Are you living alone in a new place?
Are you single and don’t have a lot of friends?
Do you have no one to talk to? Or do you feel that no one understands you?
Is loneliness making you feel depressed?
Loneliness is soon becoming an epidemic.
Technology has brought us closer. It’s much easier to connect with another person with similar interests and personality now. But at the same time, we become more likely to envy and compare ourselves with others on social media, wondering why we are not as popular or sociable as others. Some of us feel empty when we don’t get any response or new messages on social media.
Even though technology can help us make more friends and know new people, nothing can replace a face-to-face interaction with another person. We need the human touch. We all need to feel the physical closeness and warmth of other people. That is something you can’t get from talking to someone online or in front of a computer screen.
But this post is not about making friends or improving your communication skills with others. This post is about how to overcome loneliness when you are alone by yourself and have no friends to talk to.
First, let define what loneliness is.
What Is Loneliness?
Loneliness Vs. Being Alone
Loneliness is a feeling and there is a difference between being alone and feeling lonely. It doesn’t matter how many friends you have or how many people you surround yourself with. Someone who has many friends can feel more lonely than someone who has a few close friends.
Loneliness affects everyone.
It’s not exclusive for people living alone, singles, the older adults or the elderly. For example, married people can feel lonely in their relationship when it loses the passion. An introvert can enjoy spending a lot of time alone, but also feels lonely and wish they could connect with someone else.
All human beings experience loneliness regardless of if they are alone or not. Since loneliness is an emotion, no matter how well you organized your external environment to avoid loneliness, your body will still react automatically when it’s triggered.
What Loneliness Feels Like?
Loneliness is simply a sign that we are disconnected from ourselves, other people, and the world. However, often times, it feels so painful because our mind might bring out other negative thoughts, feelings, and beliefs and attach them to our feeling of loneliness.
Someone who has low self-esteem would attribute their loneliness to not being good enough and feel more unloved, the more they think about their lack of self-worth. Others develop a fear of loneliness and become hopeless because they project themselves living alone and being single for the rest of their lives. Then, there are others who feel jealous when they see other people having a good time.
No one understands you and you don’t belong to this world.
For those of us who experienced childhood emotional neglect, we would feel empty inside and think that we are unimportant or unwanted by others. It’s more of an emotional loneliness than a lack of attention from others. We believe that no one will ever understand us and even if we share our innermost thoughts with others, others won’t understand. Loneliness makes us feel that we don’t belong to this world.
It’s difficult to tell which emotion comes first — loneliness or the other emotions because they go hand-in-hand. For example, someone who feel depressed often feels lonely too because it’s difficult to find another person who understands how they feel. But someone who experiences chronic loneliness can also become depressed from feeling hopeless about their situations.
Impact of Loneliness on Physical and Mental Health
It’s okay to feel lonely once in a while. But prolonged or long-term loneliness can have damaging psychological and physical effects on our health.
Apart from depression, loneliness can cause other mental illnesses such as social anxiety and personality disorders. When we find things to fill up the emptiness or void inside of us, we might end up with addiction such as alcoholism. Severe loneliness can also lead to suicidal thoughts and eventually suicide.
With regards to the physiological impacts on the body, research shows that extreme loneliness and social isolation increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, causes us to have a weaker immune system and high blood pressure, and shorten our lifespan. Yes, acute loneliness not only make you sick or sad, you can die from it.
All humans need to feel a sense of belonging.
It’s not surprising that loneliness can have such negative impacts on us. Everyone needs to be loved and to feel accepted. It’s part of our human instinct.
According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, belonging is the third level of human needs after physiological and safety needs. You might have a stable job, a good income, live in a safe neighborhood, with enough food in their belly, but still feel something is missing from your life.
So how do we cope with or handle this deep feeling of loneliness?
How to Deal with Loneliness Without Friends?
Of course, the most common advice to ease and reduce our loneliness is to go out and make new friends or connect with our existing friends. However, it’s not always possible or easy.
Some of our friends have moved on with their lives. They are married and have children. Now, they spend more time with their family and have less time for us. Also, like in any relationship, people outgrow each other. You might find yourself in a different place or your interests have changed. You might lose the connection that you once had with your friends.
Furthermore, the feelings of loneliness and boredom can come without notice. You might feel lonely at night and couldn’t sleep, or you might feel lonely at work. You can’t expect your friends to be there for you 24/7 to fix or relieve your loneliness.
So what to do if you are lonely and have no friends?
You don’t need someone else to alleviate your loneliness.
I’m not saying that friends are not important. But loneliness is an emotion and like other emotions, there are ways to get over and live with them. Here are a few suggestions to counter and tackle your feelings of loneliness.
1. Face your feelings of loneliness.
The first thing that most people do when they have an uncomfortable emotion is to run away. Be it using food, TV, games, shopping, or alcohol to deal with the feeling. Or finding friends and activities to cure and prevent themselves from feeling lonely. They are still denying their emotion. There is nothing wrong with it.
We are programmed to protect ourselves.
However, the more you try to stop yourself from feeling lonely, the more control the feeling has over you and the harder it is to let it go. You end up needing more of the stuff and activities to keep you from feeling lonely. It’s an endless loneliness loop, isn’t it?
You don’t have to enjoy or like your feeling of loneliness. But you are not acknowledging your feeling of loneliness when you deny or run away from it. If you are able to slow down a little and observe it, you will find that loneliness is actually not that frightening at all. Yes, your body contracts and feels colder. It hurts. But it’s not life-threatening.
Notice your urge to fix or fight the feeling with something else. For example, you might want to call a friend immediately or go to the kitchen to grab some food. You can collect a lot of information about your past conditioning just by being mindful.
When you are able to stay with the feeling of loneliness, you can be at peace and more accepting of being alone.
2. Don’t judge yourself for feeling lonely.
It’s easy to get into a self-pity or victim mode when we are lonely. We think that other people don’t care about us or we are not good enough for others. We compare ourselves to other people and wonder why they are so popular and have so many friends while we don’t. Often, we end up concluding that we are not sociable enough and bad at making friends.
Loneliness is not a personal failing. It’s a need for connection.
Some of us feel guilty about taking up other people’s time and having a need for connection. We feel ashamed of feeling lonely. But our need for connection is not a personal flaw. It just like any other needs that we have.
When you are hungry and starving, you eat. You don’t feel ashamed that you need to eat. Everyone needs food for survival. So why are we judging ourselves when we have a desire to connect with others? Everyone needs love to survive.
When you are feeling lonely, it tells you that you a part of you is neglected and it needs care and love. So practice self-compassion and give it the attention it needs.
3. Figure out how much connection you need and work towards it.
The problem with introverts is that we might enjoy our private time too much that we forget that we also need to connect with others. I could go months without meeting up with my friends and only to realize I felt lonely.
Furthermore, people who know that you are an introvert might not want to bother you because they think you are busy with your own stuff. Not to mention that introverts tend to be passive and procrastinate when asking others out. So by the time we finally ask someone out, we might have already suffered from bouts of loneliness.
Connect with people on a regular basis.
Most people eat regularly at specific timings. They don’t wait till they starve, then they go and find food. They know when they are hungry and when they need to eat. It’s the same as our need for connection. You don’t wait till you are extremely lonely, then find friends to reduce your loneliness. It’s better to plan ahead of time.
Ask yourself how regularly do you need to connect with others. Once a week? Once a month? Or once every quarter? Everyone is a little different. You have to figure out how much connection you need.
For food, you can access it quite easily. But when it comes to connection, you need to be in sync with your friends’ schedule. You can’t force someone to give their time to you. So it’s important to plan ahead. If finding a common time with your friend is difficult or you need a higher frequency and regular connection, try volunteering or signing up for a new course.
4. Dismiss your belief that no one understands you.
Sometimes, when you connect with people on a regular basis, you will still feel lonely. As mentioned previously, it doesn’t matter how many friends you surround yourself with. Having more friends and doing more activities don’t necessarily solve your problem of loneliness.
For some of us, we feel lonely because we feel misunderstood. We can’t find someone who gets us or patient enough to hear us out. But this is just a belief, isn’t it? If you want to find someone who understands you, you can always talk to a therapist or a counselor, right? It is their job to listen.
There are always ways to overcome loneliness.
But you have to take the active role.
What’s holding us back is again our own self-judgment and the social stigma of loneliness. There is nothing wrong with feeling lonely. You don’t have to wait till your problem gets out of hand before you approach a therapist or a counselor. Loneliness can be very complex when it is mixed with other emotions. So it’s good to get another perspective from someone else, especially from someone professional.
Alternatively, you can join a support group or meetup in your local community, or even better set up one. They are always people who share a similar experience as you.
Lastly, some of your friends would make the effort to understand you if you make the effort to share and let them know in advance that you need a listener, not an adviser.
5. Reconnect with your authentic self.
Even though most of us believe that our loneliness is caused by being alone or the lack of friends. But often times, we feel lonely because we lose the connection with our authentic self.
Our ego wants us to attach our sense of self to another person or another thing. It wants us to believe that we won’t feel good or complete without the person or thing.
Some people feel lonely as a result of social expectation and pressure to get married and start a family. They get into a relationship quickly only to discover that they are lonelier than ever. Another reason could be the recent death of someone significant in their lives. Their intense pain comes from losing their source of love and identity.
When you are disconnected from the love around you, you reconnect.
Love doesn’t only come from our family, friends, and partner. There is a bigger source of love from the Universe that we can tap into. When you feel lonely and inadequate, take a look at the things around you and be grateful. Be grateful for the warmth that the sun provides you. Be thankful for the clean water and fresh air. Feel the ground that you are standing on.
There is an abundance of love around you and you can only access it when you are in tune with your authentic self. We don’t always remember our authentic self, so whenever you feel lonely, treat it as a gentle reminder to reconnect.
Featured Photo Credit: Goodnight / lauren rushing