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How to Stop Feeling Lonely

How to Stop Feeling Lonely

Feeling lonely, even when you’re surrounded by people, doesn’t mean something is wrong with you.

In fact, Dr. Leela R. Magavi, psychiatrist and regional medical director for Community Psychiatry in New Port Beach, California, says everyone feels this way sometimes.

“I would contend that all human beings struggle with loneliness intermittently, whether they are aware of it or not,” she said. “Trauma, loss, and stress can exacerbate feelings of loneliness.”

This is why you could still feel lonely in a relationship or having a large group of friends.

“Individuals may feel lonely when surrounded by others when they feel like they cannot be themselves or have to fabricate the truth to please others [or] when the individuals around them have different ethical beliefs,” Magavi explained.

Other reasons you might feel lonely despite being surrounded by others include:

  • depression or other mental health conditions
  • health conditions, including disabilities, chronic conditions, and terminal illness
  • loss and grief
  • trauma
  • discrimination or racism
  • migration to a new country
  • existential crisis
  • lack of meaningful relationships
  • communication or attachment problems in a relationship

The pandemic and need to physically distance have also increased debilitating feelings of loneliness, says Magavi.

“Extroverts may struggle more than introverts,” she added. “Individuals with low self-esteem, depression, or anxiety may have an external locus of control and may rely on extraneous factors to feel whole.”

Your loneliness doesn’t have to last forever. Though it might be a process, there are ways to stop feeling lonely.

Here are some ideas for how to overcome this feeling.

Reframe thinking and regain hope

You can practice seeing things from a different perspective or associate them with positive emotions.

For example, you can treat alone time as an opportunity to grow, reflect, and connect with yourself.

“Healthy solitude allows us to process and conceptualize our life experiences, whereas chronic loneliness encompasses perseveration upon the voids we experience in life,” Magavi explained.

While chronic loneliness can lead to endless rumination, healthy solitude fosters clarity in thinking and can improve cognition.

“Much like feelings of anxiety and depression, feelings of loneliness can wax and wane. Imagining betterment and engaging in mindfulness activities can dissipate feelings of loneliness,” she added.

You could, for example, begin practicing yoga, meditation, or tai chi during your time alone. Looking forward to these relaxing activities might make you think about alone time in a positive light.

Practice self-compassion

To combat feelings of loneliness and learn to be happy alone, Magavi suggests partaking in activities focused on self-compassion.

A few examples include:

  • meditation
  • mindful walks
  • physical activity

Taking care of yourself with patience and compassion might help you strengthen the bond with yourself, which in turn can help you ease the feelings of loneliness.

In time, you can learn to accept and embrace your moments of alone time, and use them to engage in self-reflecting and improvement activities.

Journal your thoughts and feelings

Recounting fun-filled memories in a journal can help bring joy to your life.

“Individuals could write a gratitude letter, which outlines all the things they love about themselves,” suggested Magavi. “They could list the things they love about [others], and share these things with family members and friends.”

Putting your thoughts and feelings on paper might also help you process them and look at them from a different perspective. Journaling can be a cathartic process.

Reaching out to old friends

Connecting with friends with whom you lost touch can help alleviate feelings of loneliness.

“Hellen Keller’s words of wisdom, ‘I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light,’ emphasizes the significance of friendship in dissipating the sense of loneliness, which life often brings to our doorsteps,” said Magavi.

Friendships motivate people to remain accountable and present for someone else, in addition to fostering creativity, she added.

Magavi’s patients of all ages have told her that the quality of their friendships have directly encouraged them to persevere in regards to their personal and professional goals.

“Friendships… are much like mirrors, which help individuals recognize and embrace their strengths, and concurrently, pinpoint and work on their weaknesses,” she said.

Reconnecting with people who have been present when you felt productive, happy, or at peace might also help you remember and reconnect with those aspects within yourself.

Invite a friend on a walk

There are few things like walking and talking.

Consider inviting a friend or neighbor to walk with you every few days.

Exercising will increase your endorphins and make you feel better. And doing it in good company can help you foster a sense of well-being that could help you overcome feeling lonely.

You can also make the walk extra special by following some of these ideas:

  • Switch routes and scenery every day you go out to walk.
  • Pick different times of the day so you can enjoy sunrises, sunsets, and mid-afternoons, if possible.
  • Consider a drive to a park, forest preserve, or mall to walk in a new environment.
  • Be mindful of what’s going on around you, focusing on things like the sky, people, sounds, and physical sensations.
  • Consider setting a different goal for each day. These can include the duration of the walk, pace and rhythm, and conversation topics. For example, you could have a day where you only exchange jokes, and another walk could be a “vent day.”

Talk to people

If making new friends isn’t easy for you, start by trying to be open to others.

According to the renowned study, The BBC Loneliness Experiment, led by the BBC and The University of Manchester, respondents indicated the following effective strategies to combat loneliness:

  • Start a conversation with anyone.
  • Look for the good in every person you meet.
  • Invite people without fearing rejection.
  • Tell someone else you feel lonely.

Consider joining a club, organization, or online community

Respondents to the BBC study also noted that they joined a social club or took up new social activities and past times to help with feelings of loneliness.

Things to consider include:

  • joining a walking or running club or another exercise-related group
  • taking up a hobby, such as knitting, painting, or playing cards, and connecting with others who share the same interest
  • finding online communities for gaming, movie buffs, book lovers, and other things you’re interested in
  • attending church
  • volunteering at a local charity

Engaging in activities with like-minded people who might have similar interests could help you stop feeling lonely.

Get a pet

Whether you’re a cat, dog, or reptile person, according to a survey by the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute, 80% of pet owners think their pets make them feel less lonely.

Pets give you something to consider other than yourself, offer companionship, and dogs, for instance, can get you out and about.

Before you get a pet, though, consider what is needed to take care of them. This includes food, bedding, veterinary visits, and time and effort.

If getting a pet is not possible, consider volunteering at your local animal shelter.

Stay connected to those who have passed on

If grief and the loss of a loved one add to your feelings of loneliness, reconnecting with their memory might help.

Magavi suggests:

  • recounting memorable moments
  • looking through photographs and letters
  • partaking in the deceased’s favorite activity
  • journaling about them

“Individuals who have children themselves can bring joy to specific anniversaries or occasions by creating beautiful memories with their own nuclear family,” she said.

Creating a tribute to those who have passed might also keep you connected to their memory.

You could, for example, do a photo collage with your favorite images or plant a tree in their name so you can visit and eventually rest under it.

Seek out professional help

If you feel you’ve done several things to stop feeling lonely, but you still do, it might be a good idea to seek additional support.

Magavi says that some signs it’s time to talk with someone else include:

  • bouts of tearfulness
  • episodes of irritability that interfere with work or family
  • undereating or overeating in response to loneliness
  • staying in bed all day, excessive sleepiness, or chronic fatigue
  • loss of interest and motivation to take care of yourself, such as avoiding brushing your teeth and showering

“Loneliness can transform into demoralization and depression,” she said. “Individuals with significant mood and anxiety concerns and feelings of loneliness, which affect their functionality, should consider scheduling an appointment with a psychiatrist or therapist.”

Cognitive behavioral therapy can help identify your anxiety pattern and reframe your thinking so you can engage in coping behaviors.

“In some cases, medications are warranted to treat mood and anxiety concerns,” Magavi said.

This is not always the case, though. Sometimes, just having someone to talk with without apprehension might help you feel better. You can set your own goals for therapy, and it can only be about talking.


How to Prevent Feelings of Isolation and Loneliness

This article was co-authored by Chloe Carmichael, PhD. Chloe Carmichael, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist who runs a private practice in New York City. With over a decade of psychological consulting experience, Chloe specializes in relationship issues, stress management, self esteem, and career coaching. Chloe has also instructed undergraduate courses at Long Island University and has served as adjunct faculty at the City University of New York. Chloe completed her PhD in Clinical Psychology at Long Island University in Brooklyn, New York and her clinical training at Lenox Hill Hospital and Kings County Hospital. She is accredited by the American Psychological Association and is the author of “Nervous Energy: Harness the Power of Your Anxiety.”

This article has been viewed 21,159 times.

Feeling isolated and lonely can happen in lots of different situations. It may happen when you feel there’s no one you can spend time with or talk to. You can also feel lonely or isolated when you’re around other people, but don’t feel connected to them or when you feel like no one understands you. It’s also a common response to the loss of a relationship either through a breakup or a death. But, you can have meaningful, fulfilling relationships, so don’t consider yourself a hermit yet. There are things that you can do to prevent feelings of isolation and loneliness, regardless of what led you to feel that way. Try expanding your social network, learning to enjoy your time alone, and maintaining the friendships that you have.


What to Do if You Feel Lonely in Your Relationship

If you feel like you’re going through life alone, take these steps:

Talk to your significant other. It’s important to let them know how you feel. “The key is to start the conversation on a positive note, so your partner doesn’t feel attacked,” Greer says. Say something like, “I would like to spend more time together, and to share more things with you than what we’ve been doing.” From there, you can come up with ideas: an at-home date night or even a weekly walk. “The key is to carve out a small chunk of time on a consistent basis without distraction so you can focus on one another.”

Touch one another. When you physically touch your partner -- whether it’s a caress as you walk by or a full cuddle -- you release a hormone called oxytocin, which promotes bonding, Greer says. That’s one reason you may feel close to your partner after you have sex.

Practice mindfulness. “It helps you get in touch with yourself, which is important,” Tessina says. If you’re disconnected from yourself, it can make loneliness worse. Try deep breathing, a walking meditation, or simply stopping what you do every so often to take a few breaths and check in with yourself.

Try a gratitude exercise together. Each night, sit down together for 10 minutes and each say one positive thing to the other. “It can be something as small as the fact that your partner took out the garbage,” Henkin says. “The key is to find things that you appreciate about one another. This can help build connection.” At the end of each session, address anything that bothers you about your partner and discuss ways to make changes.

Revisit expectations. “Many of us still work from home and expect our partners to be more available to us than they realistically are,” Greer says. “They may be in the middle of a work project, or have to deal with small children, and can’t be physically and emotionally present at that moment.” If you both are stuck in the house together, she suggests scheduling time together, like lunch or a midafternoon coffee break, where you can reconnect.

See a couples counselor. If you’ve tried all the above steps and you still feel lonely, Tessina suggests visiting a therapist together. “Sometimes, you need a set of outside eyes to help you both figure out why one or both of you may feel so lonely,” she says. Your doctor may be able to suggest someone. You can also find a therapist on the American Psychological Association’s website.

Sources

Journal of Societal and Personal Relationships: “Loneliness in the older adult marriage: Associations with dyadic aversion, indifference, and ambivalence.”

Pew Research Center: "Americans unhappy with family, social or financial life are more likely to say they feel lonely."

CDC: “Loneliness and Social Isolation Linked to Serious Health Conditions.”

Jane Greer, PhD, marriage and family therapist author, What About Me: Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship, New York, NY.

Jagdish Khubchandani, PhD, professor of public health, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM.

Sheenah Hankin, PhD, psychotherapist, New York, NY.

Tina Tessina, PhD, psychotherapist author, Money, Sex and Kids, Long Beach, CA.


Even if you're skeptical of therapy's other values, it can be helpful for loneliness simply because you're being heard and valued and gives you someone to talk to. "Sometimes it's just about somebody listening to you," Bahar says. "And that's very important."

If you're looking for help but you don't totally know where to begin, check to see if your employer has an EAP. Often they will offer free or discounted benefits that include access to counselors and therapists who can help you work through your loneliness.


Dealing With Depression and Loneliness

No matter how many people are around you or in your life, depression can still bring loneliness. Try these tips to reconnect and break free of the isolation of depression.

Everyone feels lonely from time to time, but for some, loneliness comes far too often. Feeling lonely can plague many people — including the elderly, people who are isolated, and those with depression — with symptoms such as sadness, isolation, and withdrawal. Loneliness can strike a person who lives alone or someone who lives in a house filled with people. “Loneliness is subjective,” says Louise Hawkley, PhD, a research associate in the psychology department at the University of Chicago. “You can’t argue with someone who says they’re lonely.”

Although depression doesn’t always lead to loneliness, feeling lonely is often a predictor of depression one year or even two years later, and it certainly leads to sadness, Dr. Hawkley says. Freeing yourself of feelings like being isolated by depression is part of the healing process.

How to Fight Depression and Loneliness

Feelings of loneliness don’t have to be constant to call for action, but you will need to give yourself a push to get back into the thick of life and re-engage with others to start feeling better. These strategies for fighting depression and loneliness can help:


Chosen loneliness vs. imposed loneliness

There is no single loneliness. Loneliness imposed is one that we do not seek or want and that is related to negative feelings of sadness, melancholy and/or inner emptiness. That kind of loneliness unleashes the same physiological reactions as pain, hunger or thirst. Because our brain perceives that being separated from the community, socially isolated, is an emergency. If we continue to descend in that spiral of loneliness and do not learn to enjoy our company, we are likely to end up in the pit of depression.

However, the chosen loneliness is not harmful, quite the opposite. Loneliness is a conditio sine qua non for introspection, to find ourselves and clarify our ideas and feelings. That is why Seneca also differentiated the solitudes:

“We tend to guard the distressed and the terrified so that they do not misuse solitude. No thoughtless person should be left alone in such cases, he only plans bad intentions and weaves patterns of future dangers for himself or for others because his most basic desires come into play the mind shows the fear or shame it used to repress it stimulates its audacity, agitates its passions and stimulates its anger”.

This philosopher believed that not everyone can stay alone – or that we should not be alone in all circumstances of life. If we are mature, we have a good mental balance and we have a rich inner world, enjoying our own company will make us happy because we can maintain control and discern what is good for us. However, if we are going through a period of emotional ups and downs that prevent us from distinguishing the beneficial from the harmful, it is better to have that external point of view that helps us put everything in perspective.


See a Therapist

Research suggests that loneliness and symptoms of depression can perpetuate each other, meaning the more lonely you are, the more depressed you feel, and vice versa.

Sometimes just “getting out there” and meeting other people isn’t enough. It's possible to still feel lonely when you’re around them, which could actually be a sign of depression or social anxiety. If this is the case for you, it may be a good idea to seek psychotherapy to help with feelings of loneliness, especially if you also feel other symptoms of depression.

Some forms of therapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), can help you to change your thoughts as well as your actions to help you not only experience less loneliness but have more tools to prevent it. Whatever you do to combat loneliness, know that you are truly not alone, and there are many things you can do to feel more connected.

If you or a loved one are struggling with a mental health condition, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.


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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