Loneliness can feel like an unbearably heavy feeling that affects every part of your life. This feeling can emerge when you actually are alone and isolated, or you can feel emotionally distant and removed from the people around you. Loneliness is often accompanied by feelings of low self-esteem, where you feel unworthy of being in the company of others.
Chronic feelings of loneliness sometimes can indicate a more serious underlying mental health issue. If depression is present, you can feel too unmotivated to challenge the heavy feelings of loneliness, thinking that there’s no point in doing so. Social anxiety can sabotage your ability to connect with others, causing worry about the opinions and judgment of others.
It is important to realize that loneliness can be challenged, and that it is not a permanent life sentence. You can practice and learn coping skills by applying them in your life, allowing for loneliness to become more bearable and eventually negated.
Below is a comprehensive list of 14 ways to combat loneliness:
Keep yourself occupied
When you remain idle and bored, negative feelings are more likely to emerge and distress you. Instead, make plans for yourself that are enjoyable and manageable. This can be easily accomplished just by watching TB or YouTube videos.
Rename “loneliness” as “solitude”
Your feelings of loneliness can cause you to blame yourself for your isolation, making you feel at fault for your circumstances. To counter this, replace the word “loneliness” with “solitude.” By calling it such, you can transform your isolation into something more empowering.
When in solitude, use isolation as an opportunity to nurture yourself and practice self-care. Take a relaxing bubble bath, go for a walk, or treat yourself to a nice meal from a restaurant. You may even discover that you prefer this solitude at times.
Engage in self-contemplation
Even though socializing and having friends feels like the cure to loneliness, being around people can cause for you to ignore your own inner voice. Yet when you are by yourself, you become forced to face yourself. While this can be unbearably uncomfortable, it can also be an opportunity for you contemplate and investigate into who you are. Take up a meditative practice, or write in a journal. By spending time by yourself, you may discover that you're your own best friend!
Get a pet
Pets can be amazingly loyal, giving you their unconditional love. Even if you are alone, having a pet around can provide you with a dose of attention and companionship. With a dog, you can go out for walks, which is good for your health and serves as a way to relax. You can also talk to your pet if the mood strikes, and can rest assured that they will not judge you!
Go to the gym
Get out of the house and work out! The gym is a good place to go to be around people, which can help with loneliness. Even if you do not socialize with others, you'll still be surrounded by others doing their own thing, and working out will give you a sense of purpose and confidence. Places like your local YMCA can feel like friendly community centers for people of all ages, while friendly boot camp gyms can attract the most dedicated of fitness enthusiasts.
Cook your own food
Cooking is typically a solitary act done at home, so doing so can justify solitude. The process can become a whole ritual where you select recipes, buy ingredients at the grocery store, and then cook from what you’ve purchased. This can be an opportunity to adopt healthier eating habits, where you cook with fruits and vegetables instead of eating less-healthier packaged foods. You can also cook for others, perhaps inviting guests over to eat your nice home-cooked meals.
Express yourself creatively
Create poignancy and meaning in your life by pursuing a creative hobby. For example, you can write stories or poetry, do needlepoint or draw pictures. Creative hobbies can sometimes lead to social situations. You can learn to sing your favorite songs, and then go to karaoke nights at at casual bars and restaurants, perhaps meeting others with your same interest. You could start painting by going to “paint and sip” events at restaurants where people paint the same picture together. Of course, there need not be a social component to your hobby. The most important thing is that your creativity will bring you joy.
Take a class in an interesting topic
If you have an interest that you would like to pursue, take a class! You can study Spanish, go to a cooking class or study ceramics (this can overlap with pursuing creative expression.) Again, this would put you in a social environment where you are in a classroom with other students and a teacher. Even if you feel nervous about socializing, being next to people can help with loneliness, and learning a skill can give you a sense of purpose.
Reach out to people online
There are thousands and thousands of themed communities online. After determining your interests, seek out communities related to them. A good place to search is on Facebook, but you can do a standard Google search as well. Use keywords when you search online, which will then bring up groups that you can join. Different groups are run differently, so you can determine if you like a certain group as you browse its content. If you feel like contributing to discussions, post what’s on your mind! If you are shy, that is fine as well. As you interact with others, you may develop online friendships.
Reach out to people in real life
Socializing online can allow you to develop effective social skills, which then can be applied to reaching out to others in real life. If you have had social anxiety, you can gradually try to step outside of your comfort zone and interact with others directly around you. If you become uncomfortable, take a step back and regroup as needed, and then try again. With persistent effort, you can learn new habits that allow you to be more social.
Seek professional help if necessary
If your loneliness feels too overwhelming to address on your own, you can reach out for professional clinical help. A psychotherapist can help you evaluate your circumstances and brainstorm ideas and coping skills, helping you to formulate a game plan to address and manage loneliness. If the feelings are still unbearable, you can choose to see a psychiatrist or general practitioner and receive prescription psychiatric medications to feel better. Remember that medications alone cannot adequately address challenges, but rather go hand-in-hand with psychotherapy.
Taking the first step towards challenging loneliness is often difficult, but don’t let that discourage you! You can start making changes in your life with just baby steps. If you want to take up writing but have writer’s block, start by writing a haiku. If you are nervous about cooking, watch some how-to videos online to get inspired. Remember that there is no such thing as failure, and that mistakes made are not a bad thing. Instead, view mistakes as lessons that can teach you how to improve and do better next time. And don't worry about the judgment of others.
A funny thing about loneliness is this: many people feel lonely. While loneliness may cause you to feel abnormal, know that others feel the same way too. Even those who appear most social may secretly feel lonely inside. This proves a point: loneliness is a state of mind. It need not be a permanent condition, and the benefits of developing coping skills to manage this feeling can result in a fruitful and satisfying life.