What is it?
Often described as “being alone”, loneliness is actually a state of mind; or the perception of being alone. This perception can inhibit an individual’s ability to genuinely connect with others and leaves them feeling that their relationships are unsatisfactory. Loneliness is a universal feeling that left unattended to can lead to physical health problems. It is possible to feel lonely, even when surrounded by others.
Feeling lonely is different than being alone. Spending time in solitude does not always produce feelings of loneliness. Being in solitude is a choice. Some individuals seek time alone. They report it helps them to feel energized as opposed to feeling sad and disconnected.
Thoughts or feelings associated with loneliness
- Changes in sleeping and eating habits.
- Difficulty managing emotions.
- Feelings of separation, rejection, or abandonment.
- Avoidance of social situations.
- Feeling inadequate in social situations.
- Feeling unconnected to friends, family, co-workers, etc.
Practicing the "Three A's" of awareness, acceptance, and action can also be applied to overcoming chronic loneliness:
- Become aware of the fact that loneliness is deeply affecting your life.
- Practicing acceptance around the loneliness (which can feel counterintuitive but can actually help you to feel less shameful or judgmental towards yourself for being lonely).
- Take action towards overcoming your loneliness.
Action steps can include:
- Transitions, stress, or other life challenges can contribute to feelings of loneliness. Be patient and give yourself time to adjust.
- Limit social media use. What we see on social media is not always an accurate reflection of the realities of life.
- Re-think how you spend your spare time. Challenge yourself to try new activities and attack your loneliness head-on.
- Volunteer. Volunteerism is proven to improve mood and boost self-confidence.
- Be strategic about seeking relationships. Look for connections in places that match your values and preferences.
- Accept that you won't be friends with every person you meet. This isn't a reflection of your self-worth; it just means you haven't met the right person yet.
- Talk to people you see while going about your day, even if you don't know them. This helps you practice your communication skills, increase confidence and it will brighten your mood.
- Seek healthy relationships. Don't settle for relationships that make you feel hurt or disrespected.
- Be patient. Developing relationships takes time. Make time for relationship-building every day.
Feeling like you don't belong | Not fitting in as a college student or young adult
How to get rid of loneliness and become happy | Olivia Remes | TEDxNewcastle