Social connection, interaction, and support are essential for humans to maintain optimal health and happiness. When we’re isolated from others or feel like we’re on our own in life, it can lead to feelings of loneliness and sadness. These feelings can lead to depression and a decreased sense of self-worth if not dealt with. This is why it’s so vital that we learn to recognize symptoms and understand how to deal with loneliness in life.
Learn more about how to deal with loneliness as we discuss tips for coping with chronic loneliness.
What are the Signs of Loneliness?
It’s normal to feel lonely from time to time, but frequent feelings of sadness and isolation can take a toll on both your physical and emotional well-being. According to a recent study from Harvard, 36% of all Americans and an astounding 61% of young adults struggle with serious loneliness today.
If you recognize indicators of lonesomeness in your own life, you can focus on dealing with loneliness and improving your symptoms.
Common signs of loneliness include:
- Struggling to connect with others: Extensive loneliness can interfere with the ability to form a deep, meaningful connection with others. For some people dealing with loneliness, socializing may even leave them feeling more alienated and alone.
- Frequently feeling sick or tired: Social activities are an effective way to relax and relieve stress. Therefore, a lack of social support can lead to increased stress, which research shows can interfere with immune system function.
- Social media addiction: Many people turn to social media when alone. However, browsing Facebook or scrolling through Instagram and Snapchat can potentially leave you feeling lonely and more alienated, according to new research on social media and mental health. It’s natural for people to generally display the best parts of their lives on social media. These unrealistic portrayals can make others feel like everyone else is happier and more connected than they are.
- Having low self-esteem: Lonely people tend to feel sad and disconnected from the world around them. This can lead to self-doubt and a negative view of self-worth.
- Feeling exhausted by social activities: When someone is chronically lonely, even just the thought of socializing can feel daunting and draining. This can cause many people suffering from loneliness to avoid social situations, making their loneliness worse.
- Hoarding: Social isolation can leave people feeling empty. Some seriously lonely people may not know how to cope with loneliness, leading them to make frequent purchases or hoard items to fill the void.
“If you’re noticing signs of loneliness in yourself or loved ones, such as symptoms of depression or feelings of isolation, we encourage you to reach out to a licensed therapist. Connection is a crucial component of our mental wellness, and persistent feelings of loneliness can put us at risk for developing certain mental health conditions. You deserve support, and you deserve to feel connected to your community. Know that there are people out there who want to support you.”
How to Deal with Loneliness: 10 Tips
Loneliness can be very damaging, but thankfully, there are many ways you can learn to manage your negative feelings. Coping with loneliness isn’t always easy, but the following tips and strategies can help you feel a little more connected to the world around you.
1. Reach out to friends and family
If you’ve been dealing with loneliness lately, don’t hesitate to reach out to people you know love and care about you. Even if you can’t spend time with your friends and family in person, you can connect with them over the phone. Your loved ones may be craving social interaction just as much as you are.
2. Prioritize self care
When you’re caught up in feelings of sadness and isolation, it’s easy to neglect your own needs. Self-care is essential, though. Take care of yourself by eating a nutritious diet, exercising, meditation, and getting plenty of sleep each night. It’s easier to make positive changes in your life when you feel healthy and energetic.
3. Create a routine
If you spend most of your time alone, you might feel like every day is the same. A simple schedule can keep days from bleeding together and give you a sense of purpose. You can even include social activities in your daily routine, like a trip to a local coffeehouse or a phone call with a close friend.
4. Find a hobby
Whether you learn a new language, curl up with a great book, or start gardening or rollerblading, hobbies can keep you engaged and give you new ways to connect with others and form strong social relationships. If you have a hobby that you’ve lost interest in, try picking it up again. Studies show that participating in activities you enjoy can improve your mood even when you feel disengaged.
“When I work with clients who are reporting symptoms of loneliness and depression, research shows that doing an activity you enjoy, even when you don’t feel like doing it, can be helpful in managing depression. This is called behavioral activation. A therapist who specializes in depression can support you if you’re struggling with these symptoms.”
5. Spend time with animals
Pets can be a valuable source of companionship. Whether you adopt a cat, dog, or another type of animal, having a pet can relieve feelings of loneliness and might even help you meet new people. If you can’t adopt a pet, maybe you could start pet-sitting or volunteering at an animal shelter.
6. Practice small talk
If you’re isolated and don’t know how to deal with loneliness, try conversing with a stranger. The next time you run an errand or attend an event, make small talk with someone you’ve never met before. Yes, these types of conversations can be tricky at first, but it gets easier with practice, and they can give you the social interaction you’ve been missing.
7. Start journaling
When you feel depressed or lonely, focusing on the negative parts of your life can be tempting. You can challenge these unhealthy and unhelpful thoughts by keeping a journal where you document your positive memories or list the things you’re grateful for. Research shows that journaling for mental health can influence your emotions and activate positive feelings.
8. Join a club
If your social circle is very small, you may want to look for ways to expand it. Clubs, classes, and online communities are ways to meet new people with common interests. While putting yourself out there may feel uncomfortable initially, making new connections could improve your life.
Not only is volunteering an opportunity for socialization, but it’s a way to give back to others. Volunteering can distract you from feelings of sadness or isolation and allow you to focus on other people’s needs. Experts note that volunteering is a proven way to significantly reduce feelings of chronic loneliness and depression. When you work to help others, it can make you feel like you’re having a positive impact on the world around you, which is rewarding and uplifting.
At the start of each day, make a point of smiling at yourself in the mirror. While this might feel silly initially, studies show that smiling can instantly elevate your mood. Taking the time to smile can help you feel a little less lonely and motivate you to make positive changes that will enhance and improve your life.
Get Professional Help for Loneliness with Talkspace
If you don’t know how to deal with loneliness on your own, or if the symptoms of loneliness are causing you significant distress, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional. Severe loneliness and social isolation can be symptoms of depression. A therapist can help you figure out why you’re feeling alone and help you learn to address and manage your feelings and social anxiety.
Part of coping with loneliness is being able to identify unhealthy behaviors and negative thought patterns. While there’s no way to prevent loneliness completely, therapy can ensure you can engage with others healthily and positively.
Talkspace is an online therapy platform with experienced, licensed therapists who can help address your feelings of severe loneliness and guide you with healthy coping skills. You don’t have to go on living a life where you feel alone. You can make small changes in your life with the help of a Talkspace online therapist, so you feel supported, cared about, and ultimately less lonely. Reach out to Talkspace today to learn more.
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