How To Cope With Loneliness
By Nadia Khan
Updated January 02, 2019
Reviewer Laura Angers
It is said that the most important relationship you will ever have is with yourself, and it is true. Solitude is an inevitable part of life, and loneliness strikes everyone at one point or another, even those who seem to have endless friends and family. When loneliness does hit, it can be an all-consuming feeling and is even associated with conditions like depression and anxiety.
But, loneliness does not have to be such a negative experience. There is no way to avoid it, but there are ways to make it easier to cope with loneliness.
How To Cope With Loneliness
Below are just a few strategies that you can use to get through periods of loneliness, and maybe even learn to enjoy solitary times.
Accept Your Feelings
The first step to coping with loneliness is to accept your feelings and emotions that accompany being alone. If you beat yourself up over feeling lonely, you will hold yourself back from doing anything to change your situation. Before taking action to combat loneliness, start by changing your thoughts. Accept that everyone experiences loneliness sometimes, and let go of any self-blame or thoughts that it is somehow your fault that you are lonely. Understanding that loneliness is simply a feeling, and that it can be changed, is the first step to fighting loneliness.
Meditation is a great way to practice this strategy of simply accepting your feelings without attaching an emotional response to them. When meditating, someone is supposed to let their thoughts "pass through simply." It is impossible, especially when first trying meditation, to truly have no thoughts while sitting still. Rather, when a thought arises, you simply accept that it is happening and then let it go. Meditating can be great practice for doing the same with loneliness. Loneliness is a valid feeling, and you can, and should, accept that you are feeling lonely. But, do your best not to dwell on the feeling or judge yourself for it.
Talk To A Therapist
At the core of loneliness is feelings of isolation. This can lead to depression and anxiety, or general sadness. To help manage these emotions, try talking to a therapist. You can easily connect with a therapist online at BetterHelp.com. An online therapist is ideal when fighting loneliness because you can start a conversation with your therapist at any time of day, not just during your one appointment slot each week. An online therapist serves a dual purpose of giving you someone to talk to, so you feel less alone and also offering more in-depth tips for dealing with feelings of loneliness and the emotions that come with it.
They can also help diagnose if your feelings of loneliness have progressed into a more serious problem like depression, and provide treatment or referrals to deal with that condition. At the very least, talking to a therapist online gives you a person to talk to in moments when you feel alone, and gives you a sense of security in knowing that there is always someone there with an open ear.
It is normal for friends to fall out of touch, but if there are people in your life that you miss, do not be afraid to reach out to old friends. If you are thinking about an old friend, it is likely that they are thinking of you too and will be happy to hear from you. Even if you do not end up making plans to see this friend in person, or if they moved away and that is not an option, having a phone (or even text) conversation with an old friend is a great way to release some feelings of loneliness. A conversation with an old friend is a mood booster, and talking to them will remind you of the relationships that you do have in your life, even if the person is not physically in the same place as you. Plus, talking to an old friend can give you the confidence to go out and try to make new ones.
Fighting loneliness is one of the biggest challenges of moving to a new city. Moves come with a lot of excitement, but loneliness is certainly a concern. If you are dealing with loneliness after relocating, or even if you did not move and have just struggled to form lasting relationships where you live, look into getting involved with a local group.
Think about your hobbies, whether that be reading, cooking, biking, or almost anything else, or interest such as your faith or occupation, and do an online search for groups in your area that specialize in your interests. MeetUp.com, for example, is a great resource for a variety of different meetup groups. Best of all, many of the activities you will find online are free of cost.
Finding a group with a similar interest can take away much of the anxiety associated with meeting new people because you go into meeting them knowing that there is common ground, a shared interest, and conversation starter. Plus, if you are meeting up with people for an activity such as a hike or to cook a meal, you do not have to worry about filling awkward silences as you would on a first date because the activity will somewhat occupy everyone.
Even if you do not make any lasting friendships from attending a meetup, it is a great opportunity to be social and spend some time with other people, and hopefully find an activity that you enjoy.
Embrace Your Solitude
Even people with twenty best friends end up spending some time alone. There is no way to avoid being alone completely, so to combat feelings of loneliness, find something that you truly enjoy to occupy the time. Try some activities that can be done alone, like reading, painting, or yoga. It is important to try a few things until you find something that you genuinely enjoy and that makes you happy.
Once you have found this individual hobby, you may find that you even look forward to spending time alone. Doing something you enjoy during times of solitude, rather than dwelling on the negative emotions associated with loneliness, can change your perspective about loneliness and make you an overall happier person.
Journaling is another great way to spend some of your alone time. Journaling is a wonderful mindfulness tool and can help you view your problems, such as loneliness, from a different perspective. Writing your thoughts down on paper can also help you by providing an outlet for your thoughts and feelings if you ever feel like you do not have someone to talk to (although a therapist or counselor is better suited for this role).
More and more people are tuning in to the benefits of spending time in nature, and for a good reason. When you are feeling lonely, consider simply spending twenty minutes to an hour outside. Walking among trees, flowers, mountains, or other nature tends to help put our problems in perspective. Additionally, going outside and disconnecting from technology can give people a much-needed break from the screen and the comparison that social media brings.
Nature serves a dual purpose of reminding us how small we, and our problems, really are, and putting things in perspective. Plus, spending time in the natural world, surrounded by plants and maybe even animals, may make you feel that you are less alone. At the very least, a few minutes of fresh air can help you clear your head and feel refreshed.
Put Down The Phone
There is no doubt that social media has many uses, and in theory, can make it easier to connect with other people. However, often it does the opposite. Many people are so attached to their phones that they spend most of their time using them, even when they are with other people. This makes everyone feel lonely, regardless of if they are in the presence of friends or not.
Social media can also be problematic when coping with loneliness because it provides endless opportunities for comparison with others. It is no secret that most people only show the "highlight reel" of their lives online. Even if someone does struggle with loneliness, they will only post pictures of themselves smiling with friends. The result is that when someone is fighting loneliness, looking at social media will make them feel even more alone. If you are struggling with loneliness, cutting down on social media, and the constant comparison that comes with it, can be extremely beneficial for your mental health.
Exercise has many benefits, not only for physical health but also mental health. Aerobic exercise has long been associated with endorphins, a neurochemical that promotes feelings of happiness and calmness. Exercising, and the associated endorphin boost can help bring you out of a funk brought on by loneliness.
An exercise is also a good tool for fighting loneliness because it is a productive activity that you can do on your own. If you get caught up in negative thoughts when you are by yourself, spending some of that time at the gym can prevent you from getting too deep into negative thinking about being alone. You will be distracted, and also feel good knowing that you are working to improve your health.
Adopting a regular exercise regimen can also help you establish a routine and schedule if you struggle with having too much free time. As a bonus, doing workout classes can give you a sense of community or may even help you make new friends.
Loneliness is an unavoidable part of life, but it does not have to be a negative thing. Using these strategies to cope with loneliness and learn how to embrace your solitude can make a huge difference in your happiness. Of course, not everyone is happy all the time, and you may still struggle with loneliness even if you do all these things. When things get hard, remember that you can always reach out to your online therapist.