Antidote for loneliness: 7 real-life conversations a day

Person standing alone in a pharmacy aisle.
Need a loneliness antidote? Talk to 7 strangers or friends face-to-face today.

Someone on social media β€” who? where? I forget! β€” said their doctor told them to have seven face-to-face conversations every day. This hit me as brilliant advice, an easy-to-follow antidote to loneliness.

It’s a prescription. Your doctor doesn’t prescribe “some antibiotics when you feel like it” but a precise number of pills of a precise nature and size at precise times.

We surely know by now that loneliness is a dangerous emotional condition, potential forerunner of other undesirables such as physical illness, mental illness, and premature death. But to “stop being lonely” or “avoid social isolation” can seem impossible, entirely impractical because … we feel all alone.

How refreshing to have this simple prescription in plain language at hand. If I felt lonely I would stick it on my fridge door. Perhaps I’ll do that anyway, as I live alone and can sometimes get a little too absorbed in the work of the day. Perhaps I’ll count up my face-to-face chats for a week, and check whether I meet that goal. I’m pretty sure I do, as I often accost strangers with a word or two. (And getting vox populi quotes from strangers on the street for my play certainly bumps up the score.)

A SMART goal: 7 conversations every day

I still use many tricks and tools that I learned when I was in business. SMART goals, for instance. Personal goals work best when they are like the loneliness antidote: Have 7 face-to-face conversations per day.

  • SPECIFIC: face-to-face conversations; not on social media but face-to-face with a living, breathing person.
  • MEASURABLE: seven per day
  • ATTAINABLE: in my case, yes, because I am not housebound and I live in a city. I see strangers, check-out clerks, bus-drivers and pedestrians every day. Not to mention my regular dates with family, choir, gym classes and friends.
  • RELEVANT: Why does this matter? Because I don’t want to feel lonely. Because loneliness is a killer. Because I’m an introvert, capable of working happily alone all day every day. Because I want to form tiny habits to stand me in good stead for difficult times ahead.
  • TIME-BOUND: Do it every day for the rest of my life.

A plain English prescription: clear, understandable, usable

Language matters. When you choose to make a change in your life, it’s best to describe the change in concrete everyday words in short sentences. Otherwise you can feel overwhelmed, confused, or annoyed. In which case you’re in no state to start up a conversation, let alone 7.

Oops! I’m starting to sound bossy. Over to you now.

Why loneliness is a killer. Psychology Today. 24 May 2023.

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35 thoughts on “Antidote for loneliness: 7 real-life conversations a day

  1. Gallivanta says:

    I like this prescription! I will give it a go.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Let me know how it goes.

      1. Gallivanta says:

        So far so good. Two conversations yesterday and two today. A good start.

      2. Rachel McAlpine says:

        Top result!

  2. Your antidote is admirable. I would set my goal much lower, because I live in the country and no longer drive. Now, if I can count conversations with my grandson who lives with me, that would help. I wave to a number of people driving by me as I walk, but most don’t stop to talk. Maybe I could count five waves as a conversation. Another tactic would be having a weekly goal. I go shopping once a week. Could I possibly speak to 49 people in the grocery store for an average of seven a day???

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      That’s a goal! Yes,it’s easier in the city. Certainly your grandson counts.

  3. auntyuta says:

    Yes, this is very good advice. I try to speak to as many people as possible. I agree that it should be real-life conversations on a daily basis, I think, most days I can meet up to this.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      That’s a good feeling,right?

  4. Can I add talking to birds, trees, flowers, and insects too? Or is that a sure sign that “They’re coming to take me away, ha ha!”

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      You can add them to the 7 humans, sure.

      1. I quite often get more sense out of the non humans!

  5. I like having a tangible number attached to this…shoot for 7 & see where it gets me. Adjust as needed. I also like how others who have commented adjusted for their personal circumstances.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Same here. For after all, prescriptions are personal.

  6. alison41 says:

    excellent advice. will give it a whirl .

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      It’s fun to give it a whirl!

  7. Seven would be a stretch for me on most days.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I believe it’s good to stretch. Hope so, or my Pilates teachers have all been on the wrong track πŸ™‚

  8. auntyuta says:

    Yes Rachel, talking to a lot of people face to face, hopefully every day (!), helps tremendously in overcoming any kind of loneliness, and so is bound to give me a very good feeling! πŸ™‚

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I find that even a tiny exchange about the weather can give me a boost. As long as we look each other in the eye, as if to say, yes, you’re a real person πŸ™‚

  9. auntyuta says:

    Yes, it is very important to have contact with a real person, even if it is only a minor contact! πŸ™‚

  10. Anonymous says:

    Great advice, Rachel. Fortunately, I’m not lonely and have many activities to fill my day. However, on days like this, when I haven’t been out and have been sitting at the computer for several hours, I find it difficult to add any face-to-face conversations.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Yes, some days are like that, without real people coming and going in our life. Then having 7 conversations (even little ones) is not possible. Perhaps we should average them out for the week. Today, I’ve been talking and listening to my swim group, someone at the gym reception desk, a friend outside my flat, a friend who came for coffee, my architect friend and (oh joy!) her trusted builder. And dance rehearsal tonight is bound to generate multiple chats. So maybe I’ll bank some of these for Friday, a work-at-home-alone day.

  11. judith says:

    When I see small children who appear to be looking around, I give them a wave and a few words – but often there is no verbal response, but a smile and a wave will do. This often means that I can exchange some speech with the adult attached to the child. often a compliment directed at the chid.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      This is classic social interaction. The child is communicating in a non-verbal way, and hey, there’s a parent or carer right there too!

  12. This is a lovely idea! I often get too caught up with work, and overly absorbed in my own world. I’m looking forward to testing out your advice!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Great. I do hope you’ll report back! I must do a follow-up blog post to ask about conversations of the previous week. Thanks for the idea, Daymanti.

  13. cedar51 says:

    I’ve not spoken to anyone today – but then again I’ve not been out! Because just when I was going to go for a walk, (I might not see anyone) it starting pouring with rain.

    One of favourite things to say is when I get on a bus, and tagging on, I look at the driver and say “Hello” (it startles some) – and then if I’m happy with the drive, I say “thank you driver” on my way out…. There are a couple of local drivers, I see regularly and we often chat if I’m on the front seat.

    tomorrow I’ll be chatting with a few other people, possibly more than 7 counting in the bus drivers to/from….

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I totally count interaction with bus drivers. This means looking at the driver when I get in and make a quick comment (they’re busy but they care), and “Thank you, driver!” every time.

  14. Elizabeth says:

    I found that my numbers had slipped during Covid. I have now joined the senior center fitness room and look forward to upping my count!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Terrific! I’m going to blog about conversations in a week or so, and I’ll ask for an update β€” so do keep count!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thank you for linking to my site. That’s important to me. Good luck with the chat-count!

  15. Sadje says:

    Not seven every day, but at least 5-6. It works. But then I’m happy with my own company too.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Of course. That’s terrific.

      1. Sadje says:

        Thanks Rachel πŸ₯Ή

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