Introverts and extroverts, men and women, rich and poor, educated and less educated – most of us feel lonely from time to time. And “majority” is not just a word: according to a recent poll in the US, 61% of adults can be considered single. They all feel disconnected from others, and it does not matter at all whether there is actually someone close to them or not.
You can feel lonely at school and at work, with friends or with a partner. No matter how many people in our life, the depth of the emotional connection with them is important, explains psychologist David Narang. “We may be in the company of family members or friends, but if none of them understands what we are thinking and what we are experiencing now, we will most likely be very lonely.”
It’s normal to feel lonely from time to time, though. It is much worse that more and more people feel this way all the time.
Loneliness can be experienced by anyone – including mental health professionals
In 2017, the former head of the US medical services Vivek Murphy called loneliness “a growing epidemic”, one of the reasons for which is that modern technology and social networks are partially replacing us with live interaction with others. It is possible to trace the connection between this condition and the increasing risk of depression, anxiety, cardiovascular disease, dementia, and shortened life expectancy.
Loneliness can be experienced by anyone – including mental health professionals. “Loneliness and shame make me feel defective, unwanted, loved by no one,” says psychotherapist and coach Megan Bruno. “It seems that in such a state it is better not to be seen by anyone, because if people see me like this, they can turn their backs on me forever.”
How can you support yourself on the lonely days? This is what psychologists advise.
1. Don’t judge yourself for this feeling.
Loneliness itself is unpleasant, but if we begin to scold ourselves for our condition, it only gets worse. “When we criticize ourselves, guilt takes root deeply in us,” explains Megan Bruno. “We begin to believe that something is wrong with us, that no one loves us.”
Instead, learn self-compassion. Tell yourself that almost everyone experiences this feeling from time to time, and that it’s okay to dream of intimacy in our disconnected world.
2. Remind yourself that you won’t be alone forever.
“This feeling is not at all a sign that something is wrong with you, and most importantly, it will definitely pass. Right now in the world, millions of people feel about the same as you, ”Bruno recalls.
3. Take a step towards people
Call a relative, take a friend out for a cup of coffee, or just write about your feelings on social media. “The feeling of shame will tell you that nobody loves you and nobody needs you. Don’t listen to this voice. Remind yourself to take a step outside the house and you will probably feel a little better. “
4. Get out into nature
“A walk in the park will be enough to make you feel at least a little bit relieved,” said Jeremy Nobel, founder of the project to help fight loneliness through art. Communicating with animals can also be healing, he said.
5. Use your smartphone less
It’s time to replace watching social media feed with live communication. “Keeping track of other people’s ‘glossy’ and ‘flawless’ lives, we feel more and more unhappy, – recalls David Narang. “But your addiction to Instagram and Facebook can be turned to your advantage by inviting a friend for a cup of tea.”
6. Get creative
“Read a poem, knit a scarf, express what you feel on canvas,” Nobel suggests. “These are all ways to turn your pain into something beautiful.”
7. Think about who loves you
Think of the person who truly loves and cares about you. Ask yourself: How do I know that he / she loves me? How does he or she express his love? When was he / she there, when did I need it? “The fact that the other person loves you so much says a lot not only about him or her, but also about you – you really deserve love and support,” Narang said.
8. Look for opportunities to bond with strangers a little.
By smiling at the one sitting opposite in the subway, or holding the door in the store, you can get a little closer to those around you. “As you skip someone in line, try to imagine how that person is feeling,” Narang suggests. “Each of us needs small acts of kindness – so take the first step.”
9. Sign up for group lessons
Plant the seeds for future connections – Join a group that meets regularly. Choose what interests you: volunteer organization, professional association, book club. “By sharing your impressions with other participants in the event, you will give them a chance to get to know you better and open up for themselves,” Narang said.
10. Decode the message that loneliness conveys to you
Instead of running headlong from this feeling, try to face it. “Notice whatever you feel: discomfort, thoughts, emotions, tension in the body,” advises Narang. – Most likely, in a few minutes, clarity will come in your head: you will understand what specific steps you should take. This plan, formulated in a calm state, will be much more effective than the disparate actions that we all perform, being at the mercy of emotions. “
When is it time to ask for help
As we said, loneliness is a fairly common condition, and just because you are experiencing it does not mean that something is “wrong” with you. However, if this feeling does not leave you for too long and you realize that you are on the verge of depression, it is time to seek help.
Instead of continuing to distance yourself from others, arrange to see a specialist – a psychologist or therapist. He will help you connect with others and feel loved and needed again.