Why do I feel lonely? What it means and 10 things to do

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Loneliness is the state of being alone and feeling sad about it. People can be alone and not feel lonely, or they can have contact with people and still experience feelings of isolation.

Whether you’re a social butterfly or a shy wallflower, you’re human and therefore wired for connection with others.

A report suggests that 36% of all Americans—including 61% of young adults and 51% of mothers with young children—feel “serious loneliness.”

1. What are the 3 types of loneliness?

The three types of loneliness

  • Intimate/emotional.
  • Relational/social.
  • Collective

2. Some causes of loneliness

Poor Parental Attachment:

More than anything, we learn how to connect and form bonds with others based on the bonds we’ve had with our caregivers.

Loneliness can also be attributed to internal factors such as low self-esteem

Fears of Vulnerability:

When someone gets bullied or is in a relationship that leaves one heartbroken an armor starts to form to protect against any possible future instances of pain. And, in doing so, a gap begins to grow between you and others. What protects you from pain also denies you love.

The death of someone significant in a person's life can also lead to feelings of loneliness.

3. Here are some things you can do to overcome your loneliness

Don’t waste your energy trying to suppress your emotions. Feeling lonely doesn’t mean you’re a loser, it just means you’re human.

3.1 Join a Class or Club

Take a workout class or join a running club for exercise and social interaction.

Joining a class or club can provide a sense of belonging that comes with being part of a group. Whether it’s an art class, exercise class, or book club, joining a class or a club automatically helps stave off loneliness.

3.2 Try to be kind to yourself

Recognize your thoughts and see them as a chance to make some changes.

Recognize that you expect to feel lonely during a certain time, and be gentle with yourself.  Plan a drive or to meet with friends. Looking forward to something joyful can bring joy.

3.3 Volunteer for a cause

Taking time out of your schedule to help others can be a great help. Lending a hand can unlock your inner joy and help you feel like part of a larger community. It brings the benefits of altruism and can help you find more meaning in your life. It can help decrease loneliness. Additionally, working with those who have less than you can help you feel a deeper sense of gratitude for what you have in your own life may also help you feel more connected to the community.

3.4 Talking to strangers

A growing body of research suggests that even seemingly trivial interactions with strangers may be able to keep loneliness at bay by helping us feel more socially connected. You could also play games with others, chat about something you care about, give advice on a forum, or have a video call with a friend. The more you interact with others the more connected you are likely to feel.

3.5 Try to keep yourself busy

A hobby, even one you do alone can help. That magical moment where you get lost in doing something you enjoy can push you past loneliness.

Take some time to invest in yourself and your interests and keep your mind occupied in the process.

If you don’t have any hobbies, make it a priority to find one. Experiment with different activities, from fishing to pottery, until you discover things that you love.

3.6 Connecting With People From Your Past

Sometimes it’s easier to connect with old friends than it is to make new ones because you already have things in common. It's okay to reach out to people over social media or text message to start. But connecting face-to-face might help alleviate your loneliness more than messaging. Check in with others, knowing they may also find it hard to leave their comfort zone, too. Restart a family game night, or plan a monthly online party with friends across the miles.

3.7 Find Happiness in Solitude

Loneliness and solitude are not the same thing. One can happen without the other. You can feel intensely lonely despite spending all-day, every day with other people. You can feel completely satisfied spending months alone.

Maybe the key to combating loneliness as a society is not so much to reduce it, but to embrace and learn from it.

3.8 Try to use social media wisely

Unfollowing or muting accounts that bring up difficult feelings and following accounts that make you feel empowered can help with feelings of loneliness. Try to become active, not passive when using social media. Social media can sometimes trick your mind into thinking you’re making real connections when you’re not,” Hightower says. “Social media isn’t bad, but it shouldn’t replace real connections.

3.9 Start reading a book

Reading books improves brain connectivity, increases your vocabulary and comprehension, and empowers you to empathize with other people. It also aids in sleep readiness, reduces stress, fights depression symptoms and prevents cognitive decline as you age.

Reading a book helps you get inside the head of characters or narrators. It’ll help you understand how other people think and it can help you feel more connected.

3.10 Getting professional help

A therapist can help you uncover any underlying causes of your loneliness.

Talking to a mental health professional might help you make more meaningful connections with people and it may also help you discover strategies for coping with loneliness in a healthy way

If you’re struggling with loneliness and you don’t know what to do, you might want to seek professional help.

Takeaway

If you're struggling to find the motivation to reach out to your loved ones, it might be helpful to start slowly. Come up with just one supportive friend or family member who you could imagine reaching out to. Opening up about how you feel is not a weakness, it is courageous. Try sharing how you feel with someone you trust. Getting honest and vulnerable can help create connection.

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