Every person experiences the feelings of loneliness and isolation from time to time. That is normal and to be expected.
What is more difficult is when we experience persistent feelings of loneliness and isolation that follow us regularly.
Transitions in one’s life may also fuel loneliness – such as starting a new job or moving to a new location.
Furthermore, depression and anxiety can amplify those feelings, causing a person to withdraw further, making them feel like they are standing all alone, even if they are in a room full of people.
How can we combat and cope with these feelings? These steps can help.
1. Identify the cause and how long you’ve felt lonely or isolated.
We cannot find a solution to a problem until we better understand what the problem is and where it comes from.
Acute loneliness and isolation is often the result of an immediate life change that separates us from our social circles or relationships.
It may be the result of moving, a career change, a bad breakup, or a falling out with a friend or family member.
A person may also experience severe loneliness if they are lied to by a trusted friend, ostracized by their social group, made fun of, or otherwise rejected. We may also feel lonely if we’ve been rejected by a romantic interest.
Long-term loneliness can be fueled by mental illness, chronic physical illnesses that keep us from living an active life, loss of mobility due to sickness or aging, or friendships and relationships that don’t quite fit.
People are social creatures. Most people need to have some social connections that fit appropriately for them to stave off feelings of loneliness.
Being around people who are a wrong fit in personality or emotional capacity can also make a person lonely.
A person who is unique and doesn’t quite fit into a standard social mold may also feel alone, because they just can’t envision themselves as part of any collective unit.
2. Examine your reality and consider how reasonable those feelings may be.
There is a significant problem in this society with shallow friendships and relationships.
Quite a few people flock to social media to try to accumulate a large number of followers, thinking that these people are their friends and actually care about them.
This is a false impression of what friendship truly is. A person may have 100,000 followers and maybe 5 of them are people who genuinely care about the person in the context of a friendship or relationship.
Science is starting to take a greater look at the way social media affects our perceptions and interpersonal connections because of it.
It is important to maintain reasonable expectations and identify unreasonable beliefs.
For example, it is not reasonable to expect a person you have just met to care deeply for you or want to be around you constantly.
Time is a requirement for building trusting, healthy friendships and relationships between people. In many cases, it also requires some disagreements and working to find common ground where the involved people can meet in the middle.
Social media and apps negatively impact that. Don’t want to talk to someone? Just block them and find another one! It’s just not healthy for social skills.
And this phenomenon definitely extends to online dating culture, where people are boiled down to a brief description and a tag-line.
It creates an experience where you’re almost shopping for a perfect match, assuming the person was honest about how they represented themselves to you and the rest of the world.
In reality, perfect matches rarely exist. Everyone is imperfect, and unreasonable standards can cause us to reject people that may have otherwise been a decent fit if not for this one thing or another.
We will always be disappointed if we look for perfection in a friend or lover.
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3. Take action to push against and attempt to alleviate the loneliness.
No problem is solved without determined action.
Unfortunately, the depression that may accompany loneliness can make this task seem insurmountable.
Where do you look? Where do you go? What are the ways that we can actually push back against the loneliness?
The ability to nurture and give love can help counter the loneliness to a degree. Pets are an excellent way to combat general loneliness. A dog or a cat can provide joy and comfort, is generally happy to receive love, and will often give their attention and affections back in a pure way.
Plus, you don’t have to worry about them being up to anything shifty, so long as you don’t leave your dinner sitting in a place they can reach!
Quality sleep and exercise can also help. The mind produces many mood-balancing chemicals in the deepest stages of sleep. If we do not sleep well, then we can feel much worse about ourselves, the world, and our general position in life.
That trickles down into how we feel about other people, our friendships, and relationships. Lack of or erratic sleep patterns can also contribute to depression, which fuels feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Volunteer work can be an easy way to get out and around, giving you the opportunity to start forging new friendships with people who have similar interests.
Exploring hobbies can be another good option. There are websites out there that facilitate local meet-ups for people who share similar hobbies. Either can be a good way to meet up with new people.
The hardest part for many people is finding the willpower to try to take a step forward – and dealing with the emotional turmoil if things don’t go as planned.
It’s okay if they don’t. We must just keep trying as hard as we can, even if it’s only taking one step at a time on a long journey.
We must remember that our future is not defined by our present. Tomorrow can be better.
4. Reach out for help if you feel that you can’t overcome loneliness and isolation by yourself.
Matters of the mind are always tricky in providing perspective on, because some issues reach deeper than what we can handle on our own.
There is no shame in reaching out to a mental health professional if we feel that we cannot tackle the isolation and loneliness on our own.
It can be one of the hardest things we ever have to do, one of the hardest decisions we need to make for ourselves. Don’t allow yourself to minimize your suffering, if you are. You deserve to feel happy, connected, and loved.
But, depression or traumatic experiences can make us feel like we are undeserving of connection, love, affection. That is a lie that mental illness can try to convince us of. Don’t listen to it!
5. What if I believe someone I care about is lonely or isolated?
Reach out to them! Don’t do it via a social media post though. Arrange a meeting or have a verbal conversation with the person via the phone or a chat application.
Verbal and face-to-face conversations have more emotional and social weight behind them that can help a lonely person feel a bit more connected.
So often we find ourselves in our own little world, wrapped up in our thoughts, stresses, and worries. We must make an effort to reach out to the people who wind up getting pushed to the edges of society and social groups because of their loneliness.
And, as a lonely person, it is necessary to combat one’s own thoughts, fears, and anxiety to reach out and try to bridge the gap as much as we can.
Most people are not going to notice a person who feels lonely without some deep prodding and insight. That can turn into a vicious cycle of negatively affirming that no one notices or cares. The issue is that the problem is so subtle that it can be hard to notice.
But that doesn’t mean you are any less deserving of friends, kindness, affection, or love.