Loneliness is an issue that affects all of us at some point in our lives. There isn’t a right or wrong way when managing loneliness, as long as you recognize that it is completely normal to feel lonely at different points in time. There also isn’t typically a quick or easy way to reduce loneliness, so be realistic when learning how to cope with this common issue. We all deal with difficult situations in life, whether it’s a breakup of a romantic relationship, a marriage that ends in divorce, the demise of a platonic friendship, children leaving the home to enter young adulthood, the death of spouse or partner, or just simply have a strong need to belong when you don’t. Try these strategies for managing loneliness:
- Sit with your loneliness and identify how it affects you. As human beings, most of us have a desire to connect emotionally with other people, although some of us more or less so than others. Think about these questions as you explore your feelings and managing loneliness. Consider keeping a journal so you can look back and see how your feelings change under different circumstances. Where did your loneliness originate? Is the feeling less about you but more about missing another specific person who is not in your life anymore? Are you looking for a romantic relationship, friendship, sex or something else? Do the feelings change as time continues to pass? While in this feeling exploration stage, be careful not to turn to counterproductive self-numbing behaviors like abusing alcohol or drugs or seeking out unhealthy sexual relationships as potential solutions.
- Find ways to expand your social network. Don’t fall into the trap of the vicious cycle of isolation. When you feel lonely, it’s easy to want to isolate yourself more, as you are already feeling insecure and it can be difficult to put yourself out there. Consider your own strengths and hobbies as you think about ways of managing loneliness and expanding socially. For example, if you like to run, consider joining a running group as a way to meet people. If you are more of an arts and crafts type, consider visiting a local studio for a pottery or painting class. If religion is an important part of your life, consider joining a local church and devoting time weekly to committees that foster other adult relationships and working in the community.
- If you live alone, consider finding roommates you can relate to. More and more people are choosing to live alone these days. In our society, success is sometimes defined as having your own home or apartment. While this is an admirable goal, it may not be the best idea if you know you have a tendency to isolate or want to be by yourself all the time. Living alone can also increase the risk of suicide for both young and old adults. If you are relocating to a new town or tend to get stuck in the cycle of loneliness at home, consider the idea of living with others, even if just in the short-term. Look at this strategy as a way of managing your loneliness and a way to develop your social circle. Once you get settled in your new environment, maybe then think about finding your own place.
- Promote your mental and physical health through friendships. Strong social connections are critical to our mental wellbeing and physical health. The saying, ‘Humans are social animals,’ is true and appropriate to reference here. Chronic loneliness can be an indicator of depression and increases the chance of cardiovascular disease, along with the suppression of our immune system. Finally, loneliness decreases our ability to get quality and efficient sleep, which adds to more wear and tear on the body physically.
- Friendships: Focus on quality vs. quantity. Connecting with others on a human and emotional level helps create meaning in our lives. In addition, authentic, quality relationships improve our overall health in many ways. Friendships help us manage stress, improve how our immune system functions, and give meaning to our existence. The truth is, the quality of our friendships is what matters most not how many friends we have. What defines a quality friendship? Quality friendships typically involve a sense of ease, loyalty, authenticity, giving and taking, and most importantly, are non-judgmental. In the world of social media and Facebook, sometimes we might think we have a lot of friends, but if you really think about it, these friends are not those you would turn to when the going gets tough. Fight the urge to compare yourself to others, and most importantly, find time to connect in meaningful ways with old and new friends as a helpful way in managing loneliness. Genuine friendships and relationships build you up and increase your overall confidence!
- Don’t be afraid of your loneliness or to tell others about it. Suffering from loneliness can often feel like an extremely isolating and viscous cycle. Challenging and managing loneliness is important, so don’t be afraid to tell others about it! Talking to others about how you are feeling can often be a very helpful and effective way to cope and to take away the tight grip loneliness might have on you. Support groups are also an extremely effective way to learn that others like you may be facing similar obstacles, and are especially useful when loneliness is a result of post-traumatic stress disorder, grief, and/or a terminal illness diagnoses.
If you’ve tried most of these ways of coping with loneliness and find that your lonely feelings have not been reduced significantly or you can’t handle the situation on your own, consider reaching out for counseling. At The Center For Growth, our therapists are trained to help you overcome self-defeating behaviors that can be contributing to your loneliness. Call 215-922-5683 to set up an appointment or visit www.therapyinphiladelphia.com.