How to break free from feeling lonely
Human beings are social beings. We have an innate need to be connected to others and to feel that we belong. Our relationships are our source of support, closeness and give our lives a deeper meaning.
Modern society encourages and promotes interaction online instead of a real life contact, which unfortunately seems to increase the sense of isolation and loneliness felt even more.
It has changed the way we communicated with each other as well. We used to have more in-depth and lengthy conversations, whereas now, we seem to be more satisfied with short sentences and small talk, not to mention "smiles" and "likes" on social media instead of deep, meaningful spoken exchanges.
What is loneliness?
We tend to feel lonely when we feel disconnected, estranged, and unwanted or when we are distressed by something that is standing in the way of us truly connecting with others.
Loneliness is a feeling that marks absence; a feeling of emptiness that grows inside, stronger and more intense with time in a place where a psychological need is not being fulfilled.
Loneliness grows the more we feel cut off from others and its impact can influence all aspects of our lives. Loneliness can be felt even in the physical company of others.
Loneliness ultimately contributes to reduced mental and physical health.
The reasons behind loneliness
We can feel lonely due to a certain specific event such as a break-up, death, loss of friendship, immigration to a new place without family and friends, unemployment or retirement, etc. It can also be triggered by a more generalised and abstract sense of displacement and disconnect.
Loneliness can be the consequence of negative life experiences, such as bullying, abuse during childhood, poor attachment to our parents, stigmas and discrimination, etc. These events lead to low self-esteem, depression and negative self-beliefs such as not believing in our own worth, feeling unloved or insignificant.
Relationships in the past might have caused us a lot of pain and hurt, which in self-protection, may lead us to prefer isolation rather than risk being hurt or rejected again.
We may also feel lonely naturally if we have a hard time connecting to others. This could be because we may have difficulty expressing ourselves emotionally, fear reaching out to seek support, or fear being misunderstood and rejected by others if they knew exactly what we were going through or feeling.
Loneliness can even originate from a disconnection within ourselves, for example, with our inner compass, identity, purpose, feelings, our desires and needs.
Reasons for feeling lonely thus vary for every individual. The one common ground that we all share is that we are not alone in feeling lonely.
How to burst the loneliness bubble
Understanding the deep roots of your loneliness will facilitate in reducing it. It starts by acknowledging how you feel and talking about it:
- What do you need that is not being fulfilled?
- Who do you know that can help you?
› Reach out and ask for the support you need
Try to communicate in an open and honest way about your thoughts and feelings with others. This will facilitate a more intimate and close feeling between you and the person you are talking with, which in itself will reduce the sense of loneliness felt.
› Socialise more
Join an organisation, develop a hobby that requires you to socialise, participate in sports activities or go to Meetup events. You could also take a course to develop your skills, attend workshops, go on group trips in nature or do voluntary work to meet more people and feel more grounded within your community. Make an effort to find opportunities to talk with others even if it is only small talk at first.
› Think about your time differently
Perceive the time that you are on your own more positively, for example, as an opportunity to do things that give you pleasure, gain a sense of mastery or a chance to further develop your personal growth.
Focus on self-reflection and introspection. Define and connect with your wishes and needs and contemplate how you can refill your resources to reduce your loneliness more.
› Ask a professional
Seek professional support to help you challenge your negative thoughts and explore the core reasons behind your loneliness. This will help you improve your emotions’ regulatory abilities and develop or strengthen other skills or strategies to overcome loneliness and thereby, improve the quality of your life.
It’s important to remember that feelings can change with time in intensity. Be more aware of your feelings and take the actions that you need in order to regulate your emotions and improve your life.