You’ve probably heard of “fear of missing out,” or FOMO, as the kids call it.
It’s been a buzzword for awhile, often used to communicate envy on social media (“All y’alls vacations are giving me serious FOMO!”).
Silliness aside, the whole notion of FOMO might just highlight the darker, underlying truth: loneliness is on the rise, and it’s especially prevalent among Millennials and Generation Z.
In a loneliness study by Cigna of 20,000 Americans across the nation, researchers found that an incredible 47 percent of Americans don’t have daily “meaningful in-person social interactions, such as having an extended conversation with a friend or spending quality time with family.”
What’s more, it appears that Millennials and Gen Z are significantly lonelier than Baby Boomers and the generation before them. What gives?
We’ll get there in a sec. But if you’re part of this crowd and this is ringing true for you, there’s good news ahead. We’ve put together five proven ways you can beat loneliness right now (even if you’re broke, or a die-hard introvert).
It’s a no-brainer that what we see from our friends on social media doesn’t reflect real life, and most of us know by now that excessive screen time isn’t exactly great for your mental health.
But there’s a major caveat. See, social media in itself isn’t the devil. After all, it’s, well, social! Shouldn’t it help combat loneliness?
Turns out, it can!
If you’re passively scrolling your newsfeed every second of every day, you’re more likely to feel worse off, says psychologist Julianne Holt-Lunstad in an NPR article.
But if you’re actually using social media to connect with people (say, Snapchatting your old high school BFF, making a date with a like-minded prospect, or bonding with new professionals on LinkedIn), social media can be a great way to get out of the loneliness cycle.
#2. Know your social preferences.
If you’re the type who’s comfortable sitting and shooting the breeze, you’ll have the most success making friends in casual settings — think like-minded lifestyle groups, political groups, or religious organizations.
On the other hand, if you’re more of a “doer,” you’ll feel way more comfortable meeting friends in an activity-focused group. Adult sports leagues, scifi conventions, and board game gatherings are examples.
And lest this seems like obvious advice (duh, I shouldn’t go to bars if I’m not into crowds!), consider for a second if you’ve ever felt discouraged after a social gathering and assumed it was your own fault.
Oftentimes, it’s nothing to do with you — and it’s everything to do with your surroundings.
#3. Start small.
Sometimes, loneliness is a state of mind. To pull yourself out of it, it may only take a few small changes in the way you behave in the world. Try making eye contact with people at the grocery store, or on your way to work. Ask “how are you?” when you’re compelled to stay silent. Nobody becomes a smooth-talking, toast-making champion overnight.
Focus on small, everyday positive habits instead of big goals. You’ll get more success out of it, and you’ll foster a lifetime of friendliness (which leads to more friends!).
#4. Get healthy.
I know, it’s easier said than done. You probably don’t need to be bombarded with the research on how a better diet can improve mood, alleviate depression, and (as you begin to feel better) help with your confidence — but this nugget of advice wouldn’t be so oft-quoted if it wasn’t true!
And you’ve long suspected that exercise is good for your social life, now you have the science to back you up. The Cigna study revealed that people who have “just-right” doses of exercise in their lives — compared to those who don’t exercise enough, or exercise too much — tend to be less lonely.
They broke it down even further:
- 79% of people who exercise regularly felt like they were part of a group of friends.
- Over 75% of people who exercise regularly felt like they have a lot in common with other people.
- Over 76% of people who exercise regularly feel like it’s easy to find companionship if they need it.
This could have something to do with the fact that exercise, especially in group or outdoor activities, forces you to get out in the world and interact with other people.
#5. And on that note, work out with a group.
Working out in a group has been shown to improve your mental well-being — serving to reduce stress and increase your emotional well-being. When compared to adults who work out alone (or don’t work out at all), those who engage in group exercise actually feel less stressed out after a workout, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.
Plus, it’s easier to stay motivated and meet your fitness goals when you have others cheering you on.
That’s one of the reasons we invented our social media app, Heart Rate Social. We help connect fitness-minded people in Austin — whether to meet up for exercise, friendship, or romance. Find your next best friend (or adventure partner!) by downloading Heart Rate Social now.