Feeling depressed and lonely

Contents

Dealing With Depression and Loneliness

Everyone feels lonely from time to time, but for some, loneliness comes far too often. Feeling lonely can plague many people — including the elderly, people who are isolated, and those with depression — with symptoms such as sadness, isolation, and withdrawal. Loneliness can strike a person who lives alone or someone who lives in a house filled with people. “Loneliness is subjective,” says Louise Hawkley, PhD, a research associate in the psychology department at the University of Chicago. “You can’t argue with someone who says they’re lonely.”

Although depression doesn’t always lead to loneliness, feeling lonely is often a predictor of depression one year or even two years later, and it certainly leads to sadness, Dr. Hawkley says. Freeing yourself of feelings like being isolated by depression is part of the healing process.

How to Fight Depression and Loneliness

Feelings of loneliness don’t have to be constant to call for action, but you will need to give yourself a push to get back into the thick of life and re-engage with others to start feeling better. These strategies for fighting depression and loneliness can help:

  • Make a plan. There are two basic types of loneliness. Acute loneliness results from losing a loved one or moving to a new place, for example. In these situations, chances are you know at some level that you’ll have to go through a period of adjustment to get through this feeling of loneliness. The other type of loneliness is the chronic subjective type, which strikes despite your existing relationships. Both require a plan of action. One strategy is making a point to meet people who have similar interests, Hawkley says. Volunteering and exploring a hobby are both great ways to meet kindred spirits.
  • Do something — anything. In depression treatment there’s a theory called behavioral activation, which is a clinical way of saying, “Just do it.” If you’re feeling lonely and want to change it, any small step you take — even striking up a casual, friendly conversation with the barista at your corner café — is a good move.
  • Explore your faith. There are only a few strategies that are proven to successfully protect against loneliness, and this is one of them. “People who have a personal relationship with their God or a higher power tend to do well,” Hawkley notes. There are a lot of factors at work here, one of them being that faith communities provide many opportunities for positive social encounters. You don’t have to have a close friend in the community to get the benefit, Hawkley says — just feeling that you belong in the group is enough. In addition, faith can help you accept the things in life you can’t control.
  • Bond with a dog. “Pets, especially dogs, are protective against loneliness,” Hawkley says. There are many reasons why this strategy works: Dogs get you out and about, they’re naturally social creatures, and you’ll have a living being to care about. If you’re not in a position to own a dog, find ways to help care for other people’s dogs or volunteer to help dogs at a shelter that need loving attention. Other pets, such as cats and fish, can also help ease loneliness.
  • Have realistic standards. “Loneliness is a mismatch between your ideal and what you actually have,” Hawkley says. Part of the solution may be to accept that you can have fun and light conversation with a variety of people, and that it’s okay if they don’t become lifelong confidantes. Also, reflect on whether you have any unrealistic standards that are making it hard to connect with others and stop feeling lonely, such as expecting too much from a new friendship too quickly or relying on another person too much.
  • Think beyond yourself. Depression can make you feel very self-focused, meaning that everything is all about you. But remind yourself that if you ask a co-worker to join you for lunch and the person can’t make it, you shouldn’t automatically assume that he or she has rejected you. The person might have a previous lunch date or too much work to leave his or her desk.
  • Reach out to a lonely person. Whether you’re feeling lonely now or just know how it feels, you may get an emotional boost from befriending someone else who’s lonely. Some people may view loneliness as contagious, and therefore lonely people often become even more isolated. “We believe there is a responsibility in the community to reach out to people who are suffering,” Hawkley says. In doing so, you can help others and yourself, too. Examples include volunteering for an organization that helps elderly people or visiting a neighbor who’s lost a spouse.
  • Call, don’t post. Social networks are fun and can provide an essential social outlet for some people, but Hawkley says research suggests that, on average, people do best if more of their relationships happen face-to-face or over the phone. Use a pal’s post as an excuse to call and talk about it instead of posting a comment back.
  • Make time for relationships. Everyone is busy, but relationships won’t wait until you’ve finished your PhD, raised your kids, snagged the next big promotion, or moved to your ideal city. Build them now. “No one on their death bed wishes they’d worked a few more hours,” Hawkley says.
  • Talk to a trusted friend or relative. Get some feedback and ideas, as well as a sympathetic ear, from a family member or friend with whom you trust your thoughts and feelings. This person could have some ideas about groups you might want to join to meet positive people.
  • Meditate. “Mindfulness teaches us that we are more than who we think we are,” says Jeffrey Greeson, PhD, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Duke University Medical Center. Developing a meditation practice can help you identify and release some of the thoughts that could be keeping you feeling lonely and undermining your efforts to meet new people.
  • Explore therapy. If you just can’t shake profound feelings of loneliness, isolation, and other symptoms of depression, you might want to talk to a mental health professional as part of your depression treatment. Look for a professional with a cognitive behavioral background, an approach that’s been shown to help with depression and loneliness.

You could say this world is more connected than it’s ever been.

Friends, family, and strangers who live miles apart can communicate instantly thanks to social media and email. Anyone can hop on a plane from New York City and reach Los Angeles in just hours. In large metropolitan melting pots across the globe, thousands of people from different countries and cultures mingle and break bread. It’s as if time and space is collapsing, bringing all sorts of people closer to one another.

Yet so many of us feel lonely and can’t seem to shake it.

Researchers claim that the U.S. is experiencing a “loneliness epidemic.” In a 2018 survey, conducted by the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), experts discovered that about 22% of Americans say they constantly feel alone. Such prolonged feelings of isolation can come with serious health problems, both mental and physical. Feelings of isolation are often associated with depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. Doctors have also found that people who are lonely tend to have increased blood pressure, weaker immune systems, and more inflammation throughout the body.

Turns out, connectedness not only makes our lives more interesting, it’s vital for our own survival.

So what should you do when you’re feeling blue without anyone to lean on? Here’s what therapists, doctors, and researches say are some of the best strategies to cope with loneliness:

1. Name it. Validate it.

Telling other people you’re lonely can feel scary, shameful, and self-defeating. But expressing that feeling can be the beginning of releasing it.

“We tend to stigmatize loneliness in the U.S., equating it with being a loner or a loser,” says Kory Floyd, Professor of Communication and Psychology at the University of Arizona. “That stigma encourages us to avoid admitting when we’re lonely. Denying our loneliness only perpetuates it, so before we can recover, we have to be honest — at least with ourselves — about what we are experiencing.”

2. Take stock of connections you already have.

Sometimes when we are feeling lonely, we can’t see what’s right in front of us.

“Many of us get tunnel vision when it comes to affection and intimacy, in that we ‘count’ only certain behaviors while discounting others,” says Professor Floyd. “I might notice that my friends don’t tell me they love me, or don’t ‘like’ my social media posts, but I overlook the fact that they always volunteer to help when I have a home project to do. When people expand their definitions of affection and love to include a wider range of behaviors, they often discover that they aren’t as deprived as they originally thought.”

3. Recognize you are not alone (in feeling lonely).

If 22% of Americans constantly feel lonely, know that if you’re feeling isolated that you’re sharing the same experience with millions of other people.

” I remind myself just how pervasive loneliness is and I imagine being connected to ‘all of the lonely people out there’. Sometimes I listen to Eleanor Rigby to hammer that point home,” says Megan Bruneau, therapist and executive coach. “Loneliness is a healthy emotion, revealing places we yearn for connection.”

4. Get curious. Ask questions.

Recognize that loneliness looks different for people at different times of their lives, and that there are those who have many relationships, but still feel like something is missing. Ask yourself what loneliness looks like for you.

“It’s important to differentiate between situational loneliness and chronic loneliness,” says Bruneau. “Most people feel lonely from time to time, especially in today’s individualistic, independence-valuing, more-single-than-ever-culture. However, if I’m feeling loneliness more frequently than usual, I get curious about the shift. Has something changed in my relationships leading me to feel more disconnected? Have I been nurturing my current connections and creating opportunities for new ones that make me feel ‘seen’? Am I intentionally or accidentally isolating ?”
Whether our loneliness is brief or chronic, questions like these can help direct us to the best way to cope, she suggests.

5. Take the time to slow down.

If you’re frequently busy, running around with your to-do list or feel stressed by all the meetings at work, it might be time to hit the breaks.

“Sometimes when people’s schedules are back-to-back for too long, they start disconnecting from themselves and other people,” says Judith Orloff MD, psychiatrist and author of Thriving as an Empath. “They get overwhelmed from overworking and too much stimulation. So the practice is just to relax and do what their body needs.”

Perhaps that relaxing for you could mean listening to music, taking a bath, or just sitting with nothing to do and nowhere to be.

borcheeGetty Images

6. Reconnect with self-love and appreciation.

You can use alone time to get back in touch with you.

“You have to be your own best friend,” says Dr. Orloff. “I go to my sacred space and I meditate. I take a few deep breaths, relax, and ask worry, fear, and loneliness to lift so I can just be with myself.”

She recommends that those who are new to meditation can try to sit for three minutes and focus on something they find pleasing — like the ocean or dolphins — or any simple things they are grateful for. “Focusing on what you’re grateful for rather than what you don’t have shifts the negative thinking,” she says.

Being alone and strolling through nature can be meditative, too.

7. Perform anonymous acts of kindness.

And recognize the kindness in others.

Sometimes when you feel alone, you might feel like isolating yourself from the world, which only continues the cycle of loneliness. In that case, finding a group of friends to hang out with or dropping into a large social scene can feel like a lot. So why not consider starting small?

“Go out into the world and notice a smile from the store clerk,” says Dr. Orloff. “Hold a door for somebody or do something nice for a stranger and then you start to get the endorphins and the oxytocin going in your body. Oxytocin is the bonding hormone. It’s what mother’s have when they give birth. So oxytocin is important.”

If you are feeling a bit more extroverted, you might even try starting conversations.

“Get out every day and have a conversation, face-to-face, with your neighbor, a friend, your grocer, the librarian — in short, any one whom you might meet regularly,” says Susan Pinker, psychologist and author of The Village Effect. This doesn’t have to be a close relationship. Research tells us that even weak bonds strengthen our immunity and well-being.”

8. Join a club.

Perhaps you are looking to develop more of those deep meaningful relationships. In that case, you might want to explore hobbies with other people to form bonds over common interests.

“This could be a class, a committee, or a volunteer group,” says Pinker. “Any activity that puts you in a social environment on a regular basis.”

Vibe with someone over your love for pottery at a local art class. Find a Meetup group of people who are just as obsessed with Game of Thrones as you are. Or maybe try something completely new, like goat yoga. You can have fun with this.

9. Put your hand over your heart.

Lack of physical connection can be the cause of loneliness. When we were babies, our bodies were trained to respond to physical touch as a form of communication and connection with our caregivers — especially when “goo goo gaga” didn’t quite cut it.

So, even if you don’t consider yourself a touchy-feely person, physical contact has always been at the center of feeling safe, secure, and cared for. But know that you don’t need a lover, a friend, or a massage therapist to give you a reassuring caress. Placing your hand over your heart could do it.

“Our bodies registers the care we give ourselves in a similar way that it registers the care we get from others through physical touch,” says Dr. Kristin Neff, associate professor at the University of Texas and author of Self-Compassion. “‘Supportive’ touch works with the person’s parasympathetic nervous system, which actually helps calm us down and reduces cortisol and releases oxytocin.”

Everyone, however, is different, Dr. Neff says. Some people prefer a hand on the stomach. Others prefer holding their face. Some love hugging themselves. If you’re by your lonesome, this could be a chance to figure out how to be your own buddy.

10. Create something.

Sketch. Paint. Knit. Anything to get your creative juices flowing.

“Creative arts have an extraordinary capacity to elevate and transcend our negative emotional experiences through self-expression, as well as to connect us more deeply and authentically with each other,” says Dr. Jeremy Nobel, MPH and the founder of The UnLonely Project.

One of Dr. Nobel’s favorite strategies is expressive writing. Jotting down thoughts and feelings you recognize others may be experiencing has a similar affect as, say, going to the movies. At the theatre you share a room with a group of people — perhaps strangers — who are all witnessing the same journey with you. Even if you don’t talk to anyone, you and the entire audience are connected through shared experience, Dr. Nobel explains. Mentally, the same thing happens when you write, even if you never share it with a soul. Although, sharing could be a healthy way to find connection among others.

11. Check your social media usage.

While the jury is still out on whether or not the rise of social media is driving loneliness and depression, it doesn’t hurt to reevaluate the effect it has on your life.

Are you using it to make meaningful connections? Are you spending too much time on it? Is it causing you to withdraw in unhelpful ways?

“If we feel dissatisfied with our face-to-face relationships, we retreat into the world of social media, which only exacerbates the problem,” says Professor Floyd of the University of Arizona. “On social media, it seems as though everyone else has better jobs, better houses, better vacations, and better relationships than we do. That isn’t actually true, of course.”

If Instagram and Facebook are dragging you down, it might be time for a temporary screen detox.

12. Work with a mental health professional

Sometimes we need professional help to escape the dark thoughts keeping us in isolation.

“One of the most destructive effects of long-term loneliness is that it distorts our cognitions about ourselves,” says Professor Floyd. “We come to believe that if we are lonely, we deserve to be lonely and that no one will ever love us the way we want. Those thoughts in turn guide our actions in ways that end up keeping us lonely. Cognitive behavioral therapy is designed to bring our thoughts and behavior better in line with reality.”

If you’re struggling with loneliness, anxiety, or depression and need professional help, the American Psychological Association’s Psychologist Locator tool can help you find a licensed therapist in your area that takes your insurance.

Adele Jackson-Gibson Senior Editor Adele Jackson-Gibson is a certified fitness coach, model, and writer based in Brooklyn.

6 Life-Changing Methods to Not Feel Lonely All the Time

Last Updated on January 7, 2020

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Loneliness sucks!

Being lonely means feeling isolated and apart from the people around you. Even those with many “friends” are subject to loneliness if they feel the value of those connections is superficial.

Almost everybody will feel lonely from time to time. But we typically cycle in and out of the feeling of as life throws us new curveballs we have to deal with. However, some people have chronic loneliness. They feel alone, and don’t know how to stop the feelings. It seems impossible to shake the feeling of being lonely.

If you feel isolated and simply don’t know how to “not“ feel lonely, this article is for you. This entire article will give you six actionable strategies to deal with your lonely feelings.

Sidebar: If you’d also like to learn how to increase your overall happiness, then I recommend checking out this book that has 53 specific happiness habits you can incorporate into your life.

1. Understand the Facts About Loneliness

We all feel lonely sometimes. Depending on which study you believe, somewhere between one in five Americans and a whopping 50% of American adults feel lonely. That is a lot of lonely people. If all the lonely people connected, no one would feel lonely ever again.

Creativity makes you feel better and helps you forget your loneliness. If you feel lonely, try drawing something. Write a poem. Write in a journal. Write a book or blog post. Build something. Work on a creative hobby. Or simply try some art therapy like adult coloring.

Tomorrow is another day. Remind yourself that life is full of ups and downs. Everyone has bad days when they feel isolated and lonely and everything seems to go wrong. Remember that tomorrow is a new day. Be filled with optimism because you can always make the next day be one of the big “high” days rather than a soul-crushing low day.

Understand the common themes that are associated with excessive loneliness:

  • Working too long or too often
  • Not working enough
  • Dealing with poor health
  • Family breakdown
  • Loss of mobility
  • Children growing up
  • Retirement
  • Too much time spent online

We all feel lonely sometimes. Remind yourself that life is full of ups and downs. Everyone has bad days when they feel isolated and lonely and everything seems to go wrong.

2. How to Not Feel Lonely at Work

Loneliness does not just impact the person—it impacts the entire work environment.

The impact of loneliness at the workplace is billions of dollars in lost work due to health issues. Billions more in lost productivity. And billions more from unhappy workers who are lost (and whose replacements need to be retrained).

So it behooves leadership to try to be more inclusive in their workplaces—not simply from a humanitarian “helping others” perspective, but from a sound economic perspective. Happy and well-integrated workers do a better job and are more loyal to their companies.

This section is divided into two subsections.

  1. What YOU should do to not feel lonely at work, and
  2. What leadership and coworkers should do to create a more inclusive work environment.

Steps You Can Take to Stop Feeling Lonely at Work

1. Don’t assume people are not interested in you.

People who are lonely feel isolated and think that no one is interested in them or their lives. So they often push people away. Don’t fall into this trap. Workplaces are sometimes subject to cliques, but that does not mean the cliques won’t be interested in letting you in if you show interest.

2. Talk about your work.

Many people feel it is not proper to talk about their work with family or friends, figuring that others would not understand or would not care. Unfortunately, this just builds walls and creates isolation between you and the ones you love.

When you talk about your work with others (at work and at home), they appreciate the insight into what you do, and might actually have some really good insights for you (from viewing your work as an outsider with a different experience set).

3. Never eat alone.

Make yourself eat lunch with a colleague, or meet friends and family at a restaurant away from work. If you have problems with feeling lonely, it is important not to just grab your lunch at your desk and continue working. This leads to burnout.

4. Collaborate with others.

As the saying goes, “no man is an island.” You are not going to achieve any measurable success if you try to go it alone.

5. Compliment your co-workers.

People love compliments. It is human nature. I am not saying to be an “ass-kisser,” but find genuine reasons to give compliments to others. Giving other people positive feedback about their work opens them up to you. They are more likely to form friendships with you and to return the favor of positive feedback when you achieve workplace successes.

6. Don’t ignore your personal life.

Studies show that people who live vibrant lives outside of work can better handle work that may naturally lead to a bit of isolation and loneliness. It is important to leave your work in these situations and enjoy your life outside of your job.

Never fall into the trap of ignoring your personal life today to achieve success or work toward an improved personal life in the future. The worse your job is, the more time and effort you need to spend on having a great personal life to compensate.

How Managers and Colleagues Can Help to Stop Loneliness at Work

It would be nice if leaders treated their employees well because they truly cared about their well being (I am sure some do).

But even if leaders do not truly give a hoot about their employees’ personal lives, it is important for employers to put a bit of energy into keeping their employees from being too lonely. It seems that loneliness has a huge impact on work performance.

People who are excessively lonely at work often become some of the worst employees.

Loneliness at work leads to:

  • Poor health
  • More sick leave
  • Higher health insurance claims
  • Mental sluggishness
  • Poor decision-making
  • Low productivity
  • Apathy toward the company’s goals
  • Less creativity and “outside the box” thinking
  • Loss of workers (and the retraining needed to get new employees up to speed)

It is far easier to give a little consideration to your employees’ loneliness and try to help them out of their feelings of isolation.

  1. First-line supervisors are best positioned to identify workers who suffer from loneliness. They can then act proactively to try to get them to connect with their co-workers.
  2. Leaders higher up in the company can set company policy to create a shared vision for the business. When workers buy in to the idea that they are an important part of the success of a company, they begin to connect with other employees and celebrate company achievements as if they were their own.
  3. Supervisors should celebrate workplace successes as a team “win” to foster camaraderie and esprit de corps
  4. Supervisors should periodically evaluate the company’s current state of social interaction by asking employees if they feel valued.
  5. Vibrant social connections among employees should be an organization-wide strategic priority for any company.
  6. Supervisors should encourage employees to work together and help each other. Work should not be a case of “stab the other guy in the back to win,” but a case of a “rising tide lifting all boats.”
  7. Leaders should encourage their employees to seek help for loneliness when needed.

3. How to Not Feel Lonely at Home

Connect with a pet. A loving pet can help to relieve some of the feelings of loneliness. Our pets love us unconditionally. Having a dog or cat come sit with you when you are feeling blue is always a great “pick-me-up.”

Connect with a friend. Even better than a furry pet friend is a friend of the human persuasion. Think of someone you know who makes you laugh, or who has been supportive of you. Give them a call, send them an email, or schedule a lunch date. Friendships are built brick-by-brick. People are not born with your friends—that will develop over time and shared experiences. Take the initiative to create a friendship where none exists, and to connect with your older friends when you feel lonely.

Get a good night’s sleep. Maybe you think that sleep will not make you feel more connected with others. And it won’t—at least not directly. But this study shows that as little as 15 minutes loss of sleep triggers a greater sense of loneliness. If you increase that loss of sleep to a few hours, you start bringing serious possible long-term health problems into the mix, making the potential for isolation and depression even greater.

Sing. Sing loudly and often. Even if you can’t carry a tune in a bucket, sing out loud. It is impossible to feel lonely and depressed when you are belting out some of your favorite songs. This happy feeling gets even better if you are singing some insipid ’80s song that is sure to make you crack a smile.

Visualize a “happy place.” This can be a warm beach at sunset, sipping a margarita; or a windswept mountain with a gorgeous view; or sitting in front of a warm fire with friends and family. What you imagine does not matter as long as you can get a firm picture in your mind’s eye and feel a bit of happiness at the thought of being there.

Read fiction. This is one I am quite fond of. When I feel lonely or depressed, few things make me feel better than reading a good fiction book. You become immersed in the fictional world of a good book, and invested in the characters. But as with social media, it is important not to forego real-life friends or events for the sake of reading a fictional book.

Make your bed. As Admiral McRaven pointed out in his excellent book, Make Your Bed: Little Things That Can Change Your Life… And Maybe the World, such a simple activity is done every day sets a tone for your life that can reduce loneliness and possibly transform your life.

Try positive affirmations. When you say the same things over and over again, you can begin to convince your mind that they are true. That is the heart of the idea behind saying positive affirmations every day. Check out the following links for more on affirmations and some specific examples that might be of interest to you.

  • A massive list of 1132 positive affirmations that will help you beat negativity
  • Self-love affirmations
  • Confidence / self-esteem affirmations

Visualize a “happy place.” Get a firm picture in your mind’s eye and feel a bit of happiness at the thought of being there

4. The Best Way to Stop Loneliness: Get Out of the House

This is a big one. If all you ever do is go to work and then go home, it is easy to feel isolated because you are, in fact, isolating yourself.

Get out and go places. Just the act of showing up at new places will lead to new connections and greatly reduce loneliness.

Treat yourself to a “solo” date. You know you need to get out of your house, but may not know where to go. Go to places you would like to go on a date by yourself. Being alone should not hold you back from experiencing life. The best part is that there is no compromising on where you want to go, what you want to eat, or what movie you want to see. You will always get your #1 choice.

Attend Meetups. This is another great way to get out of the home so you don’t feel lonely. Meetup.com or your local papers are great places to discover these events.

Go to church. According to a study of nearly 20,000 people, those who regularly practice religion are less likely to feel isolated when alone.

Participate in a sport and/or attend a gym. This is a great idea for two different reasons. First, it is another wonderful way to meet new people. Secondly, being physically fit actually makes you less prone to depression and feelings of isolation.

Attend after-school events. For those who attend school or college, school events are the perfect place to meet people and socialize. You already likely have your age and the school you attend in common with the other people there, so you might quickly find a lot of people with similar interests if you put yourself out there.

Join a toastmasters group. Some people have a tough time talking to others. I get it. I consider myself an introvert too. A group like toastmasters is great because it not only helps you meet people but is a great way to build your confidence and make it easier to talk to others in public.

Accept invitations. This is key. If you are invited by someone to do something, accept. Even if you think you won’t enjoy the experience, why not give it a try? When someone reaches out to you, they are trying to connect. If you turn them down, they might not ask again. Who knows—you could be passing up a future friendship that might keep you from feeling lonely.

5. More Ideas to Defeat Loneliness by Getting Out of Your House

There are so many simple ideas to get you out of your house. Here are a few of the better ones:

  • Take your dog to the beach/park/lake.
  • Go to restaurants with “community” tables.
  • Hang out at a museum.
  • Join a book club.
  • Take a hike.
  • Take a wine tour.
  • Take a beer tour.
  • Join a dance class.
  • Take an art class.
  • Take a cooking class.
  • Get a “fun” part-time job.
  • Read a book or do work at a coffee house.
  • Get a new hobby.
  • Remember the past and loved ones with old photos.
  • Start a journal.

If all you ever do is go to work and then go home, it is easy to feel isolated because you are isolating yourself.

6. Final Steps on How to not Feel Lonely

If you try many of these steps and still are as lonely and depressed as when you started, you may need some professional help.

Do not feel there is anything wrong with this. There is not.

Many people need a little therapy to help them realize the underlying psychological reasons for their loneliness, depression and anxiety. This is perfectly normal.

If you need help professional help, please take the steps to get it.

If you feel suicidal, please immediately call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at

1-800-273-8255

​Other phone numbers to get help with your loneliness and depression immediately include:

Websites to find help with loneliness and depression:

  • National Alliance on Mental Illness 1-800-950-NAMI (1-800-950-6264)
  • Anxiety and Depression Association of America1-240-485-1001
  • American Psychological Association 1-800-374-2721
  • Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance1-800-826-3632
  • National Institute of Mental Health

Links to Related Articles & Research

  • Science of Loneliness
  • Creative things to do when feeling lonely
  • Religious less likely to feel isolated
  • Lonely at work
  • Sleep and loneliness
  • Workforce: Lonely workers. Sad for people. Bad for business
  • 30 ways to meet new people
  • 25 Creative things to do when lonely
  • 25 ways to chase away the blues
  • Guide to depression resources

Conclusion: How to Not Feel Lonely

I hope you have a much better idea of how to not feel lonely after reading this post.

Loneliness and isolation are terrible. Few people who have not experienced it understand how bad it feels to be in a deep, dark depression. I hope this post has given you some good information on loneliness. More importantly, I hope it has given you a bit of inspiration to take some action to become a bit happier and not so alone in your life.

You are not alone in feeling alone. If you feel overwhelmed and nothing else helps, please call some of the numbers above to get some professional help.

​Also, why not reach out to others and share this post on your favorite social media platform. If everyone reached out to others with the steps in this post, maybe no one would ever be lonely again.

​Finally, if one of the best ways to not feel lonely is to build habits that related to happiness. If you’d like to learn more, then be sure to check out this book that has 53 specific happiness habits you can build. ​

Build the Gratitude Habit with The 90-Day Gratitude Journal

Check out my best-selling journal called “The 90-Day Gratitude Journal: A Mindful Practice for a Lifetime of Happiness.”

With this journal, you will build a powerful daily gratitude habit and re-discover all the great things that are already in your life.

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How To Battle Loneliness

photo credit: Getty

Getty

According to the Cigna U.S. loneliness index, loneliness among Americans has reached “epidemic levels,” and found that young Americans are the loneliest of all. Nearly half of the respondents said they sometimes or always feel alone, more than 40% said that they sometimes or often feel their relationships aren’t meaningful just over half said that have a meaningful in-person social interaction a day. It is also an issue in Great Britain, Prime Minister Theresa May even appointed a loneliness minister.

It is one of the most widespread and debilitating obstacles people encounter, and an issue that takes time to address. It is a unique and specific kind of isolation and pain that is different from depression, and defined by not socializing as much as one would like, and by the quality of one’s relationships more than the quantity of them. Though it feels like an overwhelming problem, there are small steps to take every day to make progress and have a less lonely life. Here are some suggestions on how to feel more connected to those around you, and battle loneliness:

Get Outside

When you are feeling down and a bit isolated, go outside to get some fresh air and vitamin D. Maybe go and get yourself a coffee, tea or a snack so you can make small talk with a cashier or a stranger. Getting out and about a bit can temporarily help you feel less lonely, so make it a point to take a walk and get fresh air every day.

Get Some Exercise

Exercise gives you energy and endorphins that help elevate your mood. If you notice that you haven’t been exercising, try making time for walks, or sign yourself up for a work out class you enjoy: yoga, spin, HIIT, boxing, etc. and treat it like an appointment. When you make an appointment, even if it’s with yourself at the gym or taking a walk outside, honor it.

Stay Busy

The Cigna study found that if one is working less than desired, they feel lonelier than someone working a full-time job. The more one works, sees friends and family, exercises regularly, and pursues hobbies and interests and fill your days and time with things you enjoy, the less lonely you will feel and the more focused on fulfilling your life.

Pick Up The Phone

Talking to a friend or family member face-to-face or over a phone call helps creates a deeper connection than a text or e-mail exchange. If you find you haven’t spoken or seen your closest friends or your family in awhile, give them a call, make it a point to make time to see them in person and it will help you feel less alone.

Manage Your Screen Time

Many people mistake connecting via social media, dating apps and even texting as a meaningful way to communicate, and though it is efficient, it is a more superficial way to communicate. Try to limit your time in front of your phone, computer and television, get outside and see people. It will improve your mental and physical health, and it will help you feel less lonely.

Think About Adopting A Pet

Psychology Today reports a study on humans who live alone, humans who have a pet have better psychological health, for example reduced negative moods or feelings of loneliness. So if you’re feeling lonely and you like animals, considering going to your local shelter and giving a dog or cat a home.

Know It’s Not Permanent

Know this: who are you are now, and how you feel in this moment is not permanent. Things can and will will get better. There are steps you can take, things you can do every day to be less lonely, and live a happier, more fulfilled life. Know that your circumstances can change, do not believe this lasts forever.

Seek Help

If you feel you have exhausted all avenues, seek professional help. You do not have work though things alone. Reach out to family, friends or a therapist to work through your loneliness.

6. Take yourself out on a date

Don’t feel comfortable asking someone out for a hang? That’s cool. Grab a good book or even just your Reddit feed, and head to a local spot. Find somewhere you’re comfortable chilling out for an hour – it might be a local cafe, dog park, gallery or the nearest library. The first few times flying solo can feel a little awkward. You might even worry that people are judging you – but we promise they’re not. A regular hang spot can also help you to meet new people. If you hit up the same place often enough, you’ll start to notice some familiar faces, and might even make a few mates.

7. Write it down

Writing is a great way to battle loneliness, as it helps you to clarify your thoughts, process your emotions and get to know yourself better. Your journal can become like a best friend; it’s a ‘safe place’ for letting everything out, and it’s always going to be there for you.

You don’t just have to stick to journal writing – writing a poem, a short story or even some song lyrics can also be a great way to deal with feelings of isolation. You could try a journalling app such as Day One.

8. Hang out with some non-humans

Animals are great at making us feel connected and cared for. Pets, especially dogs and cats, can reduce stress, anxiety, depression, and ease loneliness. If you’re not ready for the responsibility of owning a pet, you could always get into pet minding.

Ask your neighbours and friends; they might have a dog you could take for a walk occasionally, or a cat you could come over to visit and pet. If all else fails, head to a dog park!

9. Do some volunteering

When you’re feeling isolated, volunteering helps to get you out into the world and connects you with the community around you. There are stacks of charities that need volunteers. Try local nursing homes, childcare centres, or shops like Vinnies.

Govolunteer.com.au is a great place to start looking for volunteering opportunities near you.

10. Get some support

If you’ve tried a couple of these steps and are still feeling lonely, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. If you need it, your GP can set you up with a mental health plan that will help you to access counselling or visit a psychologist. It’s okay to get the support you need.

Don’t forget: everyone has times when they feel lonely. Taking even just a few of the steps above can help reduce your isolation and should help you start to feel better.

Loneliness is an epidemic.

While almost everyone feels lonely sometimes, it can show up in different ways for different people.

And to be clear, not everyone who is alone feels lonely. Loneliness is a state of mind. It is a feeling of missing out, of being unwanted, of not belonging anywhere.

For example, some children feel lonely if they do not have friends. I’ve heard numerous stories of women who are married or in relationships yet feel completely alone. And certainly, we all know of women who struggle with loneliness following the death of a spouse or divorce from a spouse.

The irony is that loneliness exists within many women who are actually among many women: at work, at school, at events, in their children’s schools, in the community, and at church. Even people who have hundreds of friends on social media are lonely.

What do the numbers tell us?

  • 25% of Americans do not feel connected to someone who understands them.
  • 50% of Americans do not have meaningful, in-person social interactions. They do not have outings with friends or quality time with family members.
  • 20% of Americans do not feel close with people.

And yet for some people, being alone is a perfectly comfortable state of being. In fact, some people can be alone every day and never feel lonely at all. This is more an exception than the norm….so not our topic of conversation for today.

Let’s get back to the women who struggle. If you struggle with loneliness, you can do some things to overcome loneliness. You can take responsibility. Below are five ideas.

Five Ways To Overcome Loneliness

1. Become comfortable being alone

It’s okay to be alone.

Being alone is frightening to many women, yet think about the things you actually enjoy doing alone while you’re alone: Reading a book, knitting, watching your favorite show, taking a walk, organizing a drawer, baking a nice dessert, cooking a healthy dinner, or even cleaning your house.

So why do we make it so difficult to be alone? In most situations, it is because we are thinking about what we’re not doing. We’re thinking about our “fear of missing out.” We’re thinking about other people being out and about, while we are sitting home alone.

Can you stop and think about the moment you are actually experiencing? What others are doing aside, are you comfortable with what you’re doing?

You’ve heard of JOMO? The “joy of missing out.” Can you reframe your thinking to feel glad that you are home doing things that feel enjoyable and peaceful to you?

2. Invite people to stuff!

I remember waiting to be invited.

Following my divorce, things changed. I realized, perhaps for the first time, that we live in a couples’ world. Couples invite couples. The number of invitations I received following my divorce decreased, and I was spending more time at home, alone.

I could have sat home feeling sorry for myself. Maybe I did. That was a long time ago. At some point, I started being proactive. I started inviting people to come over or to go out.

Too often, I’ve seen women kind of sit back and run a test. “Who cares about me?” “Who will invite me if I wait?”

I encourage you to not be this person. In fact, there are other women sitting at home wondering the same thing. Someone has to pick up the phone first. How about you be that person?

3. Create a friend group

Let’s see how you stack up in the “Friend” category!

According to a Gallup poll, Americans have an average of 8 to 9 close friends.

  • 2% have no close friends
  • 14% have one to two close friends
  • 39% have three to five close friends
  • 18% have six to nine close friends
  • 27% have 10 or more friends

We are social creatures. We are meant to interact with others.

One of the ways to create the “habit” of friendship is to create a “friend” group. I have been an avid fan of the series, “Friends.” I loved the idea of this diverse group of friends hanging out together at the coffee shop and in each others’ homes. For years, I thought about how wonderful it would be to have a friend group like that.

About five years ago, I proactively started reaching out to women, asking if they would be interested in being part of a friend group. Every woman I asked enthusiastically said “Yes, thank you for picking me.”

As I began to establish some gathering opportunities, a number of the women were consistently too busy. This group fizzled. I was, of course, disappointed.

I was fortunate enough, four years ago, to be invited into another established friend group. This group has contributed significantly to my happiness and fulfillment. We get together frequently, text daily and enjoy a set “If you’re there you’re there” night every Thursday.

Think about friends as an essential part of your life.

4. Create rituals

Rituals provide comfort in life. They give us something to look forward to.

Let’s pare this with friends. You can create rituals in your life that involve your friends.

What do you and your friends like to do? What can you ritualize?

For my friend group, “If you’re there you’re there” is a ritual. Every Thursday night. The first person who arrives at our meeting place texts that group. “I’m here. See you all soon.” This is inviting and comforting. It creates a steady sense of belonging.

I have a group of college friends that I have been out of touch with for years. Recently, we decided to establish an annual ritual to head to Florida together. We’ve all raised our children, and now it’s time to get re-acquainted. We take a five-day trip to Florida. And, each year it’s an “If you’re there you’re there” situation. We’ve done this for three years, and we envision doing it for years and years.

I am familiar with a group of guys who walk together every Sunday morning after church. There are about six of them. They walk for an hour, then they go to the local coffee shop where they settle in to continue their conversation. They have been doing this for more than two decades. They are always smiling and laughing.

What rituals can you and your friends establish?

5. Combine your hobby with togetherness

Women connect over shared interests.

Do you like to knit? Gather women together who like to knit. Knit and chat.

Do you like to run? Find a local running chapter in your community, and join in. Strike up some new friendships.

What about gardening or photography? Take some classes offered by local stores in your community. Meet new people. You can arrange to meet with new ‘friends’ outside of class to practice your new skills together.

You are not the only person looking for togetherness. I promise you that.

The world is filled with lonely people. You could shift your thinking away from how others can ease your loneliness, and instead think about how you could ease the loneliness of others.

Prefer to listen to these ideas instead of reading them? Visit my YouTube channel for similar content!

Or join my Women Who Spark Tribe Facebook Community to become part of a supportive group of women….seeking positivity and productivity in life, just like you.

If you’d like to contribute your thoughts to my research on women’s fulfillment, you can find my survey at aletanorris.com/tribe.

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