cause many diseases and negative health effects in our bodies. Medical studies have shown that chronic loneliness is just as dangerous to your health as smoking cigarettes, alcoholism, and obesity. Loneliness affects the production of white blood cells, which are our bodies defense system. It causes changes in the cardiovascular, hormonal, and immune systems. This produces a state of inflammation in the body which is the root of most disease. In fact, the term disease actually comes from the thought that it’s caused by dis-ease in the body. Loneliness and the depression often associated with it can cause this dis-ease.

Studies have shown that loneliness increases your chances of dying early by 45% and your risk of developing dementia by 64%. People with close relationship ties to family and friends have a 50% less chance of dying at any given time than those with few close connections.

Financial Impact of Loneliness

The physical effects of loneliness can be obvious, but you may not be aware that the number of friends you have is directly related to how much money you earn. One study followed 10,000 students from high school for the next 35 years, and the results they found were astounding. For each friend someone had, their earnings went up 2%. Keep in mind, however, that more isn’t always better.

How Many Friends Do You Need?

Each person’s social circle has different levels. You have the inner group of those that are closest to you. This group will also be the smallest in number. As you move out from intimate friends into the realm of acquaintances, the number becomes much larger.

Studies have shown that between 6 to 12 intimate relationships is optimal, including family members, romantic relationships, and close friends. The reason for this is because if you have less than six, you do not have an adequate emotional support system. If you have more than 12, it becomes difficult, if not impossible to maintain a close relationship with them.

Fulfillment Vs. Happiness

Happiness is highly valued in our society. We are taught that we should be self-indulgent and focus on our own happiness. Does this actually make us happy? Does it ease loneliness? Research is now showing some interesting facts. People who seek to be happy often find themselves feeling lonely. It’s a bit like Christmas morning. Have you ever felt a sense of disappointment or sadness when you finished opening your presents? Not because you wouldn’t enjoy your gifts, but simply because the excitement of opening them was over. The mystery of what those magical packages contained had been solved. Trying to make yourself happy works in the same way. You may feel a momentary elation from buying a new car, but it’s soon replaced by a sense of emptiness. This isn’t to say that there’s anything wrong with doing something nice for yourself, but focusing too much on your own happiness is a one way ticket to lonely town.

Fulfillment, on the other hand, leads to lasting happiness. What is fulfillment? Is it a personal quest for your own Holy Grail? Is it finding your life’s purpose? Figuring out what makes you happy? These can play a part in fulfillment, but finding personal fulfillment isn’t about you. It’s about making a difference in other people’s lives. Now I know in today’s society that the thought of putting someone else’s needs first isn’t a popular notion, but it should be. When you make a difference in someone’s life, you get a sense of fulfillment that leads to a true happiness that you will never find in pleasuring yourself.

Take finding your life’s purpose, for instance. Sure it’s about finding something you enjoy doing, but it’s also about finding a way to make other’s lives better. Perhaps you want to create a new product to meet an unmet need or make people’s lives better. Maybe you want to become a doctor and help other people be healthy. Maybe your biggest life purpose is settling down and raising a child with someone you love. No matter what it is, it’s never just about you.

Fulfillment is also about living in the moment. Enjoying where you are right now. It’s about focusing on what’s important to you, instead of what society tells you is important. It’s also about building meaningful relationships. Meaningful relationships should have a give and take. This means you make an effort to meet each other’s needs without expecting anything in return. The most powerful thing that you can do to become happier, more fulfilled, and dispel loneliness is simply to do something nice for someone else.

Friends Before Relationships

You may have heard the phrase, “Bros before hos”. Well, it turns out there’s some truth in that. If you are lonely, you may think that you need a girlfriend to solve your problems. This may be what you want, but it’s not what you need. When you are lonely, you come off as being desperate. Women will use you and take advantage of you, because you will allow them too. Or you will end up with a girl that has her own issues of loneliness and self-esteem, which comes with its own problems. Eventually, one or both of you will figure out that this one person isn’t enough to fill your need for companionship. What most people don’t understand is that they aren’t supposed to be.

This isn’t advocating for non-monogamous relationships. It’s simply a fact that one person will never be able to meet all of your emotional needs. There are things that your partner won’t understand, that your friends would. And when you have a fight, (all couples fight at some point), you are going to need a friend to vent to. You also need a friend that will tell you if you are being a jerk, or if your anger is justified.

There’s another benefit to having friends. Your friends actually increase your perceived value to a potential mate. For one, being around attractive people actually makes you seem more attractive, according to scientific studies. Studies have also shown that having more Facebook friends makes you more attractive to college students, and it’s assumed that this effect carries over into real life for adults. Having friends is a form of social proof. It shows that you are sane enough and cool enough for people to like you, and that makes it more likely that a girl will take a chance on you.

The takeaway here is before you try to find a romantic relationship to cure your loneliness, get yourself some friends.

Overcoming Social Anxiety

If you don’t have many friends, the idea of making new ones can be terrifying. It’s like you hang your every hope of a social life on one person, and you are terrified of screwing it up. For those with overwhelming social anxiety, a therapist may be the first step. However, it’s normal to experience anxiety when you are trying to make new friends. It’s normal to feel awkward. To worry about saying the wrong thing. To fear the dreaded awkward silence.

There are a few things you can do to ease your social anxiety. First, realize that this person isn’t going to make or break your entire social life. You don’t ask a girl out on a date hanging all hope of a relationship or marriage on things going well, do you? “There’s plenty of fish in the sea” applies to friends as well as lovers.be someone that you would enjoy talking too. Have some topics of conversation ready that are generally well received. Next, figure out what makes you more comfortable when you are meeting someone you don’t know well. Are you more comfortable as part of a group? In a public place? In your own home?

It can also be helpful to make plans to do something. People bond by doing things together, especially men. It also takes some of the pressure off so you can enjoy yourself without constantly worrying about the conversation. This allows the conversation to flow more naturally as well.

Lastly, you are going to have to bite the bullet and socialize. Accept invitations from acquaintances. Ask them for their contact information, and then ask them if they would like to hang out. When you ask, be specific. “Do you want to hang out sometime”? sounds great, but sometime will likely never get there. “Do you want to go to a concert with me on Friday night” is the type of question that will actually get you some social time.

Finding Friends

There are several ways to make new friends online and offline.

Turning Acquaintances Into Friends

Before you go on a journey to find totally new people to make friends with, you should consider bonding with those people that aren’t quite friends. The people that are friends of friends, coworkers, anyone that you are interested in getting to know better, but haven’t gotten around to. To turn acquaintances into friends, you are going to have to open up a bit and take a chance. You are going to need to start a conversation. You can mention things that you both have in common or share a slightly embarrassing secret. If you develop a report with each other, suggest you hang out. This is what distinguishes friends from acquaintances. Friends spend time with each other on purpose. If things go well, plan to get together once a week or two. This will allow the friendship to continue to grow.

Facebook

Facebook is another great place to turn acquaintances into friends. We all have lots of acquaintances on Facebook. The great thing about Facebook is that you generally have some sort of tenuous real life connection, and looking at their wall will give you an idea about who they are. Those inane questions about who’s married, who has kids, where you work, can simply be skipped with a little Facebook research. You can also make note of things that you have in common.

Once you feel like you know a bit more about them, you can send them a message. Talk about how you know each other, what you have in common, etc. The important thing is that you have to move the friendship off of Facebook and into the real world. Facebook friends are nothing more than fleeting virtual acquaintances. However, if you start hanging out in real life, then you’ve got a friend.

Hobbies 

Hobbies are a great way to find friends with common interests. Some hobbies, like recreational sports teams, make it easy to find people that enjoy the same thing that you do. Another option is to take a class to learn a new hobby and make new friends. Local papers always contain an events page, and this is an often underutilized way to meet people with similar interests. If you need some help finding a new hobby, you can find a large list of manly hobbies here.

You can also use websites and apps to find friends who have the same hobbies and interests that you do.

Online Hobby Partners

These websites and apps will help you find people with similar interests or hobbies.

Meetup

Meetup is the place to find hobby groups in your local area around nearly any interest you can think of. You can create an account with your Facebook or Google account, or sign up with email. Once you’ve signed up, it’s time to choose your interests. You can find interests ranging from spiritual beliefs, pets, music, books, and of course, hobbies. Once you’ve selected the main categories that interest you, you’ll select the subcategories that you are interested in for each one. For example, in Pets, you’ll find dogs, cats, reptiles, etc. You can also add any specific interest that you don’t see, so if turtles are your thing, type it in!

Once you’ve selected your interests, you will see the meetups in your local area. You can view the meetups near you based on your interests, and you can also view all of the meetups in your area. You can also RSVP to any event that you would like to attend, and use the calendar function to keep track of all your meetups.

Meetup is a great way to make new real life friends based on a common interest or hobby, and there are sure to be meetups in your town that you would be interested in. Meetup is available as a website and an app for Apple and Android devices.

Patook

If you are looking for an app that gives you the ultimate control in who you match with, try Patook. Patook has a response rate of over 80%, which suggests that it does a great job of matching people that actually connect with each other. Patook uses an Ok Cupid style matching system that gives people a compatibility score based on their likes, dislikes, interests, and hobbies. However, Patook goes a step further. They also allow you to set up your own points system, and award a specific number of points for things. For example, if you are looking for someone who loves the New England Patriots, you could award 20 points for being male, 50 points for being a football fan, and 30 points for being a New England Patriots fan. You can allot the points however you like, and in as few or as many areas as you desire. The higher someones points score, the more they meet what you are looking for.

Patook also allows you to import your profile from Reddit or Ok Cupid. This can help save time. Your profile can be very detailed if you so desire. When your profile is completed, you have a few options for finding those new friends. First, the Matches tab will show you the users near you that Patook believes you will get along with. You can also view Points matches, which shows you the matches who scored the highest on your points system.

Patook has a Facebook style social feed as well, offering you another way to connect with potential friends. The aim of Patook is to help you find real life friends that you share several things in common with, making it a great choice for making new friends. It’s avaialble as a desktop site, and as an app for Android and Apple devices.

Causes

Finding a cause that matters to you can give you a sense of fulfillment and help you make some great new friends with a common passion. However, the benefits of supporting a cause or volunteering run much deeper than that. Studies have shown that people who volunteer have a 22% lower mortality rate than those who don’t. Other studies have found that people who volunteer or give to charities are happier, less likely to be depressed, and have a greater sense of well-being than those who don’t.

Surveys have shown that over 90% of people that volunteer say it improves their mood and gives them a sense of fulfillment. 78% say that it lowers their stress levels, and 25% of volunteers say that it helps them manage a chronic illness.

Volunteer Match

Volunteer Match is a website that aims to match you up with volunteer opportunities. You can browse and search on the site without registering. If you do choose to register, you’ll receive things like email alerts and reminders about upcoming volunteer events. You can view all local volunteer opportunities as well as virtual opportunities. You can also narrow things down by choosing a category like Arts, Animals, or Advocacy, or searching based on a keyword.

Causes

Causes is a great way to find causes that you care about and help support them. You can sign up with email or Facebook. You’ll then be directed to choose stickers based on the causes you support. These are essentially online bumper stickers, and you can find them for nearly any cause you can think of. Support Your Local Farmers Market, Keep Kids Safe, and Reduce Gun Violence are a few stickers that you will find.

Based on the stickers that you choose, you’ll be shown many causes that you can choose to support on the next screen. Next, you’ll need to select some people from your online social network or contacts to support.

After you’ve completed this, you’ll go to your home screen. Your home screen will show you causes that you may be interested in supporting. You can click on a cause to sign the petition for it, and you can also invite your friends to support it. You’ll also see others who support the cause. Click on a person, and you’ll go to their profile which shows the causes they support. If you think that you could be friends, you are free to send them an email message.

Habitat For Humanity

There’s nothing more manly than building something with your own two hands. It gives you an immense sense of satisfaction and fulfillment. gives you the opportunity to volunteer your work and time to build a home for a family in need. This is a great way to make friends as well. Men bond by doing, and building a home requires communication and teamwork. So you are bound to be interacting with other people in an environment that is very conducive to making friends.

Become a Mentor

Mentoring is a type of volunteering that focuses on building a relationship with another person. You get to teach someone something that you have already mastered. Not only does this give you a sense of fulfillment, it’s also a great way to build a lifelong friendship. Mentoring comes in many forms. You can mentor by helping someone just starting out in life get their first job or decide what college to attend. You can teach someone a skill that they would like to learn. A mentor is a teacher, life coach, and friend all rolled into one. What could be better than that?

You could also find someone to mentor you. Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn to play the guitar or learn how to fly fish. Maybe you are considering opening your own business, but you have no clue where to begin. Chances are, someone has skills that you would find useful, and they are willing to teach you.

Mentoring.org

If you are interested in becoming a mentor to young people, this is a great resource. Simply use the search function to find the right mentoring opportunities for you. The site also has great resources on how to be a great mentor, how to decide what type of mentor you would like to be, etc.

Boys and Girls Club

Boys and Girls Clubs are found in most major cities. This is a great place to volunteer your time and mentor young people. You can also make friends with other adult volunteers.

Making Friends at Work

You spend the majority of your waking hours at work, so why not make some friendships while you are there? The problem is that people don’t stay in the same job for their entire working lives these days. So how do you keep the friendship alive after the job ends?

Friendships exist in containers, until you take them out of the container. Your workplace friends will always be just your workplace friends unless you make an effort to take them out of the workplace container. If they only exist in the workplace container, you have no foundation for interaction when one of you moves on to another job.

You can take these friends out of the workplace container by doing things together outside of work. Go out for drinks. Invite them over to watch the game. Exchange phone numbers and begin communicating with each other when you aren’t at work.

Linkedin

If you are any sort of professional, you are likely on Linkedin. However, most people use Linkedin as a place to post their resume and accumulate connections without building real friendships. You’ll likely be friends with people you work with on Linkedin. In the days when text has virtually replaced phone calls, many of us find it easier to communicate through text than through voice or face to face. You can always strike up a conversation with a coworker on LinkedIn, and hopefully, transfer it to the real world.

Making Friends in the Neighborhood

Making friends based on a common interest or a cause that is near and dear to your heart is great, but you also need to make friends with your neighbors. This is important for a few reasons. The close proximity makes it easy for you to see your neighbors on a regular basis. It doesn’t take much planning to ask your neighbor if they want to come over for coffee, but if your friend lives across town it becomes more difficult. The other reason it’s important is because you are going to be around these people every day, whether you choose to interact or not. Good neighbors can truly enhance the way you feel about your home and your neighborhood. Bad neighbors can even cause you to move. These people are also your first line of defense in a crisis because of their proximity. If your dog goes missing or your house catches fire, these are the people that will be there to help.

Ways to Make Neighborhood Friends

One of the easiest ways to make friends with your neighbors is to have a neighborhood cookout. Don’t be afraid to go around and ask your neighbors if they would like to attend, most people are happy to go anywhere there will be free food! You can also participate or even plan a neighborhood event. Many neighborhoods have things like picnic day or outdoor movie screenings.

You can also plan a cocktail party and invite your neighbors. You may not want to invite the entire neighborhood, but maybe a few people or couples that you already exchange pleasantries with when you walk by.

Nextdoor

Nextdoor is an app that helps you get to know your neighbors. Nextdoor is a bit like Facebook, but it’s exclusive to your geographical neighborhood. To get into Nextdoor, you’ll either need to provide your credit card information to verify your address, or have a neighbor verify that you live there.

Once you are in, you can view a map that shows you which neighbors are on the app. You can opt to have your name left off the map if you wish. You’ll see a Facebook style newsfeed that’s really more of a community message board. You’ll see what’s going on in your neighborhood, as well as any upcoming events. There’s also a tab where you can find recommendations for local services and a tab for buying/selling. You can also message neighbors individually and get to know each other better. It’s available as a desktop site, and an app for Apple and Android devices.

Double Duty Apps

Should you choose to search for friendship and a relationship at the same time, these apps pull double duty. Our lives are complicated enough, one less password to remember is always a good thing.

Tinder Social

Tinder Social functions like regular Tinder, but for a group of two to four people. Instead of swiping left or right on a person, you’ll swipe left or right on a group. You can select what you would like to do from a wide range of options, from getting a drink to going to a concert. Once you match, you can all chat and make plans. Tinder Social has a reputation as more of a group sex app than a friend finding app. The matches expire at 12 p.m. the morning after, I mean the next day, so you can draw your own conclusions about what people are after.

Still, if you are already swiping away on Tinder, Tinder Social gives you another opportunity to make friends.

Bumble Bff

Bumble is a hit with the millennial crowd, being the second most popular dating app for their category. Traditional Bumble is essentially like Tinder, only the girl has 24 hours to send the first message. If the girl doesn’t make a move, the match is gone forever.

Bumble BFF matches you to people of the same sex who are looking for friends, again by swiping on pictures. Bumble doesn’t put a lot of focus on matching you with people with similar interests. Instead, it focuses on your location when sending you potential matches. You can see a short bio, but it’s really all about the pictures. If you are young or already on Bumble, give Bumble Bff a try.

 Skout

Skout is another app that allows you to find friends as well as potential dates. It’s meant to be an online organic community that supports all types of relationships. You do need to keep things PG on the site, however, as teens as young as 13 are allowed to have an account.

You can sign up with your Facebook, Google +, or email account. Once you are signed up, you can add your basic information. The profiles on Skout aren’t very detailed. From there, you can interact via different tabs. The Buzz tab will show you a Facebook style news feed of your Skout friends and those near to your location. You can also like or comment on posts. The Meet tab will show you a grid view of people near you. From there you can view their profile, send them a message, or favorite them.

The Meet tab will show you a grid view of people near you, unless you change the settings. You can choose the location, sex, and ethnicity of the people that you are interested in seeing. From there you can view their profile, send them a message, or favorite them.

The Meet tab will show you a grid view of people near you. From there you can view their profile, send them a message, or favorite them.

The interested tab is like Tinder. You simply click or swipe based on your interest or lack thereof. Again, the default setting is to show people near to you.

You can also see who viewed your profile, your favorites, and who has favorited you. Participating on Skout or getting favorited will unlock certain features like being able to see who viewed your profile. You can also purchase points, but it isn’t necessary to use the app.

Skout pulls double duty simply because it’s as much for finding a romantic partner or fuck buddy as it is for finding friends. However, it is a good way to meet people near you, and there are lots of people on Skout.

If you would like to check out even more friend finding apps, you can find a more comprehensive list here. If you meet friends via an app, make an effort to bring the relationship into the real world. You should also work to cultivate your friendships. Just like any other type of relationship, good friendships take time and effort. However, a good friend is worth their weight in gold.

 

 

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