What to Do When You Feel Lonely

We human beings seem to be hard wired to desire some level of social connection with others. However, many people find themselves experiencing feelings of loneliness and even depression.
Loneliness can be caused by a range of factors including genetic, social, emotional and environmental conditions. You may be naturally introverted and find it difficult to make new social connections. For others its comes from past experiences that leave us in self-imposed isolation. No matter why we feel lonely, it’s possible to take simple steps to overcome loneliness. There is no one silver bullets to instantly solve the issue of loneliness. However, it’s possible to take a range of steps to steadily reduce feelings of loneliness. Here are six simple steps you can take today.
what to do when you feel lonely

What to Do When You Feel Lonely – Step 1 – Why?

The first step to solve any challenge in life is firstly to understand it and even accept it. Once we know what is making us feel lonely, we can begin to explore those ideas that may help us make positive change. How we react to our situations does come down to choice. We have three possible choices to any situation in life. Firstly, we can dwell on our feelings and let them overwhelm us. Secondly we can accept our state of loneliness and try to ignore it’s impact. Finally, we can choose to explore ways to overcome loneliness.

Let’s look at each of these options in more detail. You may be one of those people who find social contact challenging. The steps that follow may give you a range of ideas you can try to reduce and manage loneliness. However, you may be the type of person who prefers to be on their own but may still feel lonely. It is possible to learn to manage your feelings and emotions without trying to become a social butterfly. The following steps will help you no matter what your preference. I have left the second option till last. We all can choose to ignore our current feelings of loneliness. This is not a recommended option as long term loneliness can take it’s toll on your health and well-being.  If you are willing to explore some ideas of how to manage or overcome your loneliness, please read on.

what to do when you feel lonely

What to Do When You Feel Lonely – Step 2 – Know Thyself

As outlined in step one, loneliness is not a who we are but linked to feelings and emotions. Behind all emotions are our trail of thoughts about our life experience. These thoughts begin to impact how we behave over time. If we’ve experienced hurt in the past we can subconsciously choose social isolation in place of social activity. We often create this social isolation as an expression of self preservation and safety. Unfortunately, this can lead to feelings of loneliness.

That’s why self-awareness is such a powerful attribute to develop. With a small amount of self reflection you may soon begin to understand more about your loneliness.  Self-awareness is about exploring the question like why you are feeling lonely. Also, what is the history that has led to this current state of feeling lonely. With a little reflection you will find that one or more of the key factors of loneliness are at play- genetic, social, emotional and environmental.

if you find you have a genetic disposition to be on your own you may need to explore ways to manage your emotions and feelings. Also, learning to manage your emotions may be key if you have experienced previous hurt that limits your social contact. With both social and environmental factors limiting our social contact, the following steps may give you ideas to change this.

what to do when you feel lonely

What to Do When You Feel Lonely – Step 3 – Attention

The more we focus on our feelings of loneliness, the sadder we can become. When our mind is allowed to dwell on negative thoughts and feelings it is easy to feel overwhelmed. In this state we it’s easy to become easily upset by past hurts and worried about an uncertain future. The key solution here is to learn how to shift your attention so you don’t spend time dwelling on negative emotions.

One of the most powerful ways to shift your focus is to use mindfulness exercises and mindful activities to limit the time you spend dwelling on the past and worrying about the future.This can be as simple as adding new mindful activities into your daily routine. These include reading, writing in a journal, puzzles, goal setting, brain storming and any activity where you use your hands to make something like crafts, textiles, painting, ceramics, sculpture or even D.I.Y.

By adding a range of mindful activities into your life, you effortlessly shift your focus away from dwelling on negative feelings, past hurts and worry about the future.

what to do when you feel lonely

What to Do When You Feel Lonely – Step 4 – Break Out

Our mind makes builds all our beliefs based on previous experience. As humans we prefer situations that we perceive as pleasurable rather than painful. It’s very easy to isolate ourselves from the outside world and increase our feelings on loneliness. Despite these feelings of loneliness, this isolation can create a comfort zone that our mind perceives as potentially more pleasurable that dealing with the outside world.

The comfort zone may feel as though it keeps us safe from perceived pain, but in turn can leave us feeling unfulfilled and lonely. The key here is to break out of the comfort zone. In step three I introduced to the idea of engaging your brain with mindful activities. Often, these activities can also be a great source of sharing our passion with others. Once you find a craft or other activity you really enjoy, try finding a local club or special interest group. Not only does this help you develop a real passion but can help you develop strong relationships to overcome loneliness.

You may find an activity that you would like to try but you don’t have the skills. Again, finding a group or class that teaches this skill can help you to develop new engaging activities and develop new social opportunities.

what to do when you feel lonely

What to Do When You Feel Lonely – Step 5 – Connect

Throughout life we may loose contact with people and so key relationships fall away. As outlined in previous steps, the most important aspect to overcoming loneliness is direct physical contact with others.  That’s why it’s important to find ways we can stay in contact to maintain and even enhance our current relationships. If you do find yourself cut of from old friends or family, then find ways to create new social connections. Join a club or special interest group. Every community has the need to volunteer support. Volunteering can be a great way of creating new social connections as well as giving back to your local community.

It’s so easy nowadays to feel as though social media replaces the need for direct social contact. In fact, that is not the case. Direct human contact helps us to release brain chemicals like oxytocin which helps us overcome feelings of loneliness. So, don’t fall into the trap of allowing pictures and posts on social media to replace the powerful impact of real human interaction.

what to do when you feel lonely

What to Do When You Feel Lonely – Step 6 – New Beliefs

The previous ideas will all help us deal with the feelings of loneliness. After all, as human beings we all want to feel as though be belong.  If we allow ourselves to continue to live in fear of the future and with hurt from the past, we may leave ourselves open to loneliness. The most powerful way to completely remove loneliness is to be willing to explore and change how we perceive ourselves and the world around us.

As outlined in the previous steps, our feelings of loneliness are often impacted by what we believe about ourselves. Our current beliefs are formed from our perception of past experiences.  It’s these perceptions of our past hurts and potential fear of the future that can limit the way we live our lives. We may end up with feelings of low self-esteem and self worth which in turn can lead us to isolate ourselves and so create loneliness.

The good news is that it is never too late to replace negative beliefs with more positive and empowering views of ourselves.  This is possible by using techniques like daily affirmations, visualization and mindfulness practice which can help us replace negative beliefs with those that are more constructive.

Here are links to some of my previous posts you may find useful to to explore.

 

 

 

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