Feeling lonely is one of life’s more unpleasant experiences. Like most other mammals, we find being part of a pair or a pack a way that our bodies and emotions regulate themselves. When we don’t have access to others for one reason or another, we are more prone to physical distress and emotional moodiness.
This is true even for those of us who consider ourselves introverts. Sure, introverts need time by themselves to recharge. But when there is too much alone time, even the shyest among us can find himself or herself missing human contact.
Loneliness can result from any number of things: social anxiety, overwork, the disruption of relationship patterns that had previously kept us engaged with others. Sometimes there is a sudden event that causes the shift, but often loneliness increases over time. Friends move away and we don’t make new ones. Social occasions end and aren’t replaced with something new and engaging. Our lives become smaller.
Taking steps to fight loneliness helps to safeguard our mental and physical well-being. Here are things you can do:
Remember this won’t last forever. We make things worse when we lose perspective and imagine that the way we are feeling right now is the way we will always feel. This is true even if you’re feeling really miserable right now. You can take action to make your life better.
Try something new. Get out of the house. Change your routine. Join a club or organization. Call a friend. If you want different results, you’ve got to try doing new things.
Whatever you’re trying, try it more than once. Too many people try an activity one time or check out a group once and then decide it isn’t for them. I strongly recommend trying things at least 2 or 3 times before giving up on them. Maybe there was no one to connect with the one time you went to that new crowd, but what if someone interesting shows up the very next week? If you don’t go back, you’ll miss them.
Keep your commitments. You want to do something with a friend, but when the time comes to do it, you just don’t “feel like it.” You’re tempted to cancel. But you know what? Your feeling down, and those feelings aren’t to be trusted. You’re looking at the world through lonely-colored glasses, and you’re about to miss something potentially fun or meaningful. Sometimes you need to act differently than you feel. This is one of those times. If you make plans, follow through.
Do something for someone else. When we’re lonely we can become overly-focused on our own selves. Doing something for others – volunteer work, helping a friend out – is a great way to disrupt your isolation and put things in perspective.
Keep busy. Sitting at home doing nothing is not going to make you happy if you’re lonely. If you’re at home, do something. If there’s nothing to do at home, try something new and get out of the house!
Challenge negative self-talk. Being lonely doesn’t make you a loser. We talk to ourselves all the time, and much of that talk isn’t helpful. Remind yourself of all the reasons why you would make a great friend and the fun you’ve had at other times when being out with others.
It can be tough fighting the lonelies by yourself. If you’re trying these guidelines and nothing seems to help, consider psychotherapy as a way of getting your life on track.