Feeling lonely is never fun. Feelings of isolation can transport you to a very dark place where you feel like no one understands or cares about you. However, it’s important to work through these emotions so you can live a full, healthy life. It is vital to have social connections so you can thrive, rather than merely exist and go through the motions of living.
In Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, John T. Cacioppo and William Patrick write:
The fact that loneliness is unpleasant is obvious. In Genesis, Adam and Eve’s punishment for disobeying God was their exile from Eden. In Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Zeus decided to destroy the men of the Bronze Age by flooding Hellas. Deucalion survived by constructing a chest and, with Pyrrha, drifted to Parnassus. Deucalion realized that however difficult or impossible it is to live with others, even more difficult and more impossible is it to live without them, in complete loneliness. When Zeus granted him to choose what he wished, he chose to create others.
It’s not enough to just get through the day. That may be a start, but you don’t want to stay in that place for long. Eventually, you need to get to a point where you actually enjoy your life and feel excited about each new day. Here are a few tips for managing, and eventually overcoming, loneliness.
1. Choose to make a change
The first step is making a choice to look for ways to overcome your loneliness. You have to want to make the necessary changes that will help you feel a little less isolated.
In the foreword for Freedom from Loneliness by Jennifer Page, Pam Rhodes advises:
You can respond to loneliness, however it strikes you, in one of two ways. You can either be reactive, so that you just accept that being lonely is your lot and adjust to that sort of life, or loneliness can challenge you to become proactive. In other words, you have a choice. Your world of experience can become diminished by your lack of what you feel is meaningful interaction with others, or you can regard your lonely condition as a challenge that you want to make use of: to learn about yourself; to understand how outside influences, both people and experience, affect our peace of mind and attitude; and to recognize what you really want in terms of other people in your life.
2. Re-focus your attention
Don’t dwell on your feeling of being alone. Instead, redirect these thoughts through the practice of mindfulness. Try to become aware of any negative thoughts you are feeding yourself, and redirect those thoughts to a more positive track.
Jeffrey Brantley and Wendy Millstine write in True Belonging:
Practicing mindfulness can also help nurture relationships and connections, for it helps you recognize when an exaggerated self-centered view has solidified inside and your ego’s demands and story line have become too loud. Practicing mindfulness in those moments can help you experience yourself as larger than you may have believed yourself to be, and perhaps wiser, too. It can help you respond from a perspective beyond your unique personality’s story and ego needs, without disrespecting or devaluing your own particularity in any way. … It can help you relate from a much larger space of awareness that is inherently deeply present and in touch with each moment.
Another way to take the focus off of your feelings of loneliness is by giving back to others. One place to start is with an organization called Friend to Friend America. The main goals of Friend to Friend America are to increase awareness of the health risks associated with loneliness and to send out ambassadors to spend time with elderly people who feel alone. Volunteering is a great way to connect with others and meet new people.
“In addition to professional networking, volunteering can be a fun, meaningful way to make new friends. New to the community? Looking to branch out socially? Simply looking for something to do with new people? Volunteer and get to know others who care about the same issues that you do,” advises Idealist, a website focused on helping professionals find volunteer opportunities as well as careers within the non-profit industry.
4. Value yourself
Know that you have plenty to offer others. Extended periods of loneliness can cause you to feel like you are not worthwhile, but this is not true. Know that you are special and have unique gifts to contribute to society.
“Loneliness makes you question your worth, your appearance, your character, your whole being. It exhausts you so that sleep is a blessed release, and yet it haunts your dreams so that you meet the dawn having slept, but not rested. It saps your confidence and ties your tongue,” Rhodes explains.