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How Can Social Connection Reduce Loneliness?

Medically reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD

Everyone has felt lonely at some point. Loneliness is feeling separate or distant from others when you want to feel close or connected, or to feel part of something.

Lonely feelings can be any or all of these:

  • feeling you don’t fit in when you want to belong, or are left out when you want to be included
  • not having friends around
  • thinking no one understands what it’s like for you
  • feeling alone with your troubles or thinking there’s no one to talk to about them
  • feeling like everyone else is having fun that you’re not part of

Lonely feelings can be painful. But everyone feels lonely at times.

Loneliness happens when one of our most important needs is not met — at least in that moment, in that situation. We feel lonely when we don’t feel the social connection we need.

What Is Social Connection?

Social connection is the name for feelings of closeness, bonding, and belonging.

Social connection includes:

  • feeling close to (and important to) people in your life
  • feeling cared for, loved, included, and understood
  • feeling seen, accepted, and valued for who you are
  • knowing you belong — to a family, a friendship, a team, a couple, or a community
  • having people you can trust, feel safe with, count on, and feel good around
  • feeling part of something bigger than yourself — such as nature, or a cause that matters to you

Social connection is a basic need that everyone has. This need is present at birth, and it continues throughout our lives. And it’s more than just a good feeling. For infants, close bonds are a matter of survival. For older kids, teens, and adults, close bonds play a major role in our lives. Our happiness, mental well-being, and physical health depend on them.

How Can I Increase My Social Connection?

In our fast-paced digital world, it can be hard to get the social connection we need. This is a big concern — because too much loneliness can be harmful.

But the good news is that we can protect ourselves against too much loneliness. To do this, we can develop habits that increase our social connection. That’s the best way to reduce loneliness.

There are many ways to increase social connection that are simple and easy to do. And if you practice them often, they can help you feel happier and stay healthier.

Here are a few things to try:

  • Connect with someone you feel close to.
  • Be friendly to others — even people you don’t know well.
  • Try a kindness meditation.
  • Connect with something bigger than yourself, like nature or a cause.

Having lots of social connection doesn’t mean you’ll never feel lonely. But it reduces lonely feelings and helps you get over them more quickly when they happen.

Medically reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD
Date reviewed: October 2023