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10 Ways To Overcome Loneliness

10 Ways To Overcome Loneliness

By Brock Hansen for YourTango.com.

Have you ever been lonely in a crowd? Have you ever been perfectly content all alone? Me too. And I have also suffered from loneliness. What’s up with that?

Loneliness is a complex mental and emotional phenomenon that has at its base a powerful emotion that has survival value for children. All of us have experienced some degree of abandonment, if only for a short time, and remember the painful and scary feeling that goes along with it.

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Whenever we are reminded of this feeling or anticipate it in the future, we get a twinge of abandonment distress that we experience as loneliness. This can happen among a crowd of friends or even after making love. It can be pretty confusing and can put you off your game if you don’t know what’s going on. For more on the anatomy of loneliness, see that post on shameandanger.blogspot.com.

Here are some tips for recognizing loneliness for what it is and dealing with it in the healthiest ways.

1. Realize that loneliness is a feeling, not a fact. When you are feeling lonely, it is because something has triggered a memory of that feeling, not because you are in fact, isolated and alone. The brain is designed to pay attention to pain and danger, and that includes painful scary feelings; therefore loneliness gets our attention.

But then the brain tries to make sense of the feeling. Why am I feeling this way? Is it because nobody loves me? Because I am a loser? Because they are all mean? Theories about why you are feeling lonely can become confused with facts. Then it becomes a bigger problem, so just realize that you are having this feeling and accept it without overreacting.

2. Reach out because loneliness is painful and can confuse you into thinking that you are a loser and an outcast. You might react by withdrawing into yourself, your thoughts, and your lonely feelings and this is not helpful. At its best, anticipation of loneliness might motivate us to reach out and cultivate friendships, which is the healthiest thing to do if you are sad and alone. When you are a child, and your sadness causes you to cry, you may evoke a comforting response from others. If you’re an adult, not so much.

3. Notice your self deflating thoughts. We often create self centered stories to explain our feelings when we are young. It is not unusual for children to assume that there is something wrong with them if they are not happy. If they are lonely and sad, children may assume other people don’t like them when this is rarely the case.

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Victims of bullying may well have fans and friends, but they often aren’t aware of it because the shame and loneliness get more attention. Habitual assumptions about social status continue into adulthood and if you are looking for evidence that the world sucks, you can always find it.

4. Make a plan to fight the mental and emotional habits of loneliness. If you realize you are dealing with an emotional habit, you can make a plan to deal with loneliness. Since healthy interaction with friends is good, make some effort to reach out to others, to initiate conversation and face time even when your loneliness and depression are telling you not to. Yes, it is work, but it is worthwhile, just like exercising is worthwhile even when you are feeling tired or lazy.

5. Focus on the needs and feelings of others, the less attention on your lonely thoughts and feelings. I can walk down the street thinking about myself, my loneliness and the hopelessness of it all, staring at the sidewalk and sighing to myself. Or I can walk down the street grateful for the diversity of people I get to share the sidewalk with, silently wishing them good health and good fortune, and smiling at each person I meet. The latter is more fun, even though I sometimes have to remind myself to do it on purpose.

6. Find others like you. Nowadays there are more tools than ever before to find out where the knitters, hikers or kiteboarders are congregating so that you can get together with those who share your interests. This makes it much easier to identify groups with which you will have something in common, a natural basis for beginning a friendship.

7. Always show up when meeting up with others. You don’t have to run for president of the knitters society at your first meeting. But you do have to show up. I have been telling others to practice yoga for 20 years and promising I would do it myself for just as long, but except for the occasional coincidental yoga offering at a retreat, I didn’t take the trouble of finding a class I could attend regularly until a month ago. Now I am enjoying it and it wasn’t that hard. I have put a reminder in my phone to resign from the procrastinator’s society.

More from YourTango: Are You In A Relationship And Feeling Alone?

8. Be curious, but don’t expect perfection or applause. Each time you show up is an experiment, a micro adventure in social bonding. If you are curious about and interested in others, they will be attracted to you because you are giving them attention. So you will get attention in return. Curiosity about others also takes your focus away from those painful feelings that tend to make you hide and sulk.

9. Kindess goes a long way. “There’s nobody here but us chickens.” This is one of my favorite lines from The Lazy Man’s Guide to Enlightenment by Thaddeus Golas. Underneath the impressive facades of the high fliers are the same set of emotions we all are born with. Celebrities suffer from stage fright and depression too.

You have the power to offer loving kindness and generosity of spirit to all you come into contact with. It isn’t instinctual to be kind to strangers or people who scare you. But it is a choice. It is a choice that Jesus and Ghandi used intentionally. And in the long run it is a winning choice. The alternative, being mean or stingy with those you don’t know well, can get you a reputation as a Scrooge.

10. Be persistent. Even if a particular group does seem to be a dead end for you, try another. AA and Al-Anon recommend that everyone try six different groups to find one that suits you best. If you are persistent, challenging the assumptions and feelings that tell you to give up and resign yourself to a life of loneliness, and showing up and being curious and kind to others and more and more groups, the odds are in your favor.

And once you have a friend or two, nourish those friendships with time and attention. Don’t be too cautious about whether you are giving more than you are getting at first. If you make more friends and some of them are takers, you can choose to spend more time with the friends who reward your friendship.

Brock Hansen, LCSW – Visit my website at Change-for-Good.org or become a fan of CriticismCoach on Facebook or Follow CriticismCoach on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on YourTango.com:†All By Yourself? 10 Ways To Overcome Loneliness.

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86 comments

+ add your own
10:00AM PST on Mar 5, 2014

thanks.

10:02PM PST on Feb 26, 2014

Thanks for these ideas.

9:40AM PST on Feb 22, 2014

Thank you for the insightful article, so many good comments too! As a child I was lonely quite a lot as I went to a small cliquish school where I didn't fit in well. Outside of school I was often alone but not nearly so lonely as I had no trouble connecting to nature or finding company with a book or one of our various pets. As an adult, I savour what little time alone I get and large social gatherings are where I tend to have feelings of loneliness when I have them at all. Light and love

2:04PM PST on Feb 21, 2014

Thank you.

6:03AM PST on Feb 21, 2014

Thanks for the info

3:55AM PST on Feb 21, 2014

Sometimes it is quite hard to just "decide to not be lonely". However, there are good tips on this article.

3:08AM PST on Feb 21, 2014

The loneliness I experience MY whole life is very different from the loneliness people talk about here.I grew up in a very unkind,verbally abusive home where simple respect towards kids did not exist.Favoritism was dominant.I felt quicly lonely as a child as my parents never gave a real feeling of affection.I can not recall just one time my heart went warm as a little girl from a loving cuddle from mom or dad.I have never said momyy or daddy.I felt in the way.I grew up and experienced how me as only girl with 3 bro,was not acknowledged at all.I started very early,around 8-9 to become the servant of mom and dad,doing chores and more.Maybe I would be loved then.My teenage years were excruciating lonely and I thrived on the scouts on Sunday and schoolfriends.My mother was plain cruel and father was absent.I became a "born again christian " at 22 and believed my life would change totally for the best.35 years into it ,I can only say,the church and Christianity is an indifferent religion but a school for Biblical knowledge.Only constant brainwashing Bibleverses is what churches do today.I quit the church as I felt even more lonely.The Savior has not done miracles in my family.I experience a total mental and emotional loneliness which is at the core of a human life.No activities will do.I am a nurse and reached out constantly.But it remains in the end superficial.If your home does not love you, the world will not either.I totally understand Tracy Alan B.In the end you feel life is

5:21PM PST on Feb 2, 2014

Over the past couple of years now I have lost so many friends, associates and some family too as a result of all of them discovering that I have embraced Islam and in many ways live a different life then the norm? Saddened and disappointed about these circumstances I now find myself in with each and every breath that I take as I continue to battle the Monster that still haunt and torture me as my deepest feelings and emotions very slowly begin to surface all over again while I pretend to everyone I am now okay.

My normal day to day routines sometimes hinder my chances of a normal life while everyone else goes about their own lives without a single care in the world. Being alone and remembering the past especially the good times you once shared can be the trigger that on occasions fires the bullet off into the Abyss of destruction within a momentary lapse of concentration as emotions run high and the heart breaks all over again leaving oneself back where they started in the first place like De Ja Vu Loneliness is a punishment and complete torture to anyone who has love in their hearts for others rather then themselves.

As I awake each morning to do my prayers then welcome the new day in, I ponder of exactly how many other people also experience this forever terrible re-occurring nightmare but suddenly stop right there in my tracks collecting all my own thoughts together, and finally realize, who else actually cares?

Phillip Seymour Hoffman R.I.P.

5:20PM PST on Feb 2, 2014

Assalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh.

Having personally battled depression for nearly the last 8 years of my life resulting in failure to hold my job down to enable me to succeed in life. Only when in the company of my children do I ever feel happy and satisfied, even though at times we end up disagreeing on many levels on many issues we discuss and share. Nerveless it has surely helped me through some very grim times including the darkest hours when simply wanting to end it all.

The medical help from G.P.s with their prescribed medications temporarily numbed the demons that hide inside however they soon return time and time again when things don't go my way and life seems so complicated to even really want to exist. Only my love and belief in God has kept me from despair and places which I would rather not think about right now.
But, the fact still remains each and every single day at anytime I just may suddenly lose hope and fall pray to the enemy that lies within.

5:17PM PST on Feb 2, 2014

Assalamu Alaikum Wa Rahmatullahi Wa Barakatuh.

Having personally battled depression for nearly the last 8 years of my life resulting in failure to hold my job down to enable me to succeed in life. Only when in the company of my children do I ever feel happy and satisfied, even though at times we end up disagreeing on many levels on many issues we discuss and share. Nerveless it has surely helped me through some very grim times including the darkest hours when simply wanting to end it all.

The medical help from G.P.s with their prescribed medications temporarily numbed the demons that hide inside however they soon return time and time again when things don't go my way and life seems so complicated to even really want to exist. Only my love and belief in God has kept me from despair and places which I would rather not think about right now.
But, the fact still remains each and every single day at anytime I just may suddenly lose hope and fall pray to the enemy that lies within.

Over the past couple of years now I have lost so many friends, associates and some family too as a result of all of them discovering that I have embraced Islam and in many ways live a different life then the norm? Saddened and disappointed about these circumstances I now find myself in with each and every breath that I take as I continue to battle the Monster that still haunt and torture me as my deepest feelings and emotions very slowly begin to surface all over again while I pretend to every

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