How To Overcome Loneliness: 5 Experts Share Incredibly Powerful Tips + Strategies To Conquer Loneliness and Start Making Genuine Connections
“The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved.”
― Mother Teresa
A sincere thanks to all the awesome experts who shared their best tips, insights and strategies on how to overcome loneliness.
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”):
a. 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.
b. Practice mindfulness to notice and reflect on your thoughts and feelings.
c. Engage in self-compassion exercises by mindfully accepting that you are experiencing pain while treating yourself with kindness.
d. Remember that loneliness is one part of your experience, not your entire experience. Look at the big picture!
2. Work through (“W”):
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
Everyone experiences loneliness at one point or another in their life. Your current struggle with feeling lonely is difficult, but it isn’t permanent. You can take small but practical steps to work through your loneliness. Here are five steps to help you get moving in the right direction.
1. Plan activities a week ahead of time
One way to help overcome loneliness is to get a jump start on the next week by planning now. Isolating yourself can be easy to do, but you can prevent this by staying busy.
Identify two activities you can do or friends you can meet next week. When you establish the time and date, make sure you schedule it in your calendar. Don’t cancel your plans unless you are deathly ill.
2. Explore who you are and where you are headed
Make sure you don’t lose sight of where you are going but also who you were in the past. Exploring your past, present, and future self will help you better connect who you are as a person.
On a sheet of paper, create three columns, and label one “Past,” the second one “Present,” and the third one “Future.” Under each column use any verb, adjective, word, symbol, animal, or song title to describe yourself in each area. Challenge yourself to identify at least ten in each. This can also help improve your confidence in who you are.
3. Remember that being alone isn’t a reflection of your worth
It can be easy to be hard on yourself, especially if you are feeling lonely. You may even begin to question your worth. Don’t think that just because you are alone, that it means you are unlovable or worthy of love. Your current situation is not a reflection of your true worth as a person.
4. Keep your self-talk in check
Feeling alone can cause you to create a negative narrative about yourself. It’s essential that you keep your self-talk in check and don’t let it keep you down. Create a personal mantra or use your favorite motivational quote to help you remain positive when you are struggling.
5. Take a chance
One way to overcome loneliness is to get active and around others. Think about what activities you enjoy or hobbies that you used to be involved in. Make it a goal to identify one new hobby or activity each month to try.
For example, if you enjoy taking photos, enroll in a community photography class. Doing this will help your personal growth as well as give you the chance to meet other like-minded people that enjoy photography.
Even if you only choose two of these steps, then you are taking action. You have survived so many things already in your life, and you will make it through this challenging time. Loneliness isn’t here forever; it’s just a season you are passing through. The clouds will clear, and you will find yourself working toward the life you deserve. You got this!
Kristie Overstreet Ph.D., LPCC, LMHC, LPC - www.kristieoverstreet.com
Loneliness hits us hard. It creates an emptiness inside that yearns to be filled. Loneliness is tricky; being physically alone is not a direct correlation to the experience of loneliness. We can feel lonely when we are by ourselves and when we are surrounded by others. We all have the power to shift our experience of loneliness.
Let’s look at three areas to consider …
1. Befriend Oneself.
If we don’t like our own company, it is difficult to accept that others will enjoy it.
Watch your self-talk. Are you practicing kindness? When we learn to love ourselves, we allow in the idea that others will appreciate us, and the experience of loneliness begins to dissipate.
2. Seek Out Others.
I am a firm believer that we teach others how we are to be treated. When you go into a social experience, think about projecting “I am worthy … I am open to connecting with others.” We project this by the way we think of ourselves, our body language, and our words. When we put this open energy into our experiences, we will be more likely to experience a true, meaningful connection with others.
3. Strengthen Existing Relationships.
We can feel alone despite being surrounded by others. Examine the relationships you currently have – is the give and take in the relationship even? Relationships are not all or nothing, we can choose to share and trust more or less depending on how we are treated. When we learn to appreciate and trust others who we already have contact with, it weakens the stronghold that loneliness has on our hearts.
The experience of loneliness is commanding. It can overtake our ability to experience joy and connection with others. We can think and act in new ways. Developing a healthy relationship with your self and others allows for meaningful connections with others.
Carmen Garrison Counselor, MS, LPC - www.rcgcounseling.com
At some point you have to stop romanticizing and start looking at things realistically.
If there are signs that you’re getting, it’s important to not twist those into what you want and hope them to be, but instead recognize what it actually is.
Sure sometimes it feels good, great even! But then there at times it feels low, even really low and you pause to look at your surroundings and think to yourself, how did I get here?
You’ve poured everything into this person, so much so that you visualize a beautiful life with them, one that might include a family, happiness, love, travel, success.
These are all the things you think and really believe you can build with this person. But then the negative thoughts, harsh realities, and red flags become ever more present and the reality starts to seep in, eroding your “perfect” picture.
You try and ignore the signs and you feel bad for even feeling this way, but then there’s a shift and it’s back to being oh so good again.
You’re oh so in love and the future looks exciting and promising and just like that, you’re happy again, pouring your all into them again. You’ll say and do whatever it takes to make sure they’re happy, and feeling loved and respected.
You accept the disappointing moments and the gifts that just aren’t you and the many times you feel like you look hot and it goes unnoticed. You vacillate between the good and the bad convincing yourself that love isn’t easy but it’s worth it.
Until you find yourself here, in a place you never imagined you would live, at a bar you never knew existed, sitting for the second, not first time, alone.
And you think again, how did I get here?? Do I want to be here?
This is a scenario that can apply to all our relationships!
Yes, it was written in the context of a romantic relationship but if you switch the pronoun, you can apply this to any relationship you may have had or still have. I think we can all relate to investing so much of ourselves into someone only to be disappointed and have our expectations not met.
We idealize or rationalize the friendship or relationship to make it fit or to make it work but at some point, we are let down again.
This calls attention to the idea that we have to be mindful of who we expend our energy on and how our relationship choices may actually leave us feeling lonely! It is important to take a look at who we are choosing and why.
Even more important is the notion that we actually get to choose! I know you might be thinking, I didn’t pick my family, but you can choose to put some healthy boundaries in place to make it a relationship that serves and fulfills you.
Here are some tips that I think are a great way to start evaluating, assessing, and reworking some of the relationships that are in fact making you feel more alone than loved.
1. Check your surroundings
Evaluate who are you inviting into your space, who you are letting into your life and spending your energy on. Assess how these friendships or relationships are making you feel.
- Does this person add value to your life, does this person come through for you, support you, respect you, treat you with kindness?
- Do they add positivity to your life or do they flake out, mistreat you, make you feel less than or disappoint you?
I have had multiple patients in the last week tell me about, “The Life changing Magic of Tidying Up.” I believe it offers a great way to fold your clothes and make space, which is great as well! Who doesn’t need more space?! But the underlying idea is that everything in your space should add value and have a special place.
By evaluating each article of clothing one by one, you can reflect on it’s worth to you and how it makes you feel. The same can be said for relationships. I would start “tidying up!”
2. Manage expectations
Expectations are a tough one especially if we set unrealistic ones. Unrealistic expectations are likely to bring disappointment. When the topic of friendship comes up in session, I always have my patients make their “relationship pyramid.” The top space is reserved for your very closest friends, the ones you trust with everything (your ride or die type of people!)
As you move down the pyramid, you have space for close friends, then social friends, then co-workers, and so forth. Where people get into trouble is putting people on the wrong level. If you place a social friend, someone you might just meet for happy hour and have a few laughs with in your top space, you are going to be disappointed when they don’t answer the phone after your last horrible date! They are not those people. Make sure your pyramid is accurate.
We have all heard about them, and maybe you’re tired of hearing about them, but they are oh so important! If we do not set healthy ones, we can very easily be taken advantage of.
When someone is constantly asking and you are constantly giving with nothing in return, that can feel lonely and disappointing.
Learning to say no is so valuable and of course hard! I had a patient say to me one time, “Learning to say ‘no’ was my best ‘yes!’” Simple but profound. Say yes to boundaries!
4. Stop Rationalizing
It can be very easy to rationalize someone’s behavior and explain away why they have not called or texted back.
You can come up with multiple reasons for why they might have flaked for the 100th time. You need to know your worth and know that you do not deserve such behavior. Yes, there are times that things actually do come up. But ask yourself how many times have you made excuses for someone? Be realistic about what you are rationalizing.
There is a reason why the saying, “Communication is key” is so popular. Communication is an integral part to any healthy relationship.
Ask yourself, “Are you asking for what you need in your relationships? Are you afraid to speak up and share what you really want?”
This brings us back to expectations - sometimes we expect people to just know so we do not say anything, but people are not mind readers. Sometimes you may not be getting what you want out of your relationships because you are simply not asking for it or communication your needs appropriately and effectively.
6. Be accountable
It is important to evaluate your own role in your relationships.
- What are you contributing to the dynamic?
- Are you choosing to be emotional open or are you creating walls that are not allowing people to get in?
- Are you unable to be vulnerable enough to actually create deep meaningful relationships?
- Does it feel safer to keep things surface level?
- Does it feel like the closer someone gets the more you are at risk of getting hurt?
Often, we can look to blame others for our loneliness, but it is important to keep ourselves accountable to our own role in the relationship dynamic.
Accept that relationships, shift and change. That someone that was once a valuable person in your life may not be at another time in your life. Let go of the relationships that no longer serve you or make you feel lonely and chose to make room for ones that already do or will!
Elisabeth Gulotta Counselor, LMHC - www.nyctherapeuticwellness.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.
1. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. 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/