It’s so normal to talk about happiness: the things that make us happy, how we can increase our happiness and how happy we are feeling at the moment. It’s a little more taboo to talk about loneliness. Although it’s a common human emotion that we all feel to various degrees from time to time, it’s harder to talk about it with others. It can even be hard to admit that we are experiencing it to ourselves.
During the past 6 months that we’ve all been dealing with the pandemic, we’ve been experiencing more isolation, distance and fewer social connections than ever before. It is only natural that the feelings of loneliness could be even more intense for some.
What can you do about loneliness? Is it normal to feel lonely? What strategies can you use to fight against it? These are questions that we will all ask ourselves at different times throughout our lives. But before we dive into how to fight loneliness, let’s consider the difference between being lonely and being alone.
Loneliness and Aloneness
There are some misconceptions about the difference between being lonely and being alone. Loneliness is characterized by a feeling of disconnection or of feeling unseen or unheard. It can also refer to a lack of deeper, more meaningful connections with other people. Very often, people who have tons of “friends” experience feelings of loneliness. Why? They lack the deep connection in these relationships. Maybe the friendships are superficial or based on something meaningless or destructive, like drinking or partying.
Being alone, on the other hand, does not signify a lack of connection or meaningful relationships. In fact, for many people, being alone and doing things alone is restful and restorative. Many people require time alone to recover from stressful jobs or to spark creativity. Seeing someone eating a meal alone does not always mean that the person has no one to eat with. They could prefer the time to themselves!
Who feels lonely?
It can be tempting to see images on social media or walk by a busy restaurant and think that the people you see aren’t dealing with loneliness. The reality is that we will all feel lonely at some points in our lives – for some, the feeling lingers longer than others. Even those surrounded by other people, who seem to “have it all,” could be feeling a deep sense of loneliness right at that moment.
It is a serious issue. Studies have found that human connection is one of the keys to happiness for people all across the world. With the pandemic and social media, however, more and more people are feeling disconnection and loneliness. The bright side to all of this is that there are steps you can take to feel less lonely. Consistently employing the habits and strategies suggested below can help you fight lonely feelings and increase your feelings of connection.
5 Strategies for Fighting Loneliness
Establish new opportunities for connection. Be sure to give yourself opportunities to meet new people and create new connections. Join groups, attend work functions, take classes or take walks outside.
Strengthen your current connections. Think about the people who are currently in your life, even if just tangentially. Consider nurturing some of those relationships with positive people and those with shared interests.
Nurture and care for someone (or something) else. When we help other people, we are really helping ourselves. Volunteer at a senior center, walk a neighbor’s dog or become a coach. If you don’t have a pet, consider adopting an animal in need.
Stay open and positive even when feeling low. Resist the urge to fall into a funk, even when you are at your lowest. Loneliness can make you want to hide at home and keep to yourself. Instead, make a concerted effort to keep positive, open and optimistic.
Take stock of your current situation. Be proactive about combating your loneliness by taking a good look at your life. Is there anything that is missing? Is it something other than a lack of friends or significant other that is making you feel lonely? If you can pinpoint what’s really missing, you can begin to take steps to fill in the gaps.
We’ve all experienced periods of loneliness. How have you overcome those feelings? What strategies worked for you? Which ones didn’t work?