The super fun (and fluffy) secret to being less lonely in 3 months

You have hundreds (or maybe thousands) of friends on Facebook. You get emails from your friends and family every day. You’re active in online forums and support groups. But somehow, you’re still lonely. What gives?

Well, first off, you’re not alone (even if it feels like you are). We’re all more digitally connected than ever. But that seems to be making us more lonely rather than less. Why?

Because it’s changed the way we socialize. Our social interactions have become more about quantity than quality. Sure, we connect with lots of people on social media and other online spaces every day. But our interactions are more superficial and less beneficial. Just think about it…

Is liking a Facebook picture of your friend’s baby as fulfilling as visiting your friend and meeting that baby in person? Or is writing a birthday message on your sister’s Facebook page as fun as taking her out to a birthday lunch? Probably not.

The obvious solution here is to get back to socializing in-real-life again. But sometimes that’s easier said than done. Maybe you’re an introvert who struggles to connect face-to-face. Maybe you’re too exhausted after work to do anything more than log onto Facebook and like a few pictures. Or maybe you have a hard time scheduling in-person get-togethers because of everyone’s busy schedules

No matter what’s holding you back from tackling your loneliness head-on, don’t worry. I know a simple way to feel far less lonely within the next three months…

1 obvious reason (and 1 less obvious reason) dogs take a bite out of loneliness

A recent University of Sydney study revealed a way to tackle your loneliness in the next three months — adopt a dog.

I know, I know. Adopting a dog is a big commitment that shouldn’t be undertaken lightly. But if you really are lonely and you like dogs, you should consider it. Here’s why…

In their study, University of Sydney researchers found that new dog owners felt far less lonely within three months of getting a dog than people who didn’t have dogs. People who adopted dogs also felt less upset and scared than people without dogs. And these benefits lasted for the whole eight-month study.

Related: 7 ways dog owners are healthier and live longer

Now, it’s easy to assume the reason dog owners feel less lonely is that dogs are good companions. And that’s probably part of it. But there’s likely another reason dogs take a bite out of loneliness…

Dogs need walks. So if you have a dog, you’re more likely to get out into your neighborhood. Once you’re out in the world, you’re more likely to interact with other people.

In fact, dogs (and other animals) are a great social lubricant. They make it easier to break the ice and socialize with other people. Just think about it…

Who are you more likely to talk to?

A man walking by himself? Or a man walking an adorable Boston terrier in a holiday sweater?

I’m guessing the man with the dog will end up in way more impromptu conversations.

So, even though a new dog won’t necessarily get you to your friend’s house to see her new baby. (Or if your friend loves dogs, maybe it will. She can meet your dog and you can meet her baby.) It will inspire you to get out in the real world and socialize more. Who knows? If you head out to trails, dog parks and other places dog lovers congregate frequently enough, you could make a long list of friends you never would’ve known without your canine companion.

Consider this before adopting a dog…

If you’re thinking a dog will be too much work, keep in mind: you don’t have to adopt a puppy or even a young dog.

Middle-aged and senior dogs are usually more mellow and easily fit into a low-key lifestyle. In fact, the time I adopted a five-year-old black lab/chow mix was the easiest adoption experience I’ve ever had. You can also look for low-maintenance dog breeds that pretty much only require food, a walk, and a warm bed, like pugs, French bulldogs, basset hounds, and Havanese.

In other words? There are all sorts of dogs out there. If you do your research, you can easily find one that fits your lifestyle. Start your search on Petfinder.com. It provides information on different breeds and dog care. Plus, it has a searchable database that lets you look through all the adoptable dogs in your area. If you start your search today, you’ll be well on your way to a less lonely life.

Sources:

  1. Why the Internet Has Made Us Lonelier Than EverPsychology Today
  2. Dog ownership could reduce loneliness — MedicalXpress
  3. Companion dog acquisition and mental well-being: a community-based three-arm controlled studyBMC Public Health
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine, TheFix.com, Hybridcars.com and Seedstock.com.