Have you ever been in a large group of people but still felt terribly lonely?
This is perfectly normal and happens more often than you think. Just because people surround you doesn’t mean you can’t still be lonely.
But when does loneliness become an issue? We will all go through periods of loneliness, and you may be experiencing it right now. If this is the situation you find yourself in, know that there are ways you can combat it.
We all need to approach things at our own pace, but hopefully, these five tips can give you a place to start.
1. Identify Your Loneliness
It’s hard to deal with any problem when you refuse to identify or acknowledge it. The sooner you identify loneliness, the sooner you can process it.
Shoving it to the background and pretending like it doesn’t exist will never let you come to terms with it. It may seem hard to admit you’re lonely, but it’s an important step.
Whether you tell friends, family, or a professional, it allows you to finally release it. Kory Floyd from the University of Arizona says that loneliness often comes with a stigma attached to it. There’s the association of “being a loner or a loser.”
Because of this stigma, we are less likely to tell anyone we feel lonely. This further suppresses it. The longer you deny something, the longer you make the negative effects last.
The sooner you can admit something, the sooner you can begin to work through it.
It may start with just admitting it to yourself. I know this was a big step for me, as it was something I kept pushing to the side. Once you get to this stage, it can become easier to share it with others.
2. Avoid Comparing Yourself to Others
Comparison is the thief of joy and there is no better example of this than with loneliness. What we see with people is often not the actual picture.
We have become very good at creating our own personas, and these personas are not our true selves. They are a version of ourselves that we play out in public.
A lot of the time, when you encounter people, you often see their persona and not who they really are.
You may do this too without even realizing it. We have created these alternate versions of ourselves and slipped into them without even knowing it.
We have only amplified this in a world of social media. This isn’t groundbreaking insight, but the world people try to present on social media is often far from reality.
The images we share with the world fall into that same persona trap. We are sharing who we wish we were instead of who we actually are.
If you suffer from loneliness, it's hard to see people out and about and surrounded by friends. It’s important to recognize that these people may suffer from the same thing: being surrounded by people but still feeling lonely.
If you’re feeling lonely, it can be helpful not to expose yourself to social media. If you do, it’s critical to remember that what you are viewing is just a snapshot of real life, and not real life itself.
3. Take Advantage of the Time You Have Alone
The Canadian Mental Health Association says that the time when you’re alone can actually be an opportunity.
This is a great time to take on a new hobby, learn a new skill, and expose yourself to new music, books, podcasts, and documentaries. The pandemic was obviously a period of true isolation, and it hit all of us differently.
When you’re alone, your thoughts can run rampant. A good way to nip this in the bud is to keep your mind occupied. Challenging your mind, getting out into nature, and stimulating your brain can be a good way to deal with loneliness.
4. Build New Social Connections
The obvious solution to loneliness is to connect with others. But that’s easier said than done. You probably don’t want to dive headfirst into an enormous group, but starting small seems to be the best approach.
Referring back to The Canadian Mental Health Association, they say that you should think about the type of relationships you want. If you don’t like crowds of people, “look for the opportunities to meet people in smaller groups.”
It helps to connect with like-minded people, so look for groups or organizations that are based around an interest you have.
This doesn’t even have to be in person at first. There are so many great online communities, or Facebook groups, where you can find like-minded people.
This can be a great place to start, as even though it’s not in person, you still get to interact and build connections. These groups may have in-person meetups, which allow for even stronger connections.
Building relationships can take time, but the advantage of online groups is you can take all the time you need. You may find it easier to engage when you can check in sporadically.
From there, The Canadian Mental Health Association says there are some other tips to help build social connections.
- Take it slow
- Be active and patient
- Accept that you won’t be everyone's friend — and that’s okay
- Aim for healthy relationships
- Identify and work around barriers
- Build family relationships or increase those connections
Speaking of building social connections, this may be one of the best things you can do to combat loneliness.
There are so many opportunities to volunteer and so many organizations that would be happy to help you.
Here are some more ideas if you’re looking for places to volunteer:
- Visiting seniors in nursing homes
- Reading to kids at schools
- Volunteering for Meals on Wheels
- Animal shelters
- Children’s hospitals
- Your local church
- Habitat for Humanity
- Local libraries
This is just a small list of examples, but there are many places that would be so grateful to have you and your time.
Identify your strengths and interests and see where you can best put them to use. Or, you may like to try something outside of your comfort zone if you want to challenge yourself.
Volunteering will give you great social interactions, a sense of fulfillment, connection to others, and pride. It’s also one of the easiest ways to make new friends and bond with others.
There is also some interesting research from The Journal of Happiness Studies. They say that volunteer activities can improve our mental health, combat stress, reduce feelings of depression, and make us happier.
Wrapping it Up
We all get stuck with feelings of loneliness at one time or another. This is perfectly normal.
If feelings of loneliness seem like they’re too much to overcome, it’s important to reach out to friends, family, or a professional.
There’s nothing wrong with admitting you feel lonely. And this is a better approach than pushing it to the side and pretending like you’re not.
So, use this article as a jumping-off point, know that you’re not alone and that there are avenues to help combat loneliness.