Feeling lonely doesn’t only happen when you’re alone. In fact, some people enjoy time to themselves.
On the flipside, just because you’re around other people doesn’t mean you can’t feel lonely. You might even feel lonely when you’re in a room full of people. When you don’t feel connected with anyone or you feel like no one understands you, you might feel as though you are completely alone even if you’re around friends or family.
Loneliness is a normal, human experience. But when left unchecked, it can be bad for your emotional and physical health.
Some studies have found that loneliness is just as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day.1
Whether you occasionally feel a little lonely when you’re at home by yourself or you experience a deep sense of loneliness that never goes away, it’s important to address loneliness in a healthy way. Here are 10 things you can do right away when you feel lonely.
Acknowledge You Feel Lonely
Don’t waste your energy fighting your feelings or trying to suppress your emotions. Everyone feels lonely sometimes.
And feeling lonely doesn’t mean you’re a loser and it doesn’t mean you’re weak. It just means you’re human.
Studies have found that labeling your feelings can reduce the intensity of them. 2 So simply putting a name to loneliness might help your brain make sense of how you’re feeling and instantly help you feel a little less lonely.
Develop a Plan
Sometimes you need to solve a problem. At other times, you need to solve how you feel about the problem.
Consider whether the best way to address your lonely feelings should involve solving the problem by connecting with someone or solving how you feel about the problem (taking care of your emotions).
If you are feeling lonely on a Friday night and you have friends or family members you could call, you might decide the best way to tackle the issue is to reach out to someone. You might find that talking on the phone helps. Or, you might invite someone to spend time with you.
If you reach out to people and no one responds, you might feel even lonelier. But, then you’ll know to tackle the problem from a different angle. Address how you feel about being lonely, rather than try to connect with someone.
You might choose to engage in a healthy coping strategy that allows you to feel better. Drawing, knitting, or gardening are just a few examples of solitary activities that might help you deal with your loneliness in a healthy way.
Connect With People from Your Past
Sometimes it’s easier to connect with old friends than it is to make new ones. Perhaps you lost touch with your college roommate over the years. Or maybe you have a cousin that you just don’t talk to very often.
You might reach out and see how they’re doing. Talk about how you’ve missed being able to catch up and talk about how you’d like to reconnect.
You may find it’s easy to connect with former classmates, people from your old neighborhood or previous co-workers because you already have things in common. Reminiscing about old times may help you connect again and you might find that you’re able to establish a relationship moving forward.
Reach out to people over social media or text messages. But try to connect over the phone, via video chat, or in-person. Connecting face-to-face might help alleviate your loneliness more than messaging.
Join a Group or Club
In addition to potentially connecting with people from your past, you might decide to connect with new people too.
Look for community activities that might be a good fit for you. From book clubs and gardening clubs to hiking groups and business groups, you will likely discover there are many ways to connect with people in your area.
You might check your local newspaper or try a website like “meetup” to see what is going on in your community.
Attend an event and make it a priority to talk to several people. You might find attending a few different events or joining a couple of different clubs helps you meet more people.
Read a Book
Reading a book helps you get inside the head of characters or narrators. It’ll help you understand how other people think and it can help you feel more connected.
You might want to read a book you wouldn’t normally reach for sometimes, too. Whether that means checking a self-help book out from the library or it means listening to a science-fiction audiobook, books can expand your world and help you feel a little less lonely.
Find an Online Forum
One of the many wonderful things about the internet is that you can connect with people from all over the world. You can find people with similar interests, problems, and goals with a few clicks of a button.
You might look for forums where people discuss topics that you’re interested in—from rare collections to unsolved mysteries. You might find talking to other people about things you feel passionate about or topics you enjoy helps you feel more connected—even if you’ve never met them in-person.
Learn Something New
Getting excited about something you’re learning—whether it’s a new language or a new skill—might help you feel better. It also might open up doors to meet new people.
Sign up for a cooking class or take karate. Or look for an online course you can take. Websites like Udemy offer affordable courses in subjects ranging from fitness to graphic design.
Engage in a Hobby
Creative outlets can boost your mood and help you live in the moment. That means fewer catastrophic thoughts about “being alone forever” and less dwelling on negative incidents from the past such as, “I can’t believe she said that to me.”
If you don’t have any hobbies, make it a priority to get one. Experiment with different activities, from fishing to pottery, until you discover things that you love.
Perform an Act of Kindness
Doing something nice for other people can help you feel better. It may also help you feel more connected to the community.
Whether you get involved in an official community fundraiser or you decide to do a kind deed for a neighbor, there are many things you do to perform acts of kindness. If you’re struggling to find something you can do, you might contact local charities, hospitals, nursing homes, or animal shelters to see how you could volunteer or offer assistance.
Get Professional Help
If you’re struggling with loneliness and you don’t know what to do, you might want to seek professional help. Talking to a mental health professional might help you make more meaningful connections with people and it may also help you discover strategies for coping with loneliness in a healthy way.
It’s also important to reach out for professional help if you’ve been dealing with your loneliness in an unhealthy way. Drinking too much, turning to food for comfort, or engaging in other unhealthy behaviors can increase your loneliness in the long-term.
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