Why Am I So Alone And How Do I Fix It?
By Joy Youell
Updated June 02, 2020
Reviewer April Brewer , DBH, LPC
Loneliness doesn't always mean being alone. Feelings of loneliness can persist even for busy, productive people. They can be the result of actual or perceived isolation, but either way it can be deeply painful. According to the U.S. News and World Report, 76 percent of people surveyed say they're lonely. Ironically, if you're lonely, you're in good company. Loneliness can lead to anti-social behavior, which is self-defeating. Fortunately, there are many ways to understand and cope with chronic loneliness.
How to Start Overcoming Loneliness
When you feel alone, it's easy to dwell on negative thoughts or become critical of yourself. You start thinking about all of the things that bother you. You may hate your job. Friendships no longer feel satisfying. There are many things that you want and need to do, but you don't feel like doing any of them. You spend your time sleeping too much, mindlessly dwelling on everything that's wrong in your world. You can feel loneliness even in the presence of others because being lonely is a state of mind. If you're struggling with these feelings, here are a few pointers to assist you while you work through them:
- Feeling lonely is natural. In some cases, loneliness is to be expected. For example, it's normal to feel lonely after a breakup because you're experiencing a change. It's better to acknowledge these feelings instead of fighting them because you think the feelings are negative. You also shouldn't mask them by getting prematurely involved in a new relationship or returning to your ex.
- Process and accept your emotions. Some people frown upon expressing emotions and may encourage you to "stay strong." Is this healthy? You are human; it is normal for you to feel various emotions. Somehow, many of us think we should be happy or strong all of the time. This perspective is unrealistic. Emotions are a natural, healthy part of being human. Accepting and honoring your authentic emotions is an important component of mental wellness.
- Love yourself first. The idea of being alone may sound a bit scary. However, being okay with being alone is an important element of happiness. Learning to be alone allows you to develop a foundation of happiness that isn't dependent upon being in a relationship with another person.
- Explore new interests and engage in hobbies. Revisit past hobbies and leisure activities that you may have forgotten or engage in new interests. This will create healthy distractions from negative thoughts. You might also meet new people.
- Keep a journal. Using a journal gives you the opportunity to express your thoughts, feelings, and plans in writing. Often, people share that they feel a sense of relief and fulfillment after journaling. Also, noting your thoughts and feelings in a journal allows you to review journal entries at a later date. This may give you deeper insight into yourself and your patterns, so you can learn how to adopt healthier thoughts and habits.
In addition to these tips, know that you don't have to deal with loneliness alone. The credentialed counselors at BetterHelp can help you to find ways to deal with these feelings. If you speak to a mental health professional, you'll learn why you feel so alone and what you can do to change that.
Why Am I So Alone and How Did I Get Here?
There are many reasons why people feel lonely. Perhaps one of these scenarios resonates with you:
- You feel alone because you've lived your life vicariously through the people you love. You've let them define who you are and what you need to do to live a happy, productive life.
- You haven't pursued your dreams. Perhaps you've spent more time dreaming about what things will be like when you reach your goals and not enough time working toward them.
- You may have suffered a recent breakup or a loss, and you're reeling from the normal emotions that follow. Or perhaps you haven't yet recovered from a past loss.
To move forward, you need to stop living in the past and start focusing on yourself. Pursuing happiness doesn't mean that you neglect friendships, it just means that you put yourself first and your friends second. If you know what makes you happy, start moving in that direction. If you're still figuring out what you want, start trying new things to find a sense of purpose.
Building Lasting Happiness
Though it may seem like our happiness levels fluctuate, we all experience a baseline level of happiness. How do we build and maintain lasting happiness? If you're looking for some ideas, here are some suggestions:
Be grateful. Practicing daily gratitude will highlight even the smallest things that you appreciate in your life. To start, you can complete the following prompts:
- Something good that has happened to me today was:
- Something that I accomplished today was:
- Today I was glad that someone helped me to:
Be kind. The saying "treat others the way you want to be treated" can be incorporated by practicing the simple act of kindness. Offer to help a friend or even a stranger with something small. It will not only brighten the recipient's day, but it will also improve your mood as well.
Be active. Exercise or other physical activity is proven to improve both your physical and mental health. Benefits include higher energy levels, a stronger immune system, and better sleep.
Be positive. Identify positive things that occur or that you feel throughout your day. Finding ways to focus on positives instead of negatives will improve your mood and your outlook in life.
Be mindful. Mindfulness is the practice of being aware of your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations in the moment. Learn to accept yourself without judgment. The benefits of mindfulness include:
- Fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression
- Learning to not dwell on negative thoughts
- Improved fulfillment in relationships
- Improved ability to regulate emotions in a healthy way
- Improved ability to adjust to unpredictable or stressful situations
- Increased mental processing speed with memory and focus
Be social. Try not to neglect relationships with family and friends. Strong social bonds can positively impact happiness. If you find that your relationships need some work, it's never too late to reconnect with a family member or friend.
Taking Steps to Get Out of a Rut
Despite your current perspective, loneliness does not have to be something you live with for the rest of your life. There are many ways to move beyond chronic loneliness and find happiness. Working with a qualified therapist may be a powerful way for you to navigate this tricky terrain. Moving past loneliness requires some internal work, and the mental health professional at BetterHelp can support you. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Moving forward may mean stepping out of your comfort zone. It's a little unsettling at first, but you'll soon see the value in it.
- Do you need additional education or training to pursue a truly satisfying career? If you need to get training while working full-time, there are options for online classes in nearly every field. Visit a local college or technical school to explore the possibilities.
- Do you need to develop talent? Carve out time in your schedule to practice your craft or seek additional training with an industry mentor.
- Do you need to find a better work-life balance? Set up a session with a life coach to give you some guidance and support.
These are just a few ways to build a richer life, so you can move past feeling lonely. You may want to consider extra support along the way. The supportive, highly-qualified counselors at BetterHelp have helped many people overcome loneliness and find more happiness. Read below to learn how they've helped people experiencing similar issues.
"Patricia is excellent, very knowledgeable, empathetic, and helpful. Her professionalism helped make my journey less lonely, and gave me so much more clarity."
"I have a lot of high stressors happening in my life right now, it has been extremely beneficial to have someone from the outside looking in to help me see what I do not and be able to have someone helping guide me through it. I appreciate being able to have a constant conversation and send a message when it is most convenient. I have a busy life right now and knowing I have someone to talk too (if I need too) every day has made me feel less alone and capable of achieving my goals."
Everyone struggles with loneliness at one point or another, but you can find a way to learn from these feelings and move forward, with joy in your life. Take the first step today.