7 Tips For How To Deal With Loneliness
Updated December 20, 2018
Reviewer Juan Angel
If you were to ask random people on the street to name the biggest major health concern in the US, you'd likely get responses such as obesity and drug use. Although these numbers are at an all-time high, there is an even more pressing issue that one out of every three adults is dealing with. The problem: loneliness. Loneliness is described as feeling emotionally disconnected with other people. When paired with social isolation, being physically separated from others, loneliness can feel even more overwhelming.
Studies conducted by researchers at Brigham Young University (BYU) concluded that loneliness and social isolation increase a person's risk of early death by as much as 50 percent. This number was even higher than the risk of being overweight.
This is because as human beings, we are hardwired for socialization. It's the way that we learn to speak, think, express emotions, feel secure, and become cultured. Socialization is what takes us above our animal-like instincts; it's what makes us fully human.
Victor Of Aveyron: A Case Study
If this is a stretch, think about cases in which feral children have been found living alone. One of the most famous cases of social isolation, the story of Victor of Aveyron, shows just how important socialization is for human development. In the late 16th century, Victor emerged from woods in Southern France. He was physically around twelve years old but on the mental and emotional level of a toddler. Abandoned by his parents early on, Victor became a scientific guinea pig once he was reintroduced to society. Although he did learn to recognize a few words after several years of tutoring, he never learned to speak.
Cases like Victors are rare in modern times. There aren't many children who go through childhood not having anyone to talk to, to interact with. But more and more often, this becomes the fate of adults who are separated from others for one reason or another. But drowning in feelings of loneliness doesn't have to be the outcome. The following seven steps can aid in overcoming loneliness and living a life that feels both rewarding and shared.
#1 Accept That Loneliness Is Normal
Just knowing that others around the globe are experiencing the same feelings of aloneness is one of the first steps to dealing with loneliness. The numbers on loneliness vary from country to country, study to study, but a 2010-2014 study conducted by AARP found it to be over 40%.
"How could this number be so high?" you might ask. After all, the internet and social networking make it easier than ever to connect. But an interesting thing about loneliness is that it is subjective. Because it is related to emotions, it's possible to feel lonely even if you have a significant other, children, or friends.
So if you're looking for an answer on how to cure loneliness in your own life, just realize that there are millions of others feeling the same way. This normal emotion is one that almost every experiences at some point, and it's something that you can overcome.
#2 Recognize The Effects Of Loneliness So You Can Combat Them.
- Loneliness can be felt Studies show that being lonely can make you feel colder than those around you, can increase cholesterol and blood pressure, and can even stop your immune system from functioning properly.
- Loneliness can ruin your sleep. Because loneliness puts your body on 'high alert,' it can make you more prone to sleep problems. Insomnia and lack of true rest can both be a result of loneliness.
- Loneliness leads to self-destructive habits. Drub abuse, gambling habits, and other self-destructive actions have all been linked to loneliness. Finding a cure for loneliness can prevent these habits from developing in the first place.
- Loneliness can affect your mental health. As it increases, so do depression. One of the main signs of depression is that you no longer want to do things that you used to enjoy, including spending time with your friends. If you think that your feelings of loneliness may be a small part of a more bigger problem, you should consider seeking help from someone who specializes in helping people figure out how to deal with loneliness.
#3 Seek Professional Help To Help You Figure Out How To Overcome Loneliness.
Meeting with a mental health professional is one of the most helpful steps you can take if you are trying to figure out how to deal with loneliness. A therapist can help you explore the factors behind your feelings. Other issues surrounding your loneliness can be addressed as well. For example, if you've recently lost a family member or close friend, you may be experiencing both loneliness and grief. Having an experienced person support you through the healing process can make all the difference.
Sometimes, loneliness has to do not with death but location. Military members who are deployed or spouses separated from family and friends often experience loneliness that seems uncontrollable. If you are in an area where you have few resources, mental health or otherwise, seeking professional help might seem impossible. It can be the same for those suffering from depression.
In situations like this, a program like Betterhelp can be beneficial. Betterhelp is unique because counseling takes place through an online platform that you can access from any place you feel comfortable. Sign-up is easy, and their matching process is personalized so that you are paired with the perfect counselor for you. Depending on when you sign up, you might qualify for a free trial that will help you decide if counseling can help you deal with your loneliness. Many people find Better helps program a lot more convenient and affordable than traditional counseling.
#4 Nurture Existing Relationships
Believe it or not, loneliness can make us pull away from our relationships, even when we desire them the most. By nurturing the relationships you already have, you can put yourself on a path to overcoming loneliness. When the people you once loved or connected with feel distant, it can be hard to take the first step towards fortifying those bonds. Here are some ideas for connecting again:
- Schedule time each day (or week) to visit with or call a friend.
- Invite someone over or out for lunch.
- Start up conversations with neighbors when you can.
- Use social media to reconnect with those you've lost touch with due to time or distance.
- Join a group or club with a friend.
#5 Practice Positive Self-Talk.
You might be asking what getting rid of negative self-talk has to do with loneliness, but the two go hand in hand. When you're feeling lonely, and you start to think something like "Ugh, I hate my life, no one wants to spend time with me," you're adding to your loneliness. Now, you're not only missing social connection but also taking a beating to your self-esteem.
Make an effort to catch these thoughts as they come and replace them with a positive message instead. The process of positive self-talk takes practice, but it can be part of a simple cure for loneliness.
#6 Find A Hobby.
Boredom adds weight to loneliness. If you're already struggling with feelings of loneliness or social isolation, the cure isn't watching Netflix by yourself every night. Instead, find something to occupy your time. Make sure that what you choose has some social aspect to it. Taking pictures in the park and joining a gardening group through Meetup are both good options. Doing a jigsaw puzzle alone in your apartment, not so much. Take some time to explore hobby options through word of mouth or a quick Google search and then get out there. The getting out there part is usually the hardest.
#7 Find Volunteer Opportunities.
One way to combat loneliness is to put yourself in places where you can meet new people. That's why people go to places like bars and clubs, right? But just going to public places doesn't do the trick, especially for people whose loneliness is worsened by issues like shyness or social anxiety. By volunteering, you're not only positioning yourself in a place where you can meet people to connect with, but you'll also be focused on a task. This can help prevent feelings of 'awkwardness' that might arise if you don't have a particular purpose. It can also give you something to look forward to if you're struggling to find meaning in your life.
Another great thing about volunteering is the people you meet are likely to share your interests. For example, if you love animals, you might consider volunteering at a local shelter. There you're sure to meet other dog or cat people as well. It'll be much easier to connect if you are with others who like the same things you do. Not sure where to start? Ask around locally or use an online platform like Create the Good or Volunteer Match.
If you try these tips and are still having trouble overcoming your loneliness, seek the advice of a trusted friend or family member. Using your voice to ask for the things you need can help you moved past these temporary feelings and into the life that you deserve.