Loneliness isn’t just simply being alone – it is a feeling you have whether you’re literally alone or not. It is characterized by a feeling of disconnectedness. While the winter holidays are joyous for some, for those already experiencing a mental or emotional health issue, loneliness can be exacerbated.
Three years of a pandemic doesn’t help either.
“We had lockdown loneliness for a couple of years, where everybody was lonely. A lot of those people are still reluctant to get out – they’re still experiencing those symptoms,” Dr. Jami Woods, a psychiatrist and assistant professor in psychiatry at UC Riverside School of Medicine, told me last week.
“There’s certainly a price to pay for chronic loneliness,” Woods said. This includes a greater risk for heart disease, hypertension, obesity, and major depressive episodes, she said.
Woods, a transgender woman, moved to Palm Springs during the pandemic and knows what it is like to feel alone. To help herself, she adopted a cat, went out dancing, and started meeting new people. One of her social groups now includes the Palm Springs Sunshine Sisters.
“We have a share of lonely people in the Sunshine Sisters,” Woods said. “Many of us are living by ourselves.” Some, like her, moved to the area not really knowing anybody, others are newly divorced or widowed, or just don’t find it easy to socialize with new people.
Older adults in the U.S. are more likely to live alone than those in many other countries, according to a study by the Pew Research Center. Palm Springs, in particular, has a large population of older LGBTQIA+ people who may be estranged from their biological families or don’t have children to check-in on them.
Finding and building community is an important step towards alleviating loneliness. Endorphin boosting activities – exercising, meditation, massage, creating art, laughing with friends, volunteering – can help too. Whether you’re just feeling lonely right now or if you’re dealing with long term loneliness, therapy, counseling or talking with a trusted friend is also a positive step.
The goal is to decrease that feeling of disconnectedness and increase feelings of connection, belonging, and self-worth.
Here are some things to try right here in Palm Springs:
If you’re able to exercise even just a little, it can really help get the ball rolling, so to speak.
Pickleball is all the rage lately. Drop-in to a class with Mary outside on the courts at the Demuth Community Center, 3601 E Mesquite Ave., every Thursday morning. Sign up through the city’s registration portal. Or try indoor pickleball on Mondays at the James O. Jessie Desert Highland Unity Center, 480 W Tramview Rd. Call (760) 323-8271 for reservations and more information.
If that’s too much, try taking a walk outside in one of the city’s 11 parks. Being in nature, soaking in some sunshine and being around others can be major mood boosters. Start with watching a video of dogs playing on YouTube then graduate to watching them play in real life at the Dog Park behind City Hall (3200 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way).
Volunteer to walk dogs or play with kittens at the Palm Springs Animal Shelter. Giving back to the community – or, if you don’t like people, animals in need! – can help boost your mood and build self-esteem. Animal companions can help too, so you may even consider fostering or adopting a pet to keep you company. Frisky Business, the newly-opened cat cafe at 4781 E Palm Canyon Drive (Suite F), is the “purrfect” place to see if a feline is a fit for you.
For more human connections, support, resources, activities and games for adults can be found at the Mizell Center, It offers bingo, Wii bowling, exercise classes, line dancing, tai chi, language classes, and more. The Bereavement Support Group starts January 11.
The Center – The LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert – offers programs for youth and adults. Its offerings include bridge, knitting, pinochle, yoga, support and therapy groups, AA and Narcotics Anonymous groups, discussion groups and social mixers, music classes, Spanish and American Sign Language classes, drop in therapy and sliding scale therapy.
DAP Health offers therapy, support groups, art classes, fitness classes, 12-step meetings, acupuncture and reiki. A stress management group meets online at 10 a.m. on Wednesdays.
If you want to commune with others experiencing feelings of loneliness, loss, or grief, the second annual Interfaith Blue Christmas Service will be Wednesday, Dec. 21, at the Church of St. Paul in the Desert, 125 W. El Alameda. The event is billed as “a chance for folks experiencing loss during the holiday season to reflect, grieve and hold space at a time of year when they may feel they are supposed to be happy and positive.”