February 14, 2016

10 Essential Things To Do When You’re Feeling Lonely

We have all felt lonely at one point or another, but when you can’t stop feeling lonely, it’s time to do something about it. According to Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon, and chief medical correspondent at CNN, loneliness affects 60 million Americans and is considered to be an epidemic. Loneliness doesn’t target just one type of person. Whether you are single, in a relationship, surrounded by hundreds of people, or living in the mountains alone, loneliness can affect you.

The negative effects of feeling lonely are wide and include a depressed immune system, increased inflammation, depression, anxiety, and a distorted view of others. In other words, feeling lonely could be affecting your health now and lead to a whole host of issues later on, such as cardiovascular disease and immune system disorders, among other things.

The biggest thing that you must remember is that you need to do something, and it will probably require some serious work on your part. Loneliness is such a powerful and debilitating emotion, you can’t expect loneliness to go away on its own or easily. Whatever is happening in your life, and what you are experiencing, is causing the loneliness, which means you need to make some big changes in order to change the way you feel. Following are 10 impactful things you can do that can help you overcome loneliness.

1. Before Anything, See A Doctor

I know a woman who had a loving relationship, plenty of friends, but still felt incredibly lonely and depressed for years. She assumed that it was just who she was – as if she was supposed to live with it for the rest of her life. When she discovered that she had hypothyroidism, and got treatment, she started to feel better once her hormones balanced out. Her depression and feeling of loneliness disappeared, and she has gotten back to her old self, with no hint of the feelings she used to have.

The fact is that you may be suffering from something internally that is causing you to feel negative emotions, including loneliness. You owe it to yourself to go and get checked out so that you can rule out any issues that could be taken care of medically.

2. Find People You Really Relate To

We all have a deep need to relate to others. If you are surrounded by people who you cannot relate to fully, even if you love them and have a great relationship with them otherwise, then you need to go out and find at least one person that you can relate to. Relating to other people is essential for our development. When we can connect, have aha moments, and learn from others, we can apply that to our life and it feels good. But when we are surrounded by people who don’t challenge us or help us grow in any way, our lives can lose some meaning and that can result in a feeling of loneliness or emptiness.

Go out and take a class, join a group, meet up with like-minded people, and do what you need to do to find someone to relate to. For instance, if you lost someone and want to connect with other people who are in the same situation, then go to the places you think they would be. Don’t know where to start? Go to meetup.com and look around to find some groups in your area who are connecting. This can be scary at first, but you have two options: put yourself out there and connect with others or keep feeling the way you are feeling. If you are reading an article on feeling lonely and finding solutions for it, I’m assuming you will choose the former option!

3. Work On Your Self-Confidence

The fact is that some people are alone and not lonely because they feel perfectly content with themselves, other people, and what they are doing in their day-to-day life. Some people, on the other hand, are surrounded by other people and feel very alone. People who have low self-confidence have been shown to feel lonelier than their counterparts because of various factors, including poor coping strategies, perception of not being understood, and feelings of worthlessness.

Building up your self-confidence will help you feel happier, no matter who is or is not around. When you feel good about yourself, you enjoy being with yourself, which means that whether you are alone or not, you always feel as if you are in good company.

4. Get Out And Volunteer

There is no better way to feel like you are not alone in the world than volunteering. It helps you connect with other people, make a difference in other people’s lives, and feel good about yourself at the end of the day. Volunteering may seem like it would take a lot of energy and time, but the rewards are worth it.

Part of loneliness is characterized by not belonging. Volunteering helps you feel like you belong, not just in an organization or with other people, but in the world in general. It helps you feel like you are here for a reason and have a lot to contribute to the world around you. Just make sure you are volunteering somewhere that provides meaning to you. If you find value in cleaning up garbage on the side of the highway, then do that. But, if you want to connect with people on a personal level, then volunteering at a local hospital, soup kitchen or food bank will give you the opportunities to do that.

5. Get Out In Public

Loneliness is sometimes caused by a state of mind where you measure the amount of interactions you have on a daily basis and then determine whether or not you feel socially isolated. Therefore, if you don’t want to volunteer, at least get out in public more often and see if that helps you combat your loneliness. Go to a coffee shop, a class, an event, or even just to your local mall. Being out puts you in the energy of other people and increases your chances of interacting with others, which can help you see yourself as less isolated and feel less lonely.

6. Talk To A Professional

Feeling lonely is often a lonely affair. Not just because you have to live with it, but because you are unwilling to tell other people how you feel. You don’t want them to judge you or criticize you, so you hold all those negative feelings inside and try to deal with them on your own. But that is a huge mistake!

Because loneliness can often be a perception issue, talking to a professional can help you change your perception on what is really happening in your life and how to deal with it. Loneliness can also stem from developmental factors, such as a lack of attachment to parents and an inability to attach to other people in a way that prevents loneliness.

I highly recommend seeking professional help because it can help! In fact, in some cases, talking to professionals can be the only thing that helps. Yet many people are unwilling to go ahead and seek out the help they need because of their beliefs around professional help. Believe this: If they can help you to feel less lonely, then they are worth it, no matter what other people think.

A professional can help you deal with anxiety, low self-esteem, or pessimism, which are three characteristics that lonely people often struggle with. That alone can help you start to take action on other methods to stop feeling lonely.

7. Listen To Your Thoughts So That You Can Fight Your Beliefs

We often get caught up in our thoughts, but don’t really listen to them; instead, we become them, which makes us feel like we are them. But that’s not true.

Our thoughts can be random thoughts that occur from random things, such as a commercial or interaction with someone. But, they can also stem from our limiting beliefs that we hold on to so dearly.

The common belief is that we have about 50,000 thoughts a day, and that 95% are repeats and reflect the beliefs that we have. If you are not paying attention to your thoughts, then you can’t understand the beliefs that you are holding onto that may be contributing to your loneliness.

The problem with beliefs, is that most of them are limiting to our lives. They aren’t necessarily true, but we believe them to be true, so they dictate how we feel and what we will or will not do with our lives. When they turn down our confidence, willingness to interact with others, and confidence about how others feel about us, feeling lonely is a symptom that quickly follows.

It’s important to be aware of what your limiting beliefs are so that you can understand what is working for you and what is not, and then fight what is not. For instance, if you have a limiting belief that everyone is judging you, then you could feel really alone in the world! But, when you realize that this belief is just a perception that you have, and not necessarily the truth, then you can recognize it as a limiting belief and work on ways to overcome the feeling that everyone is judging you. Therefore, if you are constantly thinking thoughts about how everyone is judging you, that is likely a limiting belief you are struggling with.

If you are feeling lonely, it is crucial that you look into your limiting beliefs and how they are making you feel about yourself, others people, and everything that happens to you. Doing this has the potential to cure your loneliness and change your life, so don’t underestimate the power of listening to your thoughts to help you figure out what those limiting beliefs are.

8. Use Social Media Correctly

If you are on social media, then it can easily make you feel lonely. So many people are out there doing amazing things, having an amazing time, and connecting with a ton of people. Right? Well, not exactly.

On social media sites, you see what other people want you to see. They could be struggling with all kinds of issues on their end (and they probably are because we all have struggles!), but you will never see that. That’s why you can’t believe everything you see on social media. And, to make it worse, you can never absolutely know what is really happening on their end, good or bad, unless you are directly in their life.

For example, I have a long-distance friend who is constantly posting positive things on Facebook. She talks about what a great time she had out with her friends. She laughs and jokes with people who live near her. She seems extremely happy on Facebook. When I read those posts, I naturally assume that she is having a great time with her friends. But when I talk to her, she is miserable. She usually tells me a different, and much more negative, story about her time with friends. She doesn’t like anyone she is around. She feels alone, and if it wasn’t for her cat that makes her feel loved, I’m not sure how she would cope with her days.

It’s important to use social media as a way to keep in contact with people, but not to educate yourself on what is really happening in their lives. If you have a hard time seeing that most social media posts are fake or exaggerations meant to make other people look good, then get off it because it will not help you when you are feeling lonely. The twisted perception that you take on other people’s lives will make you feel miserable.

9. Treat People Well

If you have lost a number of relationships in your life, or have a hard time making new friends, then it may be how you interact with other people that’s the problem, and you may not even know it.

For instance, do you bail on plans a lot? If you do, people will stop asking you to come out because you are unreliable, which is not a trait that people respect. Or, do you tell other people what you think of everything, including them? People don’t like that!

It’s important to work on your relationship skills in order to develop relationships that offer real value and companionship in your life. Skills you absolutely need to develop include:

– Communication skills so that you can listen in a way that others require and speak in a way they respond to.
– Emotional intelligence so that you don’t offend people and can understand where they are coming from.
– The ability to be honest and open about your needs and feelings.
– A give-and-take attitude with a willingness to help other people when they need it.
– Compassion so that you can see things from their point of view.
– Willingness to admit when wrong so that you are not stuck in constant battles that deteriorate the relationship.

10. Focus On Personal Growth

In the end, the only person you are going to be around for your entire life is you, so your number one focus should always be on creating a better you as you move through your life. That means working on your personal growth every day. When you are focused on yourself and becoming better, you are less likely to feel alone. Your mind is occupied with a task or a concept or a lesson or whatever. You just don’t have time to dwell on your loneliness.

Moreover, personal growth boosts self-confidence and self-worth, which we already discussed as being important when you are feeling lonely. The more you become the person you want to be, the more you will enjoy being around yourself, no matter who else is around.

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