Have you ever felt alone in the world? Feeling lonely can be painful and isolating, and can make it difficult to figure out how to move forward.
If you’re experiencing this, first know that you are not alone.
Dealing with loneliness isn't always easy, but there's much you can do to try to regain that sense of connection and belonging. There are effective ways you can cope with loneliness, and professional treatment is available if you're in need.
Seven Tips For Navigating Loneliness
Included below are seven tips for navigating feelings of loneliness, some of which may be more helpful for you than others. Consider which methods might be most useful to you as you try to move forward.
1. Recognize That Loneliness Is Common
Sometimes, just knowing that many others around the globe are experiencing the same feelings of loneliness can be helpful. As mentioned above, nearly 40% of Americans feel “serious loneliness” according to one study, and another study found that more than three in five Americans—around 60%—are lonely.
It is possible to feel lonely even if you have a loved one, significant other, children, or lots of friends. If you are feeling lonely, remembering that there are millions of others feeling the same way may help to reduce the perception of isolation.
2. Nurture Existing Relationships
Loneliness can make us pull away from our relationships, even when we desire them the most. By nurturing the relationships you already have, you may start to feel more connected and may develop deeper bonds that help you feel less alone. When the people you love or care about seem distant, it can be hard to take the first step towards strengthening those bonds.
Here are some ideas for connecting again:
Start with something small, like a text message or phone call.
Schedule time each day or week for calling or visiting a friend.
Create recurring weekly plans with a friend or loved one, like watching a favorite TV show together each week.
Invite someone over for dinner.
Start conversations with neighbors when you can.
Use social media to reconnect with those with whom you've lost touch due to time or distance.
3. Practice Positive Self-Talk
When we’re feeling lonely, it can be easy to get caught up in negative thought patterns about ourselves that make us feel even worse and even more alone. We might say things like, “no one wants to be around me,” or “I’m no fun to be around, anyways.”
To combat this, try to incorporate more positive self-talk, to show yourself a bit more compassion and self-love. Make an effort towards catching these negative thoughts and replacing them with a positive message instead. Talking positively about yourself and your life can change how you view yourself and how you go about your day. The process of positive self-talk may take practice, but it can be a key piece of addressing loneliness.
4. Try A New Hobby
Boredom can add weight on top of loneliness, giving us time to ruminate and stew in negative feelings. If you're already dealing with feelings of loneliness or social isolation, sitting by yourself in boredom likely won’t help very much. Instead, try to find something you enjoy to occupy your time and give your mind something else which to focus.
Hobbies that you do by yourself can be fun and beneficial, but it may be even better to attempt ones that get you out more and allow you to connect with others. For instance, if you love knitting and often do it by yourself, maybe you can find a club or group to knit with instead. Or, if you like to cook or paint, maybe you can try a cooking class or art class.
5. Find Volunteer Opportunities
One way to combat loneliness is by putting yourself in places where you can meet new, like-minded people. But sometimes just going out into public places doesn't do the trick, especially for people with shyness or social anxiety. By volunteering, you're not only putting yourself in a place where you can meet people, but you'll also be focused on a task. This may help prevent feelings of awkwardness that might arise in more open-ended, unstructured situations. It can also give you something to look forward to if you're struggling with finding meaning in your life.
Another benefit of volunteering is that you can choose a cause that interests you so that the people you meet are likely to connect with your interests. For example, if you love animals, you might consider volunteering at a local animal shelter.
6. Recognize The Effects So You Can Combat Them
Loneliness can have a range of effects on an individual’s physical health and mental health. Studies show that loneliness and social isolation can increase blood pressure, weaken your immune system, and affect brain functioning. Loneliness can also disrupt your sleep and negatively impact your eating patterns and exercise levels.
Finally, loneliness can also affect your mental health. Loneliness and social isolation are frequently associated with depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and more. Loneliness is also a common feeling among individuals with suicidal thoughts. If you are experiencing loneliness, it is not something to take lightly—it can have wide-ranging negative effects, so it is important to address it.
If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, reach out for help immediately. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline can be reached at 988 and is available 24/7.
7. Seek Professional Help
Navigating feelings of loneliness can be difficult, but you don’t have to do it alone: professional help is available. If you are experiencing feelings of loneliness and need support, you can speak with your doctor or a mental health professional for help. In some cases, a persistent feeling of loneliness could be tied to depression, in which case, your doctor may suggest a range of treatment options, such as therapy and/or medication.
A therapist can help you explore the factors behind your feelings and find ways to cope and move forward. Other concerns surrounding your emotions can be addressed in treatment as well. For example, if you've recently lost someone in the family or a close friend, you may be experiencing both loneliness and grief. Having an experienced professional there to support you through the healing process can make all the difference.
How Online Therapy Can Help
Sometimes, you might feel lonely because of your location or because of a mental health condition. If you are in a relatively isolated area where you have few resources and treatment facilities, seeking professional help might seem impossible. Similarly, if you are experiencing depression, the prospect of going out and seeking help may feel very difficult. In situations like these, online therapy such as BetterHelp can be beneficial. Since counseling takes place through an online platform, you can connect with your therapist virtually from any place you feel comfortable and have an internet connection.
Research has found online therapy to be an effective option for reducing feelings of loneliness. For instance, one such study found that internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy “can be an efficacious option for alleviating loneliness.”
Take a look at some BetterHelp counselor reviews from individuals who have sought help for similar concerns:
BetterHelp Counselor Reviews
"Peter is very caring. He is a good listener and gives me good tools to deal with my problems. I feel supported and less alone. I highly recommend him as a counselor. He has helped me through very difficult times."
"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 to (if I need too) every day has made me feel less alone and capable of achieving my goals."
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the main cause of loneliness?
There are various reasons that a person may experience feelings of loneliness, from the loss of a significant relationship or moving to a new area to living with a physical or mental health condition that presents barriers to forming or maintaining social connections. Loneliness commonly stems from limited social interaction with others or lack of emotional intimacy in one’s relationships. Some individuals may feel lonely even when surrounded by other people, due to feeling unable to be seen as their authentic selves.
How do you fight loneliness?
Strategies that may help an individual overcome loneliness include:
- Looking for opportunities to connect with others who have common interests. This may look like attending meetup groups, signing up for classes at a gym or community center, leveraging creativity and joining an art group, getting involved with volunteer work or at a place of worship, or support groups related to mental wellness or navigating a particular challenge you may be facing.
- Reaching out to friends or family you haven’t connected with in a while to catch up or make plans to get together so you can reconnect.
- Considering the people you already have in your social network that you might want to get to know better and taking a step towards deepening the connection.
- Adopting a pet that can provide a sense of companionship.
- Engaging in self-care that supports your mental and physical well-being, such as meditation, yoga, mindfulness, or journaling.
If feelings of loneliness are severe and causing significant distress, reach out for further support from health care providers or mental health professionals. Through mental health treatment, you can explore what may be contributing to loneliness, develop strategies for coping with these feelings, and take steps to build the meaningful connections you desire.
Can you overcome being lonely if you have social anxiety?
Loneliness and social anxiety can often go together because if you're anxious about being around others, you may be avoiding social situations or gatherings, which can heighten these emotions. If you feel like you're experiencing social anxiety that is linked to this feeling of being lonely, you can connect with a therapist who can help you work through it. Individuals with social anxiety can overcome feelings of loneliness and have deep, meaningful connections with others.
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