10 things to do when you feel lonely



Loneliness is an ordinary human experience that we all have to deal with from time to time.

A recent survey of 10,000 American adults found that 61% could be classified as “lonely” based on the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA)'s loneliness scale, which measures how often they feel disconnected from others.

 Loneliness is a state of mind that has little to do with being alone but with feeling alone. That's why people may feel lonely at work, at school or even in their friendship or romantic relationship.  It's not about the number of people in our lives, but the depth of those emotional connections. 

 If we are in a room full of family and friends, but no one knows the true thoughts and feelings we have, we are likely to feel lonely.  If only one person knows our true thoughts and feelings at the right time, we will feel much less lonely.

 And while many people feel lonely at times, there is a kind of persistent loneliness that is increasing.

Loneliness is called "a growing epidemic," partly because modern technology and social media have replaced some interactions of face to face.  Loneliness is linked to an increased risk of depression, anxiety, cardiovascular disease, dementia, and shortened life expectancy.

Loneliness might be accompanied by a feeling of heaviness and despair, which turns into shame.

 Here are 10 tips from mental health professionals about what to do when feeling overwhelmed by loneliness.

1. Try to stop judging yourself because you feel lonely

Loneliness in itself can be painful, but that discomfort only increases when we criticize ourselves for feeling lonely.

Most of the suffering we experience when we feel lonely is a product of the shame and anxiety we create through our self-judgment and self-denial.  We assume we fail or suffer because we feel lonely and we are alone because we are not loved.

 Instead, practice self-compassion.  Tell yourself: It's okay if you feel lonely;  you are a human being, like everyone else, yearning to be connected in our disconnected world.

10 things to do when you feel lonely

Try to stop judging yourself because you feel lonely / ph: pexels

2. Understand that loneliness is common and that what you are feeling won't last forever

Remember that this feeling is passing, not a sign of the pathology and that there are millions of other" lonely people" out there who are experiencing it just as you are right now.

3. Connecting with people

 You can call a family member, plan a coffee out with a friend you haven't seen for a while, or even write about your experience with loneliness in an online forum.  

 While the shame will try to convince you that you are not liked and that no one wants to hear you say, remind yourself that it is lying and you will probably feel better if you connect with everyone.

You can go for a walk outside if you're near nature or a park, or spending time with animals can also be comforting.

4. Reduce the time you spend on your phone

 If you've been surfing Instagram frequently lately, prioritize spending time with more face-to-face interactions.

Hours of use of social media tends to make people lonely when they compare themselves to the bright photos that others selectively post.  However, you can turn this to your advantage if you invite someone to lunch or meet in some way, because research shows that using social media in this way makes people less lonely.

5. Doing something creative

 Pursuing art can be very gentle when you're alone. Reading an interesting poem, knitting a pretty scarf or expressing your feelings through painting or sculpture are all the ways you can turn your suffering into something beautiful.

6. Thinking of someone who truly loves you

 Choosing someone in your life who is dedicated to taking care of you and then ask yourself a few questions like: "How do I know this person loves me?";  "How they present it?" ; What times are they actually with for me?"

Remember that this deserving and receiving of love reflects not only the kindness of others, but also your own.

7. Seeking a little novelty by connecting with a stranger

Even small acts of kindness, like smiling at a friendly person you pass by on the street or keeping the door open to someone, will make you feel closer to those around you.

When you let someone overtake you on the highway, imagine what they are feeling.  Speaking nicely with the cashier at the grocery store.  

By doing small actions, you are responding to their need for kindness or a help to open their hearts a little, the same way you opened your heart. 

8. Signing up for a class or group activity

 Planting new connections by signing up for a class or group that meets regularly.  It could be anything that piqued your interest: a volunteer organization, a professional association, a cooking class or a book club.

When you join a class or activity, you get the experience of that event.  Briefly sharing your experience (like liking something specific or having a specific curiosity) with others there allows them to get to know you little by little.

9. Thinking about what loneliness can tell you

 Instead of pushing it away, be quiet and sit back with your loneliness, even if it's annoying.

Taking note of discomfort and how it affects your emotions, thoughts and even the stress in your body.  After a few minutes, you can begin to have a clear understanding of the specific actions you want to perform - an action plan that comes from a calm mind and is more likely to be more effective than a stressful action.  

10. When to need help?

 Again, experiencing loneliness is a very common feeling and that doesn't mean there's something "wrong, wrong" with you.  However, if your loneliness is persistent and / or paralyzing, it may be time to take action and get help.

Loneliness is not a state that we have to go through endlessly. When this typical experience of loneliness lasts, it increases the risk of facing many health problems and it can lead to depression.

Instead of isolating yourself further, open up to others or a mental health professional that can help you foster more community connections in your life.

If you find yourself constantly suffering from feelings of loneliness, that is probably a sign you need to seek help with friends, family, spiritual counselor or a mental health support system to be able to feel better.

10 things to do when you feel lonely

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