Coping With Loneliness

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You might arrive at the obvious solution first: You just need to get out more often and make more friends.

True, these steps certainly help increase your chances for meaningful connections. But remember: Being alone doesn’t have to result in loneliness. 

To address loneliness effectively, you’ll typically need to dig a little deeper to uncover the underlying causes. Doing so can guide you toward a deeper understanding of what’s missing in your relationships, allowing you to build more fulfilling connections.

Examine your existing relationships

It really is possible to feel lonely in a crowd. If you already have plenty of people in your life and still feel lonely, you might want to consider the quality of those interactions. 

What does the time you spend with others look like? If you simply exist together without really connecting, your interactions probably won’t fulfill your social needs. 

Instead of simply sitting in the same room watching TV or looking at your phones, try creating a more meaningful connection:

  • Start a conversation about current events or other topics important to you.
  • Call or visit loved ones instead of sending a quick text. 
  • Participate in activities that allow you to learn more about each other. Take up a sport, get out in nature, or work on a project together. 
  • Practice random kindnesses. Leave flowers at a loved one’s door, take out your neighbor’s trash, or cook dinner for a friend who had a bad day. 

Do things you enjoy

Spending your time on unfulfilling activities can contribute to unhappiness and boredom. These feelings may not directly cause loneliness, but they can certainly contribute to dissatisfaction with life, which can affect how you feel about spending time with others. 

Think of devoting your free time to things you really enjoy doing as a form of self-respect. 

Hobbies are an important aspect of self-care that help improve your outlook and give you more energy for meaningful connections. Your hobbies can also put you in touch with other people who enjoy similar activities, opening the door to more satisfying relationships. 

Show yourself compassion and kindness

You might have some flaws, and you might make mistakes. But so does every other person on the planet. Yes, even that one person who seems to always have it together.

Reminding yourself of these facts can often help you treat yourself with kindness instead of disgust. Replacing self-criticism with positive self-talk can help you believe you deserve love and friendship and make it more likely you’ll actively seek these things out. 

If you struggle with self-compassion, try imagining what you might say to a friend who’s judging themselves harshly. You’d probably remind them of their strengths and positive qualities, right? 

Try affirming yourself in the same way to boost feelings of worthiness and positive self-regard — a stronger sense of self-worth can pave the way toward more meaningful relationships. 

Work on emotional regulation

It’s totally normal to experience self-disgust, hopelessness, and other negative feelings from time to time. But how you deal with those feelings can make all the difference. 

The researchers who explored the association between loneliness and depression suggest that reframing or suppressing (pushing away) unwanted thoughts can help reduce their impactTrusted Source and prevent the negative thought cycles that often trigger feelings of depression. 

So, when a friend doesn’t pick up the phone, try reframing, “They don’t want to talk to me” to, “They’re probably busy, so I’ll try again later.” 

If no one seems available, you might start to feel a little unwanted. But instead of letting these thoughts take over, try distracting yourself by thinking about something else or spending time on something that makes you happy. 

Mindful acceptance can also help you get more comfortable with distressing thoughts. Mindfulness helps you learn to accept these thoughts and then let them go before they affect your perception of yourself. 

When (and how) to reach out

Although depression may pose a more immediate cause for concern, loneliness can also have a serious health impact. Both issues increase risk not only for physical and mental health concerns but also thoughts of suicideTrusted Source

It’s always wise to seek professional support if symptoms: 

  • don’t improve after a week or two
  • persist even when you try to manage them alone
  • affect your ability to function or take care of daily tasks
  • cause problems in your relationships
  • leave you feeling hopeless or worthless 

Therapy offers a safe space to get to the bottom of your symptoms, identify potential causes, and get some guidance and support on treatment and productive coping strategies, such as emotion regulation. 

The bottom line

It’s normal to feel a little low when you lack social connection. But working to improve the quality of your relationships can help prevent future loneliness and distress while also offering some protection against depression.

No matter what you’re dealing with, you don’t have to handle it alone. Talking to loved ones about how you feel can be a great start.

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