10 Ways to Combat Loneliness in Ann Arbor

A person in the fetal position.

Loneliness is a currently widespread epidemic in our society that can have harmful health effects. According to a letter from the Surgeon General, loneliness could increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, dementia, stroke, depression, anxiety and premature death.

Among the groups who are reported to be the loneliest are young adults ages 15 to 24 and senior citizens..

We interviewed local health professionals, neighbors and community leaders to explore ways to alleviate loneliness. An increase in social media use, the drop in church/worship attendance and the COVID-19 pandemic are just some trends that have reportedly exacerbated loneliness. The winter blues season can also heighten these feelings. After numerous interviews, we suggest these ways to increase real-life social interaction to decrease loneliness.

1.) Care for a Pet

Taking care of another living animal not only helps that living creature, it helps the person giving the care as well. The Humane Society of Huron Valley offers many creatures in need of a good home.

If you are not sure if you want the full-time responsibility of taking care of a pet, consider visiting Tiny Lions Lounge and Adoption Center, 5245 Jackson Road, Ann Arbor, where you can frolic with felines or join in special activities like cat yoga.

2.) Join a Health Club/Exercise

Regular exercise can boost the mind and body. Joining a health club not only offers exercise but socializing as well. Examples of a local health club are Liberty Athletic Club, 2975 West Liberty, and Ann Arbor YMCA at 400 West Washington Street — but there are many more in the area. These organizations offer weights, pools, tracks and classes. If you are interested in playing a sport, Wolverine Pickleball at 235 Metty Drive opened recently and offers sessions to play in groups.

3.) Have Informal Conversations

Consider having a light conversation with a clerk at a store or an attendant at the counter; noncontroversial and light subjects such as the weather or music or food are best. If you are going for a walk and come across a person with a friendly dog, why not chat about the dog for a while such as its name, outfit and breed.

4.) Limit Social Media/Technology

Experts say that overuse of social media and technology can make people feel disconnected. Comparing one’s life to others on social media or being addicted to one’s cell phone can make people feel out of sync, rather than enjoying the world around them. Not only should screen time be limited for children, but screen time should be limited for everyone, especially late at night. Limiting social media and technology can work wonders. Cherishing and focusing on the sound of silence can be a meditative blessing.

5.) Take a class and/or create

We are fortunate to have so many learning institutions in the area such as the University of Michigan, Eastern Michigan University, Washtenaw Community College and Concordia University. Many of these colleges have continuing education departments for those who have already completed their degree(s).

6.) Take up a creative hobby

Consider creative activities such as quilting, painting, photography, drawing, writing, dancing or other forms of expression. The result is not as important as the process.

The Ann Arbor Art Center offers various art classes for the community to learn new skills and create artwork to be proud of.

7.) Go Dancing and/or See/Hear Live Music

When you are out on the dance floor with other people, it is hard to feel lonely. Many people go by themselves (no partner needed) and then dance near others who are dancing.

Some popular places to dance in town are LIVE (102 South First Street, corner of First and Huron), The Necto Nightclub (516 East Liberty Street) and Zal Gaz Grotto (2070 West Stadium Blvd), but there are many others. Don’t feel like moving your body? Consider going to see/hear live music and strike up conversations with other music lovers who are likely to be there just to enjoy the musical ambiance.

8.) Volunteer

There are many important and useful nonprofits and employers that need volunteers in the area. Whether your specialty is helping students, the homeless, domestic violence survivors or any other people in need, volunteering is a great way to meet people and socialize while doing worthwhile work.

9.) Practice Mindfulness and Self Care

A person meditating in the park.

Being in the moment, rather than overanalyzing the past or future, is generally healthier. This can be done through meditation, prayer, yoga, reading and other present-focused activities. Taking a bath, doing your nails, getting your hair done, or indulging in a spa day or massage can sometimes do wonders. Slowing down and preparing an extra special meal with candlelight for just yourself is good self-care.

10.) Connect with Nature

Nature can help you reconnect and get to know yourself better. Being in nature and noticing little details around you can be a reflection of your own soul and spiritual journey. Being in nature can make you feel that you are part of something greater and exactly where you are supposed to be. Even by yourself, you are still part of everyone and everything.

As one Ann Arbor neighbor put it: “Being alone in nature is another way to feel the joy of beauty—and oneness with a greater whole.”—Jude Bijou.

+ posts

Donna Marie Iadipaolo is a writer, journalist, and State of Michigan certified teacher, since 1990. She has written for national publications like The Village Voice, Ear Magazine of New Music, Insurance & Technology, and TheStreet.
She is now writing locally for many publications, including Current Magazine, Ann Arbor Family, and the Ann Arbor Independent. Her undergraduate degree is from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she graduated with an honors bachelor’s degree and three teacher certificate majors: mathematics, social sciences, English. She also earned three graduate degrees in Master of Science, Master of Arts, and Education Specialist Degree.