Loneliness is a powerful emotion that can bring out the worst in us.
But all is not lost.
Like any other battles you’ve encountered in your life, there’s no reason why you can’t win against this one.
So if you’re telling yourself “I’m lonely” and you’re looking for a way overcome those feelings, check out the below 17 things you can do.
17 Ways to Overcome Feelings of Loneliness
1) Remember that loneliness is not equal to being alone
Loneliness can become paralyzing. It can make you doubt who you are as a person and question your existing relationships with people.
In reality, loneliness isn’t something that comes as a response to stimuli. Unlike happiness, excitement, and anger, loneliness and feeling lost often appear as collateral damage: having a bad memory, seeing an old friend, remembering a lost loved one.
These things can trigger loneliness causing you to say “I’m lonely” and make it feel like the biggest, most immediate thing in the world.
But like other feelings, loneliness isn’t necessarily a life-changer. There are many ways to combat loneliness, and the very first step is to remind yourself that this, too, can change. Just because you’re lonely doesn’t mean you are alone in the world.
2) Actively try to reach out and socialize
Loneliness can easily evolve into self-hatred. When you’re feeling lonely, you inevitably begin questioning the people around you. Do my friends even like me? Do I really fit in?
These moments of self-doubt can easily spiral into anxiety and insecurity, which only makes you want to hide from the world.
To prevent this, provide avenues for self-assurance through friendly interactions. Remind yourself that people do like you and appreciate who you are.
3) Strive to fight self-deprecating habits
Aside from rekindling old relationships, it’s important that you catch yourself in moments of self-doubt. Loneliness creates a kind of negative self-assurance that makes our brains see the worst in everything. Oh, my friend missed my message; he must hate me now.
These impulses must be monitored and controlled to prevent the loneliness from creeping into resentment and anger towards good friends and family.
Strive to engage in healthy interactions with loved ones. Or go to a cafe and strike a conversation with your friendly barista. Invite your friends for dinner. Visit your family for a weekend. Engaging in productive, healthy activities can help remind you of the good things in life.
4) Support others around you
We become so entrenched in our own misery that we forget about others. Loneliness can create a feeling of confinement that alienates us from the rest of the world.
Feelings of isolation and alienation are not uncommon, both of which can be detrimental not only to the self but the relationships we have cultivated.
Loneliness can often be described as isolated misery. Hearing other people’s stories changes this. By putting our focus on other people’s feelings, we realize that our problems are not uncommon. We often say to ourselves “I’m lonely” because we believe that we are alone in our problems. An intimate conversation with someone you care about will prove otherwise.
5) Join a group
Moving away from loneliness means moving away from negativity. And if your circle of friends is contributing that, there’s no shame in looking for support elsewhere.
Instead of swiping right and left on random strangers, take interest in a group that has the same hobbies as you.
Yoga, crafting, and reading groups are among the most meditative communities you can join. With the common interest already plainly laid out, it becomes easier for you to interact with people and possibly find new friends.
For this to happen, you actually have to participate. Show up to the weekly meetings. Engage in conversation during dinner. It’s not enough that you’re in it; you have to make sure you’re actually there with them.
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6) Have realistic expectations
When we meet with friends or join new groups, establishing realistic expectations is a healthy way to keep yourself guarded.
Hanging out with new friends is exciting, but it’s not realistic for everyone to pour their hearts to you (and vice versa) after just a couple of meetings.
Loneliness can often trick our brains into antagonizing other people. A preoccupied friend becomes self-centered.
An unavailable loved one becomes unsupportive. It’s important that we remind ourselves that these interactions, though designed to help you escape loneliness, shouldn’t be an avenue for self-pity.
7) Don’t blame yourself
Blaming yourself won’t help you. In fact, it will only make you feel worse.
And there’s nothing to blame yourself for. People get lonely for a whole host of different scenarios, circumstances, and conditions that come together at once.
There’s no point looking at other people and asking yourself why you can’t be like them, either.
Life is so complicated and different for everyone. We’re all individual beings, and every single person goes through rough patches at different times in their life.
(To learn how to practice self-love, check out our guide on how to love yourself here)
8) Do something creative, no matter how simple
I’m not talking about something earth-shatteringly creative. Try some simple writing exercises. Color a book. Dance. Or experiment with knitting. It can be any hobby or project.
Getting your mind off loneliness and focused on a task can help you. These kinds of exercises are also a great way to express yourself and release some pent up energy.
9) Accept your emotions
There’s no point resisting how you’re feeling: that only makes things worse. A better strategy is to accept how you’re feeling.
In fact, according to research, the habit of emotional avoidance is the cause of a whole host of problems like depression and anxiety.
It appears that by avoiding your emotions, you experience a short-term gain for long-term pain.
The truth is, negative emotions are just a part of being a human being. By accepting who you are, and what you’re experiencing, you don’t have to waste energy avoiding anything.
You can accept the emotion and then move on with your actions.
“Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.”
― Lao Tzu
I know, exercise probably isn’t what you had in mind, but there really is a lot of benefits to it: not only for your health but for your mind as well.
“Exercise is a powerful depression fighter for several reasons. Most importantly, it promotes all kinds of changes in the brain, including neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being. It also releases endorphins, powerful chemicals in your brain that energize your spirits and make you feel good.”
11) Nurture yourself
Take this loneliness as call to action for self-exploration. Instead of wallowing in sadness and grief, try revelling in your isolation. Read a good book. Bake something you’ve never tried before. Go on a solo trip. There’s no doubt you can be happy alone.
Loneliness isn’t always a bad thing. Sometimes it’s just the spirit’s way of trying to escape the everyday mundanity of things or the toxic relationships around us.
Instead of turning away from loneliness, consider the possibility that the solution may not be to escape the self, but to go deeper within.
12) Bring it back to the basics
Rather than focus on the things you aren’t good at or can’t do, try turning your focus to the things you do well in life.
If you love to paint or draw, spend some time doing those things.
Even if it feels like you don’t have time to indulge in a hobby right now, make time for something that will soothe your brain and let you feel good about yourself.
13) Go find yourself in an unexpected place
If you tend to hang around the house and that’s not helping you feel better, it might be time to take the show on the road.
A lot of people swear by the life-changing power of an adventure, road trip, unplanned holiday: whatever it is you decide to do, go with the goal of exploring who you are and who you have been.
Give yourself time and space to figure things out without the pressure of everyday life.
(To learn more about who you truly are, check out our guide to finding your true self here)
14) Let yourself dream big
One of the fastest ways to burst your own bubble and spiral into a sad sack of nothing is to tell yourself your dreams are too big.
If you have an idea, run with it. Don’t spend any time trying to convince yourself of all the reasons you shouldn’t do something.
Try giving yourself permission to try something new or do something different and see where it takes you.
15) Get out of your comfort zone a little at a time
A lot of people try to make drastic changes in their lives when they are feeling at a loss, but rather than go all in on something when you are feeling vulnerable, try taking steps a little at a time that help you regain your confidence in yourself and then you can expand beyond what you know when you are more ready.
Be careful not to let all of this be an excuse for not taking any action, but recognize that you don’t have to throw yourself into traffic to feel better. There’s a smarter way to ease yourself back into life.
16) Write down your thoughts
Spend some time thinking quietly about your life and reflect a great deal on where you’ve come from. Remind yourself that you have overcome much worse times in your life, or if this is the first time you find yourself feeling lost, rest assured that you’ll learn a lot about how you can handle similar situations in the future.
Take time to write down what you are thinking and explore those thoughts in a non-judgemental way.
Imagine you are reading your friend’s journal: you wouldn’t judge them, you’d try to help them.
17) And finally, don’t be afraid to ask for help
There’s no shame in saying that you need help. If you feel like you can’t get out of a funk on your own, seek out people who can help you see the light.
These may be friends or family members or professionals who are trained to help you recognize the good in your life.
Whatever route you take, remember that these situations are rarely permanent and that you do have the ability to overcome them with a little compassion and patience.
(To learn more self-help techniques to live in the moment and improve your life, check out our eBook on the art of mindfulness here)
7 Signs You’re Lonely
If you’re still wondering whether you are in fact lonely, use these 7 points as a guide to assess whether you are really lonely:
1) You have symptoms of depression
No, depression isn’t the same as loneliness. However, they can intertwine, with one being the cause of the other.
People who are depressed feel worthless, hopeless and tend to lose interest in daily activities.
This may also coincide with sleep changes (sleeping too little or too much) and a lack of energy.
Furthermore, depression can also cause physical symptoms such as unexplained aches and pains and appetite or weight changes.
For a full list, check out this article from Help Guide. They also have a quiz you can take that assesses whether you’re suffering from depression.
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2) Your friends are lonely
Surprisingly, loneliness could be contagious. According to research, when one person feels lonely, the negative emotion can spread to others, increasing everybody’s risk for feelings of loneliness.
So while we associate loneliness with being alone, this isn’t always the case.
3) You’re tempted to self medicate
According to Psych Central, having a crippling reliance on substances can stem from feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety.
This is because people search for something to ease the pain or lighten the burden.
Self-medicating is a method to handle those feelings. Unfortunately, this often leads to more isolation and negative feelings in the long run.
4) You’re binge-watching
A study from the University of Texas found that there’s a correlation between feeling lonely and a tendency to binge-watch television series.
Similar to self-medicating, this is used to distract people from their loneliness or depression.
5) You tend to take long hot showers and baths
This is a surprising one. Studies in 2014 found that people who were lonely were more likely to take long, hot showers, which made them feel better.
Why? Because apparently we equate social feeling with literal warmth.
6) Your immune system is down
Physical isolation and loneliness have been linked to immune system problems.
According to UCLA, the immune system shifts in lonelier people, focusing on bacteria rather than viruses. This leads to lonely people getting sick easier and more often.
7) You’re shopping a lot
A study found that lonely people often accumulate possessions and focus on material things to make them feel better.
Shopping is used as an attempt to find that one missing slice of happiness.
So if you think that you might be suffering from loneliness, here are 17 ways to overcome it.
(If you’re looking for a structured, easy-to-follow framework to help you find your purpose in life and achieve your goals, check our eBook on how to be your own life coach here).