Dealing with Loneliness: 5 Actionable Steps
By Linda K. Laffey, MFT
If you’re feeling lonely, you’re in good company. Medical doctors and therapists alike are concerned about the growing pervasiveness of loneliness in modern society.
It’s often recognized as a public health concern. People need people; close connections to others are essential for both emotional and physical well-being.
The concept of loneliness as we know it today is relatively new. It likely has roots in the loss of a close community due to our increasingly mobile society. The frantic pace of work, family, and household responsibilities doesn’t help.
Understanding that loneliness is both universal and frequent is essential. You are not abnormal if you feel lonely.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to address loneliness in your life. Acknowledging your feelings of loneliness is a great place to begin.
1. Question Yourself
Consider how long you’ve been feeling lonely. Can you identify a certain period when it started? Have there been significant life changes that might impact your relationships?
Also, review your self-talk. Are you feeling extra negative about yourself? Are there things you can do to change the way you’re thinking about yourself and your relationships?
2. Challenge Yourself
When you’re feeling lonely, the last thing you may want to do is reach out and join new groups to meet people. For better or worse, though, creating friendships does take time, effort, and even going outside of one’s comfort zone.
You may want others to take the first step, but they likely aren’t even aware of how you’re feeling, which isn’t their fault or yours. If you don’t have a lot of time, showing up consistently in small ways can help.
Make small talk with a barista; smile and acknowledge people around you. Perhaps you can occasionally volunteer at a school or other non-profit.
Research has shown that participating in online groups or being active on social media can also be helpful for those who are shy or lonely.
You may have to cast a wide net in the beginning. Once you start meeting people, though, you’ll eventually find a few with whom you truly connect. It’s even likely that they want a friend as well!
3. Nurture Yourself
If your loneliness stems from having too much time to yourself, investing some of that time into creativity or learning can be rewarding. As you explore your interests, you feed your soul and spirit. You may tap into a part of yourself that you didn’t know was there, or that has been long dormant. One of the healthiest things you can do is laugh. Find a standup comedian you like on Netflix, watch a funny movie or tape your favorite talk shows to have on hand.
You can also nurture yourself by reaching out to old friends or family that you haven’t been in touch with as much as you’d like. Exchanging text messages (or better yet, a phone call) to catch up reminds us that we do have friends, even if they live far away.
4. Believe in Yourself
The way you think about yourself affects the way you feel about yourself dramatically. It also affects the way you interact with the world. Make a list of your positive qualities and accomplishments to read when you’re feeling negative. Remind yourself that your self-worth does not stem from how many connections you have.
An affirmation I like to repeat over and over is, “I am strong; I am blessed; and I can do ANYTHING!!” That’s true for every person reading this, and I recommend that you try saying it out loud a few times, several times a day.
5. Busy Yourself
Finding a way to keep busy (in a positive way) is an excellent way to occupy your mind and thoughts. If you’ve taken some of the steps above, such as joining new groups, volunteering, or learning something new, but still have time to fill, turn your attention to other ways to keep busy. Tackle home projects; start a side gig.
Sometimes, of course, there is more to loneliness than meets the eye. If your loneliness persists or becomes overwhelming, another proactive step you can take is to reach out to a therapist. They can provide a mental health evaluation for depression or anxiety. They can help you find effective ways to continue addressing the loneliness in your life.
Take the first step…
If you are struggling with loneliness, I would like to help. Please contact me via phone or email so we can discuss how we might work together to achieve your therapeutic goals as quickly and effectively as possible.
I look forward to hearing from you.
Linda K. Laffey, MFT