To End Loneliness You Must Connect With Others

Loneliness that appears as a consequence of isolation can be extremely painful. But, what can you do about it?
To End Loneliness You Must Connect With Others
Gorka Jiménez Pajares

Written and verified by the psychologist Gorka Jiménez Pajares.

Last update: 03 February, 2023

Loneliness and social isolation aren’t the same. Loneliness can have devastating effects on our health. On the other hand, social isolation, when desired, can be a beacon of calm and peace in the midst of chaos. However, loneliness occurs when we want to relate to others but fail. In fact, loneliness can devastate everything: it’s the all-consuming fire that destroys any green leaves of hope.

Those who suffer the most from the consequences of loneliness are the elderly. That said, it can be difficult to differentiate whether they’re experiencing loneliness or social isolation.

Loneliness is an emotion. As such, it’s experienced when you’re faced with specific situations. It refers to the way in which you perceive the quality of your relationships and it’s something you never desire. Although it also occurs in other populations, it’s the elderly who are at the greatest risk of experiencing loneliness. This population also experiences social isolation with greater intensity.

worried senior man
In old age, powerful changes take place within social relationships. This sometimes leads to social isolation.

Social isolation and loneliness

Loneliness is a powerful eroding agent on health. In fact, it plays as relevant a role in suicidal behavior as depression. There are several differences between loneliness and social isolation.

Social isolation

Social isolation is an objective measure of the number of contacts you have. You may choose to have a small or large number of contacts, and can always reduce or increase them as you so wish.  Therefore, social isolation isn’t necessarily either good or bad. As an example, it can be good when you actively seek to be alone so you can disconnect from the world around you and connect with yourself.

“If it’s desired solitude, it’s not a problem.”

-Isabel Adelantado-


Loneliness often can’t be seen with the eyes. Moreover, you might feel lonely even when you’re surrounded by other people. Indeed, loneliness can burn into your soul, even when you’re with others. It’s devastating because, when you’re lonely, you don’t have particularly close relationships with others and tend to view them as empty.

Intimacy between two people in a relationship (like friendship), usually refers to skin-to-skin contact, such as a hug. It also refers to the kind of intimacy that involves mind-to-mind contact, like sharing fears and desires).

Disengagement theory

As we mentioned earlier, while social isolation can cause loneliness, it can also be positive when you seek to isolate yourself from others. In this case, it gives you feelings of peace, not loneliness.

According to disengagement theory, older people stop performing certain activities as a consequence of aging. Among these is their relationship with society. This occurs with some frequency in retirement. It happens because, literally overnight, people stop working and socializing with their colleagues.

The National Institute on Aging has published a guide that contains several recommendations for dealing with the loneliness that occurs as a result of social isolation in the last stages of life.

How to deal with loneliness

There are various strategies that can be adopted when loneliness threatens to bring you down. To start with, you need to put yourself first. Here are two basic self-care strategies:

  • Exercise. Life is movement. Therefore, continuing to move in your daily life can help you to flow. In addition, exercise is a powerful protective factor for health, both physical and psychological.
  • Take care of your sleep. Sleep, both a lack of and too much, usually has negative effects.

There are also other strategies that can help you reduce loneliness. The objective is to regenerate your universe of relationships which is probably suffering.

Senior man exercising
Exercising has numerous benefits, both physical and psychological, and sometimes also social.

If you feel lonely, connect with significant others

While you may experience some reluctance when building new relationships, it’s never too late. As a matter of fact, the relationships that are built in old age can be richer, deeper, and more intimate than those built earlier in life.

Your connection with others is characterized by the meaning you give to your relationships. These connections and meanings can become truly intimate. Moreover, carrying out activities that have a purpose can give meaning to your life. Even more so, if you do them with other people.

For example, you can join a club or association where there are activities like reading books, watching movies, critical analysis of news, debates, public speaking, gardening, etc.

Volunteering is also a good option. In fact, helping other people helps you. It’s one of the beneficial effects of prosocial behavior on mental health.

“People who lead a lonely existence always have something on their minds that they are eager to talk about.” 

-Anton Chekhov-

If you’re experiencing loneliness as a result of social isolation, it’s important that you start to reconnect with the world and rebuild the social network that you’ve lost. You can begin by making use of technology that’s become a constant in the lives of many of us. For instance, videoconferencing will shorten your path to connecting with others. In fact, it’ll open windows for you to connect with people from all over the world.

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  • Adelantado Mascarós, I. (2022). La soledad en las personas mayores: impacto en su calidad de vida.
  • Consejo General de la Psicología de España (2022) . El efecto saludable del contacto social en personas mayores frente a la soledad.

The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.