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Loneliness is on the rise with 20%-50% of us experiencing it at some point in our lifetime. Not only is it an unpleasant emotion – if ignored it can be as harmful to your health as smoking. Studies show that people who are lonely have a higher risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and even dementia. If you’re feeling lonely, there are things you can do to feel more connected. Try some of the following:

1. Strengthen your current relationships by reaching out in person or over the phone once a week (even at times when you don’t feel like it). This includes neighbors – say hi the next time you’re walking in your neighborhood!

2. Look for new relationships by finding people you have things in common with. Join a club, a church group, or a walking group. Meetup.com offers a plethora of different themed meetups, from sports to meditation to movie-watching. You might meet a friend, but studies show that even interacting with strangers from time to time can give us a boost.

3. Sign off social media and have in-person interactions instead – like hosting a family member or a friend for coffee. Social media has its benefits, but the quality and benefits of interacting in person are much better.

4. Volunteering is a great way to meet people and to feel like you have a purpose. Doing for others makes us feel good, and it can also make us feel more connected.

5. Loneliness can lead to depression, but taking care of your body can make a big difference. Eat plenty of fruit, veggies, protein, and healthy fats, and move your body daily. This will help you feel better overall, and maybe you’ll have the energy to invite a friend for a walk.