One of my favorite SNL sketches in recent memory is their commercial for “Man Park,” a fictional oasis where women can take their male partners to meet and socialize with other men, giving them much-needed outlets for connection so they don’t rely solely on the women in their lives to meet their social needs. It’s not just hilarious, it’s also a good idea. Studies on loneliness have shown a consistent increase in the percentage of Americans who say they have few or no close friendships, and who feel lonely most or all of the time. And it isn’t just men who are getting lonelier: The US Surgeon General’s office issued an official advisory this year – along with a 72-page report – calling attention to the growing epidemic of loneliness in America, across all demographics.

There’s a good reason to sound the alarm, too: loneliness is terrible for our physical and mental health, and it can even be deadly. According to the US Surgeon General, loneliness increases our chances of premature death by 29%, of heart disease by 29%, and of stroke by 32%. Among the elderly, loneliness may increase the risk of developing dementia by as much as 50%. Social isolation (and perceived isolation) also increases our risk for depression, anxiety, suicide, inflammation-related conditions (such as autoimmune diseases), type 2 diabetes…the list goes on and on.

OK, great, so we know loneliness is a problem. But what can we do about it, since (sadly) there is not an actual Man Park – or Woman Park, or Gender Expansive Park – where we can meet people and make new friends? Although I’m afraid I don’t have a social recipe guaranteed to cure loneliness, here are a few suggestions to consider when it comes to making new social connections:

Talk with your therapist.

Isolation and loneliness can be caused by a number of factors. Depression, for example, can cause us to self-isolate, which then leads to the loss of friendships, which then exacerbates depression, which makes us even more isolated, and so on and so forth. Divorce often leads to a significant increase in loneliness, since people not only lose their primary source for connection, they often lose friends and family as well. Social anxiety, which for many people worsened significantly during the pandemic, is another major cause of isolation and loneliness. By talking with your therapist about your loneliness, you can begin to understand it better, and then figure out what steps you can take to address the root cause(s). Your therapist can also help you increase self-confidence, build social and communication skills, and brainstorm ideas for meeting new people.
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Check the tech.

The use of technology may not be solely responsible for the loneliness epidemic, but there is ample evidence to suggest it is playing a key role in keeping us isolated, particularly for teens and young adults. I can tell you anecdotally that many of my middle-aged clients also confess to hanging out with their phones instead of with their friends. Admittedly, it is easier to scroll through social media while lounging on the couch wearing your cozies, than it is to reach out to people, organize a get-together, then motivate yourself to get dressed for the occasion and actually make it out the door. But we are social beings, and even those of us who identify as introverts need some social connection in order to stay mentally and physically healthy. So if you find yourself using your phone to avoid leaving home more than you use it to contact actual people, it might be time to ask yourself why that is, and what you can do to reverse course. The internet may be a good way to initiate connections, but it is not an effective way to maintain or strengthen them.

Attend a church, mosque or synagogue.

Admittedly, this one is a little loaded. Church is not for everyone, religion is not for everyone, but the fact is that study after study has found that people who attend a religious service regularly report greater satisfaction with their lives than those who do not, and the social benefits of doing so appear to be the primary reason for this correlation. While not all congregations are particularly welcoming of newcomers, some definitely are. Moreover, some religious institutions focus more on social justice and community service than they do on adhering to a specific set of religious beliefs; the Unitarians come to mind, as an example. But if you find yourself without much of a social support network these days, seeking out a friendly congregation with values that match your own could be a great way to fill your social cup.


Talk about a win-win! Volunteering your time is a great way to meet new people who share similar interests and values, while also getting out of the house and contributing to your community in a meaningful way. There’s even evidence to suggest volunteering, in and of itself, can improve your mental health. What’s important is to find an organization focused on something you care about, and then to make sure you are scheduling something on a regular basis, since establishing a routine will not only help you stick with it, but it will also increase the likelihood of connecting with your fellow volunteers.

Try Meetup.

I’m a little surprised by how often I encourage my clients to try, and perhaps even more surprised by the success they have had with it. I had forgotten all about this website/app, and then earlier this year I heard a story on Minnesota Public Radio about a wildly successful Meetup group that was started 10 years ago by two newcomers to the Twin Cities. Recognizing how hard it is to meet people here, they launched Break the Bubble, a Meetup group that now has over 8,000 (!!!) members, with several hundred showing up at most events. Of course, there are hundreds of other Meetups in the metro area as well, and while some are purely social, others focus on specific interests and topics.

There’s always pickleball.

The fastest-growing sport in America, pickleball has attracted people of all ages and fitness levels, with new indoor and outdoor courts and clubs popping up almost monthly. There are affordable lessons and social pickleball “pop-ups” offered at many local community centers, private clubs you can join, and leagues and tournaments offered throughout the year. For those interested primarily in the social aspects of the game, try searching for beginner or intermediate classes and “social leagues,” to avoid ending up on a court with people who are only interested in beating you, not getting to know you. Not into pickleball? There are also adult leagues for just about any sport you can imagine, from kickball to hockey.

As I said earlier, there is no magical cure for loneliness (not one that I have found, anyway), and since one person’s reason for isolation will be different from another’s, the same is true for finding the right solutions. What is important, however, is to figure out which factors have come together to create your particular situation, and then begin taking steps to get back on the road to human connection. Your body, mind and spirit will thank you for it.

LynLake Centers for WellBeing provides therapy and counseling services. Begin your journey to healing and wellness by scheduling an appointment with us today.

Written by: >Terri Bly, PsyD, LP, Licensed Clinical Psychologist