This pandemic year has left too many of us feeling isolated and lonely. As we head into 2021, here is some advice from Well on how to replace loneliness with opportunities for connection.

By Emily Sohn

After months of lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders, some experts worry about a rise in the number of people feeling alone, especially young people and older adults. But resilience is also widespread, and studying loneliness can reveal a variety of ways to combat it.

“In light of the pandemic, there are ways that we can increase that sense of connection or reduce feelings of loneliness in ways that we may be able to do safely at a distance,” said Julianne Holt-Lunstad, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Brigham Young University. “One of the things that research has shown is that social support is incredibly helpful in times of stress.”

By Julia Hotz

A retired teacher, a Midwestern minister and a mother of two teenagers all dial into a Zoom room. For the next 90 minutes, they do something their typical adult lives don’t usually afford them a chance to do: listen to others’ perspectives, and have others listen to them. And after three rounds of answering not-so-standard questions, like “What sense of purpose guides you in your life?”, the group leaves the room, feeling deeply connected.

Or so goes the logic of “Living Room Conversations” — an online platform through which volunteer hosts help small groups of people discuss timely topics such as voting, gun rights and their vision for America. Founded in 2010 by two women on differing sides of the political spectrum, with the input of dialogue experts, Living Room Conversations have sought to show how people could have civil conversations across lines of difference. At one point, these discussions, which have always been free to join, happened in actual living rooms. But when the coronavirus mandated a strict lockdown, the conversations went online-only, and became a means for alleviating loneliness, too.

By Jane E. Brody

Two years ago, when Dr. Vivek H. Murthy, the former surgeon general of the United States, started researching his book, “Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World,” he never anticipated how relevant the topic would be now that it is about to be published.

The coronavirus pandemic and resulting advice — stay home if at all possible, avoid convening with others and refrain from close contacts even on the street — has intensified the harm inflicted by factors that already isolate people and rendered many of the antidotes to isolation moot.

By Jane E. Brody

It’s challenging to maintain joie de vivre when there are limited opportunities to socialize with people who can lift one’s spirits or to attend cultural or sports events that break up the monotony of pandemic days and nights.

But while the pandemic, with its myriad economic, vocational, educational and social disruptions, is challenge enough for people who are not normally prone to the blues, the days of truncated daylight this November through March could be far gloomier than usual for millions of Americans who suffer annually from seasonal depression.

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