“You always know. You always have needs, and when they aren’t met, your body sends signals. Hunger, loneliness, exhaustion, thirst, and fear are all signals that something is missing, and you need to act on it now.”Mel Robbis
Loneliness can sometimes feel like an empty hole inside of you that you can’t seem to fill. For some people, it can begin from the loss of someone they love and be temporary. While for others, it can be a continuous struggle to find fulfillment. It is hard to imagine that with all the ways that there are to communicate with others, loneliness is a problem. But according to U.S. News and World Report, as many as three in four Americans experience loneliness continually. And loneliness appears to be at its highest during your late 20s to mid-50s. And then it spikes again in your 80s.
What are Risk Factors for Loneliness?
Not only is age and life stage a risk factor for loneliness, but those who have a high level of wisdom, compassion, and empathy, appear to experience less loneliness and manage it better than those who were less emotionally mature.
Most shockingly, loneliness is usually not influenced by being in a committed relationship or having an extensive network of friends. Regardless of whether someone is surrounded people or not, they can still have feelings of being chronically lonely. So feeling alone isn’t really about what someone has around them, but rather it is the perception of what they have versus what they think they need.
7 Ways to Deal With Loneliness
The key to overcoming loneliness is to look at what you have and appreciate it instead of searching for things you think you need. If you are always looking around and seeing all that you lack, you are never going to find fulfillment. Learning to appreciate things in your life instead of continually searching for something outside of yourself for peace and contentment, is the only way to overcome the emptiness you feel inside.
1. Connect With the People you Enjoy
Often, we get so caught up in the day to day that we let relationships slide and don’t reach out. Even though there are a ton of ways to communicate, it is easy to lose touch. If it has been a while since you have reached out to an old friend, make a point to meet up with them and engage in face-to-face social interaction!
Don’t worry that it has been too long and you won’t know where to start. You can start by just saying “Hi, I miss you”. The people who love and care about you get just as busy and hectic as you. Don’t assume they haven’t contacted you on purpose. If you make a point to reach out to your friends and family continually, you won’t feel so disconnected. And instead of sending a text or email, pick up the phone to hear their voice and make it more personal!
2. Get off of Social Media
Social media is undoubtedly an excellent communication tool for some people. A survey exploring the effects of social media, however, found that the more time that people spent using social media, the lonelier they felt. And those who spent more time engaged in social media felt more isolated than the people who rarely used, or even checked, their social media accounts.
Also, according to Researchers at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and Radboud University Nijmegen, people who use their smartphone are more likely to report feelings of depression, loneliness, and anxiety. So if you want to feel less lonely get off of Facebook and Instagram, put your phone away, and rejoin life.
When you use social media, not only does it distract you from being engaged with the real world around you; it gives you a false impression of other peoples’ lives. People who post things to Facebook and Instagram usually only post those things that are pleasant and show their life in a positive light. And if you are already feeling like your life is lonely, seeing images of all the parties you aren’t invited to, and the good times that everyone else seems to be having, won’t affect you positively.
3. Find Your Passion
People most often feel lonely when they feel like something is “missing” from their life. If you don’t find and do things that make you feel joy and happiness, then it is not uncommon to feel like something is missing. Everyone has a passion for something. The key to overcoming loneliness is finding what that looks like for you is.
If hiking is something that makes you feel happy inside, make it a priority to hit the trails. Or, if you love to write, start writing down your memoirs. The point is to find something that doesn’t distract you from your feelings of loneliness but rather, engages you in activities that bring out the best in you and make you feel satisfied. Sometimes the hardest part is just getting out there and doing what you love. But when it is over, you won’t ever say you wished you didn’t do it.
4. Examine What is Driving Your Feelings
Since feeling alone comes from within, stop looking on the outside to fill your emptiness! When you begin to feel lonely, look inside yourself to see what is causing you to feel that way. Only you have the power to change how you think and conduct yourself. Make a list of those things that you believe are exasperating your feelings of being alone and go through them one by one.
If it is because you haven’t talked to your friends and family in a while, pick up the phone. If it is because you sit in an office alone all day, call a friend and make a date for dinner to catch up. You are the only one who can change your habits to find happiness. Start by finding out what the problem is and then take steps to change the behaviors that are keeping you stuck.
5. Know That you are not Alone
Loneliness is a feeling that you are the only one in the world, feeling the way that you do. But the reality is that you are one of the millions of people around you who are feeling alone. When you stop feeling as if it is a condition that you are dealing with all on your own, it becomes a little less daunting! Loneliness is something that every human being deals with at some point in their life.
If you know that there are other people out there who are feeling just as alone as you are, it can help to make things feel way less isolating. And it might even help you to reach out to others, knowing that they are probably feeling alone. It will also make it easier to talk to other people about the way that you feel without fear of judgment or reprisal.
6. Talk Positively About Yourself and Your Life
We all tell ourselves our own story. If you continue to tell yourself that you are lonely and that you have no one, that is all that you will be able to see. Instead of focusing on your feelings of loneliness and isolation, focus on those things you have in your life that provide you with happiness. When you think positively, it can transform your entire life.
Positivity can help you to view the things around you to see what you have versus what you don’t. When you are feeling lonely, don’t just speak positively, make a physical list of all the riches you have in your life. And then focus on them instead of the things that you wish you did have or that you think are missing.
7. Talk to a Counselor
Venting to someone about your feelings of loneliness is an excellent way to come to terms with your emotions and make sense of what is really going on. But not everyone feels comfortable opening up to people in their life. Find a counselor or therapist that you can talk to about how you feel.
They can help guide you through what might be holding you back from feelings fulfillment. Sometimes there are things in your past, or present, that you can’t see for yourself. Talking aloud and letting someone question what you think is real and what really is real, is an excellent way to sort through your emotions and perhaps find a more positive, and healthy, road to overcoming your feelings of loneliness.
It is hard to believe that in an age of mass communication and social media that nearly three-fourths of people regularly report feelings of loneliness. But loneliness doesn’t come from outside; it comes from within. If you are experiencing feelings of loneliness, the only one who can change them is you. It probably isn’t about finding more people in your life to connect to. Rather, it is connecting with the people who are already in your life.
The most important key is to know that everyone feels lonely sometimes, everyone. It isn’t about how many friends you have, or if you are single or married. Loneliness is a state of mind that only you can change through examining your thoughts, perceptions, and reality.