19 Of The Best Ways To Overcome Feeling Lonely
Are there times when you are overcome by a sense of loneliness?
Not just being alone, but feeling lonely and isolated from the world around you?
Do you have a longing for real and intimate connection?
Feeling alone is a very sad way to feel.
When I was in my 20's, I moved from Atlanta to New York City for a job promotion. It was an exciting time for me, moving to the Big Apple and working in the fashion industry.
Every day I was surrounded by people — the neighbors in my brownstone, people on the subway and walking on the streets, my busy and crowded office building.
At any given moment, any time day or night, I could go to a club, to the theater, to a museum. There are always things to do when feeling lonely.
In my first few months in New York, I had the deepest feeling of loneliness ever in my life.
Yes, there were people everywhere, but they weren't my people. There were a million ways to spend my time, but nothing felt familiar or normal. The smells, the sounds, the way people interacted was entirely foreign to me.
Here I was, a young Southern thing in a pastel business suit, saying, “Hey, how are ya'll doing?” Those aloof New Yorkers in their monochromatic dark suits and severe haircuts looked at me like I'd just fallen off the potato truck.
If you are feeling lonely, you are not the only one!
In their book, The Lonely American: Drifting Apart in the Twenty-first Century, husband and wife psychiatrists, Jacqueline Olds and Richard S. Schwartz, point to an increasing trend of social disconnection which is reinforced by our culture.
They point out census statistics like the dramatic rise in single-person households, as well as social surveys showing a rise in narcissism and a decrease in the number of meaningful conversations people report having with others.
Couple that with the American ideal of self-reliance; our overworked and busy lifestyles which leave little time for personal relationships; and the proliferation of digital devices, and you have the recipe for an epidemic of lonely people who long for connection and intimacy.
You can see how technology can isolate people, drawing them into an alternative reality of cyber-relationships and information addiction.
The more time we spend in this world, the less time and energy we put into our flesh and blood relationships.
We need real social relationships to survive. In fact, according to Psychology Today, “evidence has been growing that when our need for social relationships is not met, we fall apart mentally and even physically. There are effects on the brain and on the body.”
When we are continually feeling alone and isolated, we are at risk for some rather serious health conditions:
- Feeling lonely is a major precipitant of depression, anxiety, and alcoholism, as well as a higher risk of suicide.
- Feeling alone raises levels of circulating stress hormones and levels of blood pressure.
- Feeling lonely impairs regulation of the circulatory system forcing the heart muscle to work harder and subjecting the blood vessels to damage.
- Isolation lessens the quality and effectiveness of sleep, rendering it less restorative, both physically and psychologically.
- Loneliness leads to people experiencing higher levels of perceived stress, even when they are relaxing.
- Being alone and separated can negatively impact learning and memory.
Sometimes our behaviors and actions reveal our state of loneliness before we become consciously aware of how we are feeling.
Here are some of the symptoms of loneliness:
- Working excessively or spend excessive time on a solitary activity
- Low self-esteem
- Feeling isolated, like there is no one with whom you can communicate openly
- Feeling unhappy and sad
- Having a negative attitude toward life
- Feel shame and self-condemnation
- Not able to develop or maintain social relationships
- Lacking self-motivation
- Failing to initiate social contact
- Passing judgment on others
- Feeling that your needs are not being met
- Over-reacting to life events
- Excessive time spent on the computer or in front of TV
- Feeling worthless, helpless, or powerless
- Being self-absorbed
- Feeling highly sensitive
- Being passive or pessimistic
- Feeling bored or self-pitying
- Having few or no friends
Do any of these symptoms resonate with you?
If you are feeling several of these symptoms or you have any one of them chronically, you must take action to bolster your relationship skills and address your essential needs for intimacy, connection, and interpersonal bonds.
You can cure your loneliness, but it does require awareness, action and sustained effort to feel re-connected to the world.
Here's what to when you are feeling lonely:
1. Create Awareness
If you see yourself in any of the symptoms described above, ask yourself the question, “Am I lonely?”
Look again at the physical and emotional toll loneliness can take on you. Just being aware that you are suffering is a huge step in addressing the problem.
2. Fleeting or Chronic?
Is your loneliness episodic or have you been suffering from it for weeks, months, or even years?
We all feel lonely from time to time, but if you have been dealing with it chronically, you must admit that to yourself and take action.
3. Get Support
If you are suffering from chronic loneliness, you probably feel like you don't have a support system.
This is the time to find a good counselor to support you through the work of reconnection — and with addressing some of the emotional reactions you are experiencing due to loneliness.
4. Step Away from the Computer
Or back off of work or projects or whatever is tethering you to isolation and keeping you away from real human connection.
Start slowly disengaging from these isolating activities, using the time to call a friend or spend time with your spouse, family member, or neighbor. You will need to initiate reaching out.
5. Stretch Yourself
If you are shy by nature or more of an introvert, it is intimidating to put yourself out there and meet new people or even initiate contact with old friends.
You will have to feel some discomfort initially, but if you take the first step in socializing, you will feel more and more comfortable over time.
Try one small action that will connect you with others — attend a class, invite an acquaintance to lunch, volunteer, initiate a conversation at a meeting or party.
6. Use Social Media
But not just to hide behind the computer. Use Facebook or Twitter to connect with old or new friends, but then suggest a face-to-face interaction.
Social media is a great way to connect, but it should be a vehicle for real relationships, not a substitute.
7. Quality, Not Quantity
As I suggested in my own personal experience in New York, you can be surrounded by people but still feel quite lonely.
It isn't the number of relationships that counts — it's the quality. We require more than just superficial interactions with acquaintances.
We need deep, personal and close relationships. To develop those, you must be willing to share intimately with another person. You must be open so that others will be open to you.
8. Take Personal Responsibility
Be real with yourself. Life is what we make it. If you feel lonely, sad, depressed, or disconnected, the only person who can change that is you.
If you need help in making that change, regard seeking help as a positive forward-moving step. If you need ideas for how to connect, just doing the research is a forward-moving step.
But remember in addition to getting support and researching, you must take real action toward connecting with others.
9. Be Your Own Best Friend
Loneliness can sometimes make us feel that we are worthless and unlikable. Those feelings aren't the truth — they are byproducts of feeling so alone.
There are plenty of people in your community and beyond who would enjoy your company and want to be your friend. You have so much to offer other people, even if you don't feel like you do right now.
There will be days when others aren't available to spend time with you. But rather than seeing this as a reflection of your worthiness, choose to be your own best friend and practice self-love.
Do something fun on your own where you might meet interesting people — like going to a museum or exhibit or participating in a “fun run.” Even if you don't meet someone new, you will enjoy being around others and stretching yourself.
10. Practice Gratitude
The practice of gratitude has been proven to improve your mood, boost your confidence, and cope better with stress.
The best way to practice it is by keeping a gratitude journal, and when you feel lonely, write down all that you feel grateful for in your life — including the small things that you might take for granted.
As you reflect on gratitude, you'll find that your feelings of loneliness diminish.
11. Make Some Phone Calls
If you're an introvert, the idea of going out and meeting people can be daunting. You long to have friendships, but your introverted nature makes it hard to push yourself out the door.
You can still feel connected to other people without meeting up in person — or using social media. Instead, use the telephone and have a conversation.
Call an old friend you haven't talked with in a while and catch up. Phone a family member to talk about old times.
It's surprising how a phone conversation can lift your spirits and make you feel connected to the world again.
12. Learn To Dance
You don't have to be an expert dancer to take up ballroom dancing. Beginner classes are filled with people who have two left feet and just want to have some fun.
This is a great opportunity to meet other people while you learn a new skill and enjoy beautiful music.
Related: 101 Fun Things To Do When Bored
Even for introverts, ballroom dancing is a good way to be social without having to do too much talking since you're concentrating on learning the moves.
13. Eat Dinner at a Bar
When you eat at a table or booth, you don't have the opportunity to meet people. Plus, it can feel weird to sit alone at a table when you are out to dinner.
But sitting at the bar is a different story. Not only can you strike up a conversation with the bartender and servers (if it isn't too busy), but you'll have an opportunity to chat with the people sitting on either side of you.
14. Adopt a Dog
A dog is a great cure for loneliness for two reasons: first, your dog provides you with loving and attentive company; and also, when you take your dog out for a walk, other people will often stop you and ask about your pet.
Adopting a dog isn't a substitute for human connection, but it certainly can help you feel less isolated during times when humans aren't around.
15. Plan a Holiday
Sit down with your computer, and plan out your next vacation. But don't make it a trip where you'll be isolated on a hiking trail or on the beach.
Participate in a group adventure trip related to your interests where you can meet like-minded people. You don't have to spend 24/7 with them, but you'll have a built-in social circle when you want to hang out and chat.
You might end up meeting the love of your life or a new best friend.
16. Hang Out at a Coffee Shop
I work from home and can feel isolated from time to time. That's when I pack up my computer and head for the local Starbucks.
I don't always see people I know, but it makes me feel more connected to the world to be around others while I'm working.
If you don't want to work at a coffee shop, take a good book — but be sure to look up on occasion and smile at people around you. Maybe even strike up a conversation.
You may not think helping others is the best way to treat your loneliness, but you'd be surprised how serving other people boosts your happiness.
Volunteer in situations where you'll meet other volunteers, as well as interact with the people you're helping.
18. Learn to Respect Time Alone
You won't always be able to plan time with others or find your tribe right away in a new city. There will be times when you are alone, but being alone doesn't mean you must feel lonely.
Learn how to be alone with yourself and find your own company enough. Being alone affords the opportunity for self-reflection, personal growth, learning, and re-energizing.
Try not to resist your alone time by falling into a cycle of self-recrimination. Lean into it, and try to enjoy your solitude so you have more to offer others when you around them.
19. Practice Affirmations
If you have a hard time getting yourself into a positive headspace about your lonely feelings, practicing positive affirmations can help you change your mindset.
Here are some great affirmations related to loneliness that can help you:
- I celebrate being alone by making time for myself.
- I have everything I need to attract friends into my life.
- I am able and willing to take action to meet new people and make friends.
- I have people in my life who love me and are there for me, and they are always with me in my heart.
- Times of solitude give me a wonderful opportunity to explore more about myself.
- I can find comfort in being my own best friends and find peace in the quiet moments.
- I love and accept myself and do not need the company of others to feel confident and happy.
- I break through my fear of loneliness, abandonment, and emptiness.
- I am confident and comfortable when doing things by myself.
- Doing things by myself gives me feelings of pride and accomplishment.
Awareness of your loneliness can be a powerful tool for personal growth and profound positive change.
When you recognize that your choices are to either remain lonely and unhappy or to take action (even if it's uncomfortable), then taking action becomes the only possible choice.
Every action you take toward connection will empower you and help lift the veil of loneliness, moving you to a new life of healthy, fulfilling relationships.
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