Someone alone might not always be lonely but a lonely person may feel alone even in the company of a hundred people. Loneliness is an oft felt emotion, we all have been through at some point in our life. It is a mental state, not just a physical one. A lonely person might crave social contact but at the same time, his state of mind prevents him from doing so. He feels unsettling emotions like isolation, emptiness, and estrangement. Loneliness doesn’t look at your age, color, or race. It strikes at the most unpleasant hours in the most unexpected ways and leaves you heartbroken and vulnerable. Today we will be discussing coping with loneliness.
If you feel alone, rest assured, you are not the only one. Your feeling of isolation and grief is shared by millions like you. It’s like a pandemic, affecting so many, that it’s hard to keep a count. And research shows it’s even contagious! If you hang out more with loners, you may become more like them.
Loneliness can affect any person at any age. But the loneliest age group according to research is between 16-24 years. You might think that how can a young and energetic person be lonely? But Millenials, despite all the means of connecting are the most lonely age group.
So read on to know more about what causes loneliness, how it affects you, and what strategies you can adopt to cope with loneliness.
Main causes of loneliness
What causes us to feel lonely? That too in this era of the internet, tablets, and mobile phones, where interacting and communicating is just a click away. Why do we still feel lonely? Surprisingly, research shows an increased risk of loneliness and depression in people using multiple social media platforms.
Loneliness can be triggered by many factors. It can be a breakup from your partner or moving to a new place. A fight with your best friend or losing a loved one. It can also be a sign of low self-esteem or an underlying psychological disorder. Whatever the reason might be, it’s important to learn how to cope with loneliness. This will enable you to lead a more productive and proactive life.
What are the effects of loneliness?
Loneliness itself is not recognized as a mental health issue, but it can cause them. loneliness can cause depression, anxiety, it can change your personality. Its effects are not only on your mental health but also on your physical health. according to research, it is important to cope with loneliness as it can increase the risk of heart disease and hypertension. it can also weaken our immune system and make us more prone to infectious diseases.
1- To cope with loneliness, realize you are alone
When a doctor has to treat a patient, the first step is to make a list of the symptoms. The symptoms then lead him to a diagnosis and only then treatment can be started. Similarly to overcome loneliness, first you need to realize you are lonely. Do you feel often that people are around you but they don’t understand you, that you are not in tune with them? And do you feel a lack of companionship and that nobody really knows you? Do you get the feeling of being distant and left out, shy and isolated around people? If you get these feelings and you get them often, then you most probably are suffering from loneliness. Make a checklist of all your negative emotions and sentiments and that will enable you to diagnose and then cope with loneliness.
2- Accept loneliness as a good thing
Loneliness is not always a bad thing. In fact, you can spin things around for yourself by turning your loneliness into ‘me time’ .this will enable you to cope with loneliness better. Ami roach, a clinical psychologist in her study tells how the adverse effects of loneliness can be converted into a positive attitude. According to her, you need to accept and reflect. Accept and embrace loneliness, and hence it becomes a welcomed guest. Thus loneliness is converted to solitude (welcomed loneliness). When you stop denying loneliness, you realize it is not as bad as you made it out to be. You can see the good in it. It empowers you to know yourself better, and understand your needs, fears, and wishes. Hence it becomes your friend and not a foe.
3- Turn your negative emotions into positive outcomes
What loneliness does to a person is that it incites many negative sentiments in their mind. Feelings of hatred towards others for leaving you out or not understanding you. Distrust when someone tries to be kind, hurtful replies to words of empathy. It can cause you to dwell in the misfortunes of your life and make you depressed and suicidal. It may make you feel like you are going crazy. So what is the cure for loneliness? One way you can beat loneliness is by channelizing the energy you spend in the negative thoughts to do something beneficial. Every time you feel loneliness is taking over your mind you can do one of these. It is one of the most critical steps to cope with loneliness.
You can sit quietly in your favourite spot, turn your favourite music on. Get into a comfortable position, back against support, legs crossed, and close your eyes. Let loneliness wash over you. Feel it in every inch of your body. Once you have accepted it, the next step is to overcome it. But how? Think of a person who is or has been close to you, and imagine them being with you. Feel yourself being embraced and loved by them. Imagine having a conversation that you yearned to have. Now add as many people as you want and have a happy and fulfilling time with them. After you are done with it, you will feel lighter and merrier. Meditation is vital to coping with loneliness.
5- Have a hobby
Having a hobby can be quite useful when you are suffering from loneliness. You can start with a hobby that you can enjoy alone. You can start reading books, writing a journal, painting, stitching, embroidery, arts, and craft, or some other project. After you are comfortable alone, start something that requires you to go and be amongst other people. It necessarily doesn’t have to be an interactive hobby. You can go cycling, or to the movies, go to the gym or a dance class. After you have mastered a non-interactive social hobby, you can adopt a hobby that requires social interaction. You can start playing some sports, be a part of a volunteer group, or become a tour guide. Here is an amazing article on how to discover your passion.
6- Take things at face value
You may be able to cure some of your loneliness if you stop delving deep into hidden meanings. If a person is trying to strike a conversation with you, convince your brain that they do not have any ill intention towards you. If someone praises you, don’t think they mean it as sarcasm since you find yourself unworthy of praise. And if someone asks your opinion on something, do not hesitate to give it. What loneliness does to a person is that it draws curtains around one’s positivity. A loner might always look for negative innuendos even in most positive situations. So by taking things at face value, you open these curtains and let in the light of positivity.
7- Help someone out
You might know someone who is in your shoes, going through similar circumstances in life. So when you are going down the dark alley of loneliness, try to uplift yourself by helping someone who is going through the same. Call them up, invite them for coffee, reach out. This might help re-direct the pent up negativity and also give you a new ‘alone partner’. Having such a relationship will make you feel you are not alone in this, these feelings are not only in your head. That there are others like you who need help as you do. Here are some amazing relationship tips.
8- Keep a close circle of friends
Some people have huge social circles, but deep at heart, they are alone. This existential loneliness arises due to many reasons. It may be vanity- I am too rich, too handsome, too intelligent to be with these people. It may be low self-esteem- am I smart enough to be a part of this conversation? And it may be the introvert in you- I rather keep my thoughts to myself, what will I get by sharing. And the list goes on.
So to overcome these uneasy questions, its best to keep a small but close circle of friends who love you. Friends who have been with you through the ups and downs of your life. Friends who are aware of your nature and your struggles and can put you at ease. Although the loner in you might convince you to distance yourself from your close buddies, don’t give up! This way you can cope with your loneliness to some degree, by not giving up on your close friends.
9- keep a pet
Pets can be a great means to cope with loneliness. The love and affection they shower on their owner help dissipate the negative emotions. You are the world for your pets, their excitement at seeing you will make you forget your loneliness. When they welcome you at the door with their tails wagging, cuddles, tweaks, and meows, it melts your heart. They provide companio8, detect your mood, and try to uplift it pets will help you to destress and decrease anxiety. Taking them out for walks will allow you to meet and interact with other pet owners. And who knows, a new friendship might blossom because of your adorable pet. Pets are very important for our overall well being and they can change our lives for the better.
11- To cope with loneliness, develop the habit of sharing
Sharing before the age of the internet meant something else. People used to gather and share poetry, life stories, gossip, and anecdotes from their life. The internet changed this definition and also the personal touch. Now people sit behind screens, share what they ate, who they wore, where they went. The more it became about them, the more it made them lonely. So another way you can cope with loneliness is to use these platforms to share yourself with the world. *the root cause of loneliness * is the imaginary distance you have created between yourself and others. When you share yourself, you let people into your personal space.
What can you share on social media?
You can share so many things through social media or in person too. Like your political views, it can always strike a debate and bring forth like-minded people. You can share some new words you learned, an abstract thought, a piece of relationship advice. You can tell about a travel experience, a new region, new customs that you came across. As a loner you might think that, why would anyone bother with what o have to share. But the reality is you are still a person who has had different experiences in life and though it seems unlikely to you, someone might benefit from your share. The diversity of your thoughts and encounters can attract people towards you.
What can you share in person?
Although meeting in person is, even more, intimidating for a loner than sharing on social media. But little baby steps will take you where you want and need to be. You can go to a book club, and discuss your favorite book and share your wisdom. Play sports with someone. Share a board game with a group of people. Share a drink with a stranger. When you share parts of yourself, you get parts of others in return. And there is solace in this sharing.
Sharing in person is more difficult but also more rewarding. It will help you overcome those mental walls you have built around yourself.
Loneliness might be the biggest debacle you have to face to survive but if you cope with loneliness well, it can be your best friend. It can break you in many ways, but you have to be kind to yourself. It can deteriorate your health and make you depressed, but it’s up to you to make a comeback to life. What you read and what others tell you for overcoming loneliness are just lessons. But you have to make your own decisions, write your own chapter. It’s only you who can take control and get out of this toxic emotion and come out a winner!