Depending on which report you read, between 50-75% of Americans struggle with loneliness. The risk of loneliness peaks and troughs throughout your life. For example, many people in their 20s struggle to develop meaningful relationships as they’re still getting to know themselves, while aging people may suffer from loneliness as they outlive their partners and friends.
Loneliness doesn’t necessarily correlate to social isolation. It’s the way you feel. We’ve all had those moments in which we’re entirely alone, despite being in a crowd. In fact, this discrepancy can even exacerbate your feelings of loneliness.
Loneliness often stems from the difference between the social connections you have and the social connections you want. Even if you have a wide circle of friends, if you don’t feel like it’s enough, you’ll feel alone.
Loneliness is a feeling, not a fact.
Like all emotions, loneliness ebbs and flows. You may feel like you’re completely isolated, but you can take action to reduce your loneliness.
Broaden your opportunities to meet new people
It’s challenging to make friends as an adult. But you can take steps to connect with new people and develop new friendships.
You can sign up for a class about something you’re interested or volunteer about something you’re passionate about to meet new people who have similar interests. If you’re athletically inclined, join a sports team or club.
There are also a few apps available to help you meet new friends. Bumble has a BFF filter to help women find friends based on profiles, shared interests, and geographic locations.
Work on developing your existing relationships
You can also build your existing relationships. As we age, our responsibilities tend to grow, leaving less time for friends. However, it’s worth putting in the planning and effort to see your friends more often. Consider hosting a regular, low-key Sunday dinner or arrange to do your Target run with a friend you haven’t seen for a while. You can catch up while you shop.
Lay off social media
Scrolling through Instagram and seeing the carefully curated and posed images from people’s lives can make you feel left out and unsuccessful. Ironically, studies have shown that the illusion of connectedness offered by social media is actually so unfulfilling, that frequent users often feel even lonelier and segregated.
Consider a pet
If you live alone, consider adopting a pet. Having a living animal waiting for you at home gives you something to look forward to. Even if your pet can’t talk back to you, they still have a personality and offer companionship and comfort.
In addition to these practical steps to abate loneliness, you can also invest some time in yourself and learn to cope with the negative feelings of loneliness.
Recognize your negative thoughts
In many cases, recognizing negative thought patterns is the first step to coping with your emotions. Loneliness may begin with a thought, like “Everyone is having fun without me” which can lead to feelings of rejection, loneliness, and sadness. Learn to recognize those negative thoughts and let them go before they trigger your emotions.
Change your story
One way to adjust the way you respond to thoughts of being alone, it to change your story. Yes, the other people at work have gone out for happy hour again, but you didn’t want to go. It’s your choice to stay at home on Sunday morning, treating yourself to fresh coffee and the crossword puzzle in bed. You’re doing that makes you happy.
Take steps to enjoy “me” time
Which brings us to the next point: Learn to enjoy your own company and indulge in “me” time. Discover what makes you happy and do it as frequently as you can. You’ll feel happier and more fulfilled, whether you enjoy that activity on your own or with friends. Treat yourself from time to time, whether it’s indulging in the brownies that call to you from the coffee shop display case every morning on your way to work, finally buying that vintage handbag you’ve been eyeing online for months, or booking a vacation or weekend away.
If you find that you’re stuck in a cycle of negative thoughts and loneliness, make an appointment to talk to one of the compassionate counselors at North Brooklyn Therapy. They can help you learn to cope with your feelings and develop strategies to reduce your loneliness.