Loneliness is a painful feeling that often results from experiencing dissatisfaction in your social world– perhaps because of a lost relationship, a change in a relationship, or difficulty connecting with others in a meaningful way.
Loneliness acts as a signal telling you that you are not experiencing the amount of desired companionship or emotional support that you want and/or need.
Overcoming loneliness requires a multilayered approach. I’ve created the “OWW!” model to help you remember how to combat that painful feeling:
1. Observe (“O”):
- View loneliness as a signal about what’s happening in your life. It’s important to observe this emotion with curiosity about what it’s telling us, rather than judging or labeling it, or judging or labeling ourselves, for experiencing it.
- Practice mindfulness to notice and reflect on your thoughts and feelings.
- Engage in self-compassion exercises by mindfully accepting that you are experiencing pain while treating yourself with kindness.
- Remember that loneliness is one part of your experience, not your entire experience. Look at the big picture!
a. Since we can’t just “snap out” of a feeling, we can work through the feeling by editing our thoughts and actions.
b. Challenge the thoughts that are contributing to the feeling of loneliness.
These thoughts may include: “I will never find that relationship,” “No one wants to hang out with me,” “I’m not good at making new friendships.” Look for evidence to suggest otherwise, and challenge these extreme and rigid thoughts by coming up with alternative perspectives.
c. Do the opposite of what the feeling wants you to do.
We often let our emotions dictate our actions, but the research shows that what we do affects how we feel, not vice versa. This means that we have the power to change our emotional experience by acting in a way that opposes the negative feeling.
So when your loneliness tells you to not make that phone call or skip that party–do the opposite! This will challenge your negative beliefs about yourself while helping you change the very thing that is contributing to your loneliness.
3. Focus on Wellness (“W”):
a. The very first step in learning how to regulate our emotions is taking care of our bodies.
You can decrease the impact of negative emotions by maintaining a balanced diet, getting restorative sleep, engaging in frequent exercise, and doing something that you feel proud of on a daily basis.
b. Engage in self-soothing activities involving all of your senses.
i.e., light a candle, have hot tea, take a warm shower, look at pictures that evoke positive memories, play your favorite song, etc.
c. Do activities that you love.
A secondary bonus is that you may meet people at these activities who you can relate with. Feeling connected to others, rather than just being surrounded by others, is a great way to overcome loneliness.
d. Increase your confidence by doing things that you are good at, setting accomplishable goals for yourself, and/or volunteering.
Feeling competent and accomplished contributes to good mood and overall wellbeing.
Psychotherapy can help. Seek a trained therapist to help you utilize these concepts in a personalized, more detailed way.
Jodie Eisner, PsyD – www.drjodieeisner.com
Right now, loneliness is surrounding us all as we experience isolation due to Covid, political conflicts, less ability to move around, meet up, hug, visit in person, and now winter is coming. It’s more important than ever to keep from being overwhelmed with feelings of isolation and separation that can lead to risky or desperate behaviors.
Loneliness versus being alone
Years ago, a very wise person told me that loneliness is not the same as being alone. Some of the worst feelings of loneliness can come when you feel stuck in a relationship with someone who really doesn’t care about you.
Feeling invisible is very difficult for humans to experience because we are by nature communal beings. So even when we’re physically alone, we need to have a sense of belonging with others in some way.
Loneliness can easily lead to anxiety and depression if you don’t take active steps to stop feelings of abandonment and isolation whether you’re with others or not
Acknowledge Who You are and What You Need
Extroverts and introverts
Extroverts tend to get lonely faster and stronger than introverts, but even introverts reach their limit. It’s not how much interaction you actually have with others, but how much you need and what it means to you. Some people thrive with one or two close connections, while others need a crowd.
Figure out what you really need and what you prefer.
During this difficult time, it’s important to meet at least your minimum need requirements even if you can’t always get what you prefer.
Givers and Receivers
Are you more of a giver or a receiver? Actually, we all have components of each of these, but under stress one generally gets triggered more than the other.
Givers need to be helpful, tune in strongly to the needs of others, often feel guilty when others are hurting, and feel genuinely good when doing things for others. Receivers feel a deep need to be listened to, feel concern from others, be seen, validated, and acknowledged.
Navigating the right balance of your needs for connection and personal time as well as your affinity for giving and receiving will help you feel less lonely.
Loneliness countermeasures for Givers
Make a contribution
Helping others with your time, energy, money, and/or compassion will go a long way to your feeling more connected and less lonely.
- Where is help needed?
- What are your skills?
- Where do you feel you can make a contribution?
Volunteers are needed at food banks, shopping and deliveries for people quarantining, health-check calling, making masks, rehoming pets, and the list goes on.
Who needs emotional support? Call friends, neighbors, family members to check on them. Ask them what they need. Reach out through social media to share positive thoughts, images, and local updates.
If you’re a writer, artist, baker, knitter or have any other special talent, explore how you can share these talents with others.
Explore new interests
You’re most likely to make meaningful connections when you’re learning something new that can lead you to help others. Learning a new skill or discovering groups that make a contribution can energize you, help you meet new people, fill up your time, and keep you interested and involved.
Loneliness countermeasures for Receivers
Finding emotional support
When you are low on energy, feel an increasing loss of interest in things, or are really hurting, loneliness increases, and it’s hard to let anyone know. However, it’s very important to get emotional support before you slide too far down.
Call a friend, family member, or professional as soon as you notice this decline. In more normal, social times others could notice and reach out to you, but you need to override your discomfort and make your need known.
Ways to be seen and heard
When you’re lonely, you’ll have a greater need to be seen and heard by others. However, others may not be aware of what you need. Posting positive thoughts, images and comments on social media can help trigger interaction and responses.
Sharing your talents and artistic creations, letting others know about events or news, or creating a blog can help you feel witnessed, understood, and connected.
Something to look forward to
Plan things ahead that you can look forward to—a call, a visit, a drive, an outdoor activity, a hobby, a delivery. There are fewer chance encounters or fortunate coincidences right now, so you have to arrange for new experiences more than usual.
Keep your mind active
A great way to receive is to learn new things. YouTube is full of amazing and creative information, how-to videos, interviews, classes, and so much more.
Extroverts need activities and interactions, but can get too busy and miss the emotional connections they need. Introverts may find it challenging to move out of their comfort zone and reach out to others.
Keep aware of what makes you lonely—feeling invisible, not enough activities, feeling abandoned, lack of meaning, fear of being needy–and determine what steps you need to take to minimize your loneliness.
Overall ways to be less lonely
Doing anything is better than nothing–Take action.
Keep busy—Dance, create, share, fix, explore.
Don’t wait–Be in charge of your own mind and mental health.
Reach out—Loneliness grows when no one knows what you’re going through.
Margalis Fjelstad, Ph.D., LMFT – www.margalistherapy.com
Everyone experiences loneliness at some point in their life, and it can be very frustrating when you feel like you don’t have support from people around you.
When you feel lonely, it can be difficult to enjoy your day-to-day activities, and you might find yourself feeling sad or angry more often than usual as well.
However, there are steps you can take to overcome this unpleasant feeling, connect with others around you, and become more satisfied with your own company as well.
Here are four strategies that you can use to overcome feelings of loneliness.
- Get involved in hobbies or activities that intrigue you.
Many people find themselves feeling lonely when they aren’t engaged or happy with their day-to-day activities.
If you find yourself just going back and forth to work each day without participating in other activities that you are passionate about, it can be difficult to feel satisfied and happy in your own company.
If you already have a hobby that you have been neglecting, carve out some time in your schedule to engage with it again. If you don’t have a hobby, think about activities you’ve always wanted to try!
You’ll be surprised by the opportunities that you have when you open your mind to them. If you like to read, look for book clubs in your area on local meet-up websites.
If you like sports, look for a local recreational sports league to join. If you’ve always wanted to learn how to draw, paint, or cook, take a class at a local studio or school. There are endless possibilities if you keep an eye out for them.
- Say ‘yes’ more often.
Another helpful tip for overcoming loneliness is to be more open-minded to social events. If you’re introverted, this can be difficult at first, but with some practice, you’ll find that you can make plenty of new friends just by saying ‘yes’ a little more often.
For example, if you are at work and there’s a group happy hour, make the effort to go even when you’d normally stay home and watch TV. Even if you don’t necessarily love your coworkers, you might see a different side of them, and at the very least, you’ll get some extra social connection that you wouldn’t get otherwise.
Another strategy is to keep an eye out for exciting events in your city that are posted online.
If you’re on social media, you probably get invites to food festivals, outdoor yoga, local concerts, and other exciting events. Even if you don’t know anyone, get out there and give it a try – you never know what new friends you might make.
- Do something good for someone else.
When we’re feeling lonely, it can be very easy to spiral into thinking about our own negative feelings. This can actually make your feeling seem much more intense and overwhelming, and it will be harder to climb out of them if you are feeling this way.
To prevent yourself from sinking into loneliness, try to do something nice for someone else.
This could be something as simple as asking an acquaintance how their day is going to something more involved, like volunteering for a cause that you care about. When you shift your focus onto others in a positive way, you’ll find that your spirits get a pleasant boost.
- Take steps to change your thought patterns.
There are certain negative thoughts that go along with loneliness. You may find yourself thinking that you’re not worthy of friendship, that reaching out to others isn’t worth the effort, or that you’ll always feel this way. You need to do everything in your power to change these thought patterns to break out of your loneliness.
Start to take notice when you fall into these negative thoughts, and correct them with a positive thought, even if it feels disingenuous at first.
Over time, positive thinking will become a habit. If your thoughts persist, don’t be afraid to see a therapist as well. They can provide you with positive support and coping mechanisms that will help you feel better over time.
Loneliness is a very challenging emotion, and it’s something that we all go through, particularly during transitional periods of our lives.
However, you can take steps to feel better during a trying time. Changing your habits using the strategies in this article will make a big difference in your overall feelings of loneliness.
It may take some time, but with some effort and consistency, you’ll find yourself feeling happy again.
Judy Dyer, Bestselling Author – www.pristinepublish.com/judy-dyer/