The first step to combating loneliness could be by walking out your front door, says Dr Alan LaGrone, assistant professor of psychiatry at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

"The biggest single issue I see in my practice -- more than depression, substance abuse and other mental disorders -- is loneliness," said Dr LaGrone, medical director of psychiatric emergency services at Parkland Health & Hospital System. "There are a huge number of people out there who are lonely. It's an ongoing theme in today's society - feeling isolated and alone.

"And, if you're waiting for someone to come and knock on your door, it ain't going to happen."

Instead, Dr LaGrone suggests getting involved in an activity that interests you. And with warmer weather approaching, outside activities can bring interaction with others who have similar interests - whether that includes taking scuba diving or canoeing lessons, joining a bicycle or camping club, getting involved in community outreach or church groups, or any number of creative alternatives.

"Don't wait until summer, or you'll miss the preparing and joining phases," he says. "Do something you like. Make lifestyle changes that will stick, and new and better relationships will follow."


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