The hard truth is: there’s more loneliness in the world than ever before.
More and more people are struggling with loneliness that experts have dubbed this health concern a modern-day epidemic.
You see, the thing with loneliness is it’s such a twisted kind of feeling. It happens to all of us, but each of us experiences it differently.
You’ll never know when it hits you. And when it does, it’s not always easy to spot the signs.
One thing is clear: we need to recognize that being alone and being lonely are two different things.
And people can of course still feel lonely when they’re surrounded by friends and family.
If you’re getting confused about whether or not you feel lonely even when you’re in familiar social settings, no need to fret.
In this article, we’ll explore ways to tell if you’re lonely in life, even when you have a lot of people to turn to.
I’ll also let you in on some practical solutions to help you feel a little less lonely.
Let’s jump in!
1) You feel distant from friends
Have you noticed how you have a lot of friends who are just a call away but you can’t find it in you to reach out to them?
Do you always feel like withdrawing from others — even from your friends — because it’s easier than trying to interact with them?
Or maybe even when you’re with friends, you often feel disengaged.
If you always find that you are not “in tune” with others, it’s a sign that loneliness is becoming a larger problem.
2) You find it hard to connect with other people on a deeper level
Here’s the deal: it doesn’t matter if you have a thousand friends online and offline.
- Do I feel genuinely connected with my friends?
- Do I find satisfaction, fulfillment, and meaning in my friendships?
- Do I talk about my dreams, goals, and ideals when I’m with my friends?
If you answered no to these questions, it’s a sign that you feel disconnected.
The thing is, even when you’re around a lot of people, you will still feel lonely if you don’t feel an authentic connection with them.
Worse, you may end up having a ton of “surface-level” friends.
If this is you, don’t worry. You’re not alone.
It turns out, many of us have actually forgotten what it’s like to make friends.
In a July 2022 survey, 59% of US adults said they found it harder to form relationships following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Their biggest source of anxiety? Not knowing what to say or how to interact.
3) You find it hard to be yourself around other people
This one can be tricky. That’s because it’s very hard to admit you’re lonely, especially to yourself.
You see, there’s a social stigma to loneliness. And this can lead to very serious consequences that affect your self-worth.
Let’s dig a little deeper:
Do you often find yourself wanting to live up to the expectations of your friends?
Do you feel the need to put up a mask and hide your real self for fear of being judged?
Do you pretend to be someone you’re not because you feel that you’re unworthy and less than enough?
Think about that for a minute.
You may be friends with a lot of people, but do they really see and know the real you?
It’s difficult — and even impossible — to form meaningful connections if you can’t be yourself around other people.
It gets worse: you’ll feel lonely even when you’re with friends if you keep believing that they will not like your authentic self.
4) You don’t trust anyone
This goes back to signs #2 and #3.
By now, you probably understand how feelings of self-doubt and self-worth can keep you from building trust in friendships.
In other words: you’re afraid to be vulnerable.
You’re not willing to open yourself up — to show parts of yourself you don’t think are attractive enough.
You never talk about your fears, insecurities, and failures.
When this happens, you’re putting up an emotional barrier between you and other people.
As a result, every social interaction remains shallow and fake.
Your need for genuine connections isn’t fully met, and you end up feeling lonely.
5) You have unhealthy coping habits
Picture this: You’re with your friends and you’re all seated at a dinner table.
You’re trying to engage and be social but it leaves you feeling tired.
So you give in to the urge to check your phone constantly.
The next thing you know, you’ve checked out of the present moment.
Instead of interacting with your friends, you’re glued to your screen — watching people’s lives go by on social feeds.
Worst of all, you’re wondering: why can’t my life be like that?
Ok, I know what you’re thinking: Isn’t social media supposed to be connecting us with others?
Well, there is plenty of research that suggests the contrary.
Studies find that social media usage — particularly seeing other people’s happiness online and comparing it to our own lives — can make us lonely.
Small ways to deal with loneliness
There is no one-size-fits-all solution to fighting loneliness. But there are simple, practical steps you can take to start feeling better.
Let’s explore some of them:
Admit that you’re lonely (and don’t be ashamed of it)
To manage loneliness, you must first acknowledge that you’re lonely.
This may be hard at first but with time and practice, you’ll be able to look deep within and understand your feelings.
Keep in mind that you’re not alone, and don’t beat yourself up for being lonely.
Whenever you’re feeling lonely, don’t think twice about validating your emotion.
Talk to yourself as if you’re talking to a friend and say: “It’s okay to feel lonely. Everyone feels this way at one point or another. I can get through this.”
Once you accept your truth, you can start to explore what your loneliness means to you.
What does that mean?
It means that after identifying your loneliness, you can start to think about why and how you feel this way.
You get a step closer to resolving your issues.
Ask for help
Think about this: millions of people are facing this problem every day. Many of them are having a hard time dealing with it because they aren’t sure what’s happening.
Wouldn’t it be nice to break this cycle of loneliness — and the stigma surrounding it — by showing others that it’s okay to get professional help?
I know this is easier said than done.
But a growing body of evidence suggests that therapy is an effective way to manage loneliness because it helps people change thought patterns and beliefs surrounding the emotion.
Don’t be afraid to reach out.
Talking to a professional will help you view loneliness from a different perspective.
Little by little, you’ll learn to look at situations in your life that might be causing you to be lonely.
Reconnect with friends
It’s never too late to forge deeper bonds with your friends.
But here’s the kicker: quality is so much more important than quantity — especially when it comes to all your relationships.
You see, the key is to focus on building a strong “inner circle.”
It doesn’t have to include all your friends. You can start by choosing one or two people with whom you want to share an intimate, meaningful relationship.
We’re not through yet: you’ve got to understand that like any relationship, friendships take effort and work.
But it’s not so much about grand gestures. Even the simplest gesture can go a long way if it’s done with purpose.
You may be wondering: how does that work?
Be more intentional about your friendships by setting time to just be together.
It can be as simple as walking with each other and talking about anything under the sun or having a nice conversation over coffee.
You can also try to establish shared goals with your friends. This can include learning new skills, traveling now and then, boosting your fitness through exercise, and more.
And when you feel like you’ve already built a strong foundation with a friend, you can start to talk to that person about how you really feel.
It gets better: you’ll be able to give your genuine self — the good, the bad, and everything in between — to that person.
In other words, you’ll have a friendship where both parties understand each other well and care for each other deeply.
Don’t spend too much time on social media if it’s making you feel worse
Picture this: when you’re scrolling through other people’s social feeds, do you…
- feel that you’re not good enough
- feel that you don’t have enough
- feel that you’re not doing enough
The thing is, the more you spend time on social feeds, the more you compare yourself to others and have negative thought patterns about it.
When this happens, try to take a break from social media to destress and focus on yourself.
Better yet, invest more time in your real-world relationships.
You’ll never know how the power of a smile or a simple hello can light up another person’s life and build strong connections that might otherwise never exist.
So the next time the loneliness creeps in, know that you don’t have to go through it on your own.
I hope this article inspires you to take action sooner rather than later. Start with the little things you can do to feel more connected to the people around you. I’m rooting for you!