How to combat loneliness: 11 ways to stop feeling lonely
As human beings, we are hard-wired to crave connection and society, and we thrive when we are interconnected in a meaningful way.
Yet, loneliness affects so many people across different age groups and social classes. Loneliness doesn’t choose. It can affect anyone.
Unfortunately, loneliness is a serious condition that steals joy from so many people each and every day.
It is this dark space of being that keeps one stuck in a loop of fear of rejection, fear of reaching out, and, turns our insecurities into this loud obnoxious voice in our head and so we hide who we are.
And in our hiding, we can be seen but we can never fully be presently authentic. This is the one phenomenon that makes one lonely even while surrounded by many people.
Loneliness is such a serious condition that it can lead to mental health problems such as depression, anxiety even suicidal ideation. If the loneliness grip is so hard on you that it reaches this level of crisis and is overwhelming please please seek mental health help.
What causes loneliness?
There are many things that can contribute to feeling lonely.
- A new environment such as when you move to a new country where you don’t know anyone or even speak the language.
- Physical health problems can also affect one’s mental health and cause loneliness.
- Change in circumstances such as a divorce or a job loss. In case of a divorce, you may lose friends who you shared as a couple. Some friends take one or the other side and some are just not supportive. Besides, our society is a very harsh and judgemental place around the issue of divorce. So you may distance yourself to avoid such negativity leading to being isolated and lonely.
- Illness in the family. When you take the role of caring for a loved one it can be a lonely experience. You may find that it is not easy to talk to friends about this experience. Plus you may not even want to talk about it fearing that they won’t understand. In some cases especially those related to mental health issues or addiction, you will fear being judged so you avoid letting friends know what you are dealing with whether you are the one addicted or a family member.
How do you fight loneliness?
Depending on the cause of loneliness, fighting loneliness can be hard. If you are lonely due to a breakup in a relationship, this can be hard to overcome especially after a very long-term relationship and the nature of break up or separation.
It is even harder in case of the death of a significant other. Learning to live without the other person is hard.
There is this void in many areas of your life that you shared. You may feel rejected if the other person walked out and this can make your insecurities crushing and even make it hard to seek new relationships.
But it is essential that you try to overcome loneliness no matter the circumstances because falling deeper into loneliness can lead to despair.
This can make life feel meaningless and this is a dangerous place to be. Remember we are social beings, and such a disconnection from society can be a catastrophe.
So let’s take a look at the best ways to overcome loneliness so we can be fully present as a part of society and live full fulfilled happy lives.
The best ways to overcome loneliness
Identify the cause of your loneliness
As you can see, there are many causes of loneliness. And loneliness is so complex that you may even feel lonely in a room full of people or even when you are in a relationship. Why is that? It is because loneliness is a sign that something is missing.
Loneliness is not necessarily social isolation. It is a disconnection more profound. A sense of not belonging, a dissonance between who we really are and what we present to society.
And this dissonance is made worse by what we sense we lack- our insecurities, inadequacies, and self-doubt. So to cure loneliness, we must first identify these things.
We must then do the inner work to root out these insecurities and self-doubts. We must know who we really are. What makes us happy? What would make our lives really fulfilling?
How can we achieve that highest sense of self? So do the work to learn what really makes you happy and fulfilled. Read books on self-development. Look to your interests and passions.
Listen to that small whisper that tells you the direction you should take your life. Embrace who you are fully. And let the world know you.
You see, when we feel at ease in our own skin, then it is much easier to connect with others at a more elemental level. And that feeling of connection to yourself first helps you feel at ease in interacting with others, seek new relationships, to be authentic, and even more lovable and combats loneliness.
Talk to a therapist
Sometimes, loneliness and depression go hand in hand and tend to exacerbate each other, a 2020 research study published in BMC Psychiatry found. In this case, you should seek mental health help and talk to a therapist.
There are cases where you may find that loneliness is overwhelming. Therapy can help you navigate this mental state, give you strategies for coping, and even insight into your thinking and current relationships.
Reach out to friends and family
When you are feeling lonely, you may feel that no one cares but people are sometimes just caught up in their own lives. Instead of waiting until friends and family reach out to you, go ahead and reach out instead.
Call friends or family and maybe even plan to meet in person. Have coffee or go see a movie and just visit each other’s homes if possible.
The more you reach out and engage, the more likely you are to develop deeper connections and a sense of belonging.
Change your mindset
Learn to send yourself positive messages. The problem with the brain is that it simply accepts what we tell it over and over and then it looks for the same patterns and shows us more of the same.
So if we say no one loves us more and more we will start believing it. And the brain will show us more instances of this.
Instead, practice positive thoughts. Say or write positive affirmations to strengthen your sense of self and confidence.
Learn to love yourself and talk to yourself the way you talk to a friend.
If you have done something that causes you to feel dumb, be kind to yourself and say instead we all learn from our mistakes.
Don’t ruminate on negative thoughts about what caused the loneliness- about certain people and interactions you had, or certain events in your life that may have led to the loneliness.
This only makes you feel worse without solving the problem. Instead, break out of the negativity loop by being proactive.
Do you need more help in overcoming negativity in your life and the way you think? Here are 21 ways to overcome negativity.
And if you want to delve deeper into the psychology of negative thoughts and how to really root it out from your way of thinking, read this book: Eliminate Negative Thinking: How to Overcome Negativity, Control Your Thoughts, And Stop Overthinking. Shift Your Focus into Positive Thinking, Self-Acceptance, And Radical Self Love
Do something. Call someone for a chat or invite them to go for lunch or coffee.
Go for a walk or a run. Put the music on and dance. Journal, write it down, and leave those thoughts alone. Redirect the negative thoughts.
Learn to recognize negative thoughts that increase loneliness and redirect, and refute them.
Volunteer in your community
Volunteering is a great way to help members of your community and can also lead to meeting new people who share the same interests as you.
Volunteering helps you feel more engaged as a member of your society filling that need to belong we all have.
And it is well known that when you help those less fortunate than you, it gives you a sense of gratitude and joy for what you have.
Volunteering also fulfills that higher need of altruism all humans have according to the psychology of needs.
Nurture existing relationships
Relationships need to be nurtured and maintained. And for many of us as adults, this is not always easy.
But when we neglect relationships, we distance ourselves from friends and family and may end up feeling lonely.
Remember also, as we grow up, society has sent us so many messages and we have sent our brains so many messages that we start questioning every action by others in our lives. This can make us distance ourselves.
Instead, give people grace.
Some have work and families to take care of and managing other relationships falls on the wayside.
It is therefore important that we commit to reaching out to at least one person in our circle per week and not waiting to play that ping pong game of who reached out when.
Nurture the relationships you have by having regular phone calls and when possible meeting in person.
When you regularly engage in these interactions, you will have better, deeper, and more fulfilling relationships with the people you already have in your life.
And it is this sense of connection that gives you a greater sense of belonging and combats loneliness.
Practice a hobby
Hobbies are fun and can be so engrossing and fulfilling. In fact, hobbies are amazing at keeping feelings of anxiety and depression at bay. In addition, hobbies are also a great way to combat loneliness.
I have found this to be true for me. I used to be lonely a lot but then I found blogging and I have not had a moment of loneliness ever since. Yes, occasionally I miss being with friends but I am never lonely.
There is always something quite engaging I am doing for the blog that I am fully engaged and fulfilled.
Look for something you love to do and start doing it more. Of course, we mean only healthy things.
When you have a hobby you love, you might find that it leads to new fun relationships as well. If you need ideas for fun hobbies to try, here are 14 relaxing hobbies you can start.
You may also join groups and clubs related to your hobby and meet new people that way. So give a hobby a try as a way to combat loneliness.
Get a pet
One amazing thing about having a pet is that a pet such as a dog loves you unconditionally.
I am not sure about cats. Some do I am sure. A pet while it won’t talk to you, it does offer comfort. Some dogs are pretty entertaining too.
Plus when you have a dog, it can also help you meet people as it is a great icebreaker.
People feel comfortable stopping to pet a dog and a conversation can easily start from there.
Go to the dog park and meet other dog lovers. You may even find more people to connect with and even form friendships that way. So a pet especially a dog is a great way to combat loneliness.
Practice self-care and self-love
It is necessary to radically practice self-love at all times but especially when we start to feel lonely.
Self-care and self-love go hand in hand and help you strengthen your sense of self.
This doesn’t mean you won’t need society and social connections, but it roots you deeply in your sense of self so that loneliness won’t be overwhelming when it does happen.
When you take care of your self you also revamp your self-esteem and confidence.
And the great thing about that is when you feel more confident to go out and engage with society.
You may decide to go out dancing since you feel so good or join online social groups with like-minded individuals, or if looking for romantic relationships, you are more confident to put yourself out there.
So practice self-care and self-love. Eat good nutritious food, sleep enough, and exercise.
Pamper yourself and feel good about who you are first. And when you are so in tune with yourself and sending yourself positive messages, you will start finding that it is easy to find connections and engage with others.
Join a group
One great way to stave off loneliness is joining a group such as a club or enrolling in a class.
This will help you meet new people and the great thing is you will already have a point of connection in your shared hobby or interest.
So try a book club if you like reading, or enroll in a dance club and connect with other dance lovers.
There are so many other groups and classes you can try depending on your interests including knitting and crotchet groups and many more.
Avoid social media
Ah, social media. For many, it is a love-hate relationship. The irony with social media is that it is supposed to keep us connected. But oftentimes the opposite is true.
We end up feeling a sense of disconnection, and FOMO which heightens the feeling of loneliness.
When you are feeling lonely social media can make your loneliness worse as you see friends highlight reels when you are feeling down and in the dumps.
You may feel even more left out, and feel your life is not as fun as theirs or at all. You start thinking you are not fun, or good enough, and go on a downward spill of negativity. Instead of scrolling Facebook and Instagram, call a friend or family.
Or simply do something else you love. While you are engaged in an activity you enjoy your loneliness will dissipate. You will feel more alive and happy.
Loneliness is an awful feeling of disconnection that can cause a lot of unhappiness. And if you are feeling lonely, it is important to start doing the work of self-knowledge, self-improvement, and actively engage in society. Try these tips to combat loneliness as outlined above so you can live a happy connected and fulfilling life.
And now, over to you!
Have you ever experienced loneliness? How did you cope with it? I would love to know what helps you when you feel lonely.