Loneliness is a growing problem. It’s ironic when you think about the fact that there are so many people on this planet. How is it possible to feel lonely when there are so many of us?
Loneliness doesn’t care whether you are old, young, rich poor, single or married. It reaches all of us at some point in our lives. Of course, for some people it is a real issue due to crushing social anxiety, isolation due to circumstances or even just making wrong decisions in life and surrounding ourselves with the wrong people. I have met many married people who are miserable and very lonely despite being married. Seeing as loneliness is becoming increasingly common, I thought it would be a good idea to do a blog post on how to cope with loneliness.
Loneliness involves a feeling of isolation, of being disconnected from the world. We are social creatures by nature and when we are lonely it can make a huge negative difference to us psychologically.
Use the internet
Modern technology has made it easier to feel less alone. We can be at home and still feel connected to the world. The downside is having to be technologically savvy but thankfully lacking computer skills is becoming less of a problem. Most people under the age of sixty are computer literate. Joining forums is a great way to feel connected and then there’s also Facebook and Instagram.
It’s a good start for someone with social anxiety. A slow introduction that will hopefully lead to more face-to-face opportunities.
Dismiss the negative thoughts
The way we feel comes from the way we think. What do you tell yourself about your situation? When we listen to the scary, self-critical thoughts it can immobilise us even more. Examples of negative thoughts when we’re lonely:
I am an outsider
No one likes me
I have nothing interesting to contribute
No one cares about me
I don’t matter
The above examples do not help the isolation and add to the feelings of loneliness. Remember that we all have this annoying negative dialogue in our heads. Learn to let the thoughts pass, like cars on a motorway. Don’t stop the ‘car’, get in and examine it – it doesn’t deserve that attention. Let it go past. Focus on the ones that make you feel empowered.
Examine your beliefs
Complete the following sentences:
I am …
Others are …
The world is…
What were your automatic beliefs about yourself, others and the world? Sometimes, our beliefs lead us to isolate ourselves. If we have negative views about ourselves, others and/or the world, we may avoid putting ourselves in social situations. If we believe others can’t be trusted we may avoid them. If we hold a more neutral belief that there are good caring people in the world and that the world isn’t all bad, we may feel more open to meeting new people and trusting more. Beliefs can close down good opportunities. When you open up the possibility that you can have meaningful happy relationships with others, you will find that the dynamic automatically changes between you and them.
Stop the self-critical talk
When we feel we are lacking in some way, we hide from others and we also choose people that aren’t good for us. What is your inner dialogue like? Do you talk to yourself in a kind manner or is your inner voice critical and nasty? I like to call it “shop open” mode. Imagine a row of shops, some look inviting – the doors are open and the outside of the shop has large windows where you can see in. Others have the shutters down and the doors are closed. You will be far more likely to venture into the shops that seem open. Our body language is the same – when we are in “shop open” mode we look friendly, making eye contact and smiling. We appear approachable to others. When we are in “shop shut” mode, we avert our eyes, our body language is closed and people tend to ignore us. In essence, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. What we didn’t want to happen, happens.
Take small steps
Take it one day at a time and try not to predict what might happen when you socialise. Leave the future to take care of itself. Try online forums initially, then perhaps skype and then face-to-face meetings. Rome wasn’t built in a day – be patient with yourself. Everyone has times when they feel lonely.