As human beings we were designed to travel in packs. We weren’t meant to navigate this world alone. However, there are times when our circumstances make us FEEL like we are alone. The operative word is FEEL. For example, many stay at home moms experience the feeling of isolation and loneliness. College students are more likely to experience feelings of loneliness, especially if they are going to college in a new city, with new people and trying to form a new routine. Single people may feel lonely because they assume that relationships make you feel less alone.
There are different types of circumstances that make us FEEL lonely and in turn tricks our brains into thinking that loneliness is a FACT instead of just a FEELING. We must be intentional about training our brains to think differently so that we can start to feel differently. Below are some tips to help people combat the feeling of loneliness at certain points in their lives.
- Always remember that loneliness is a FEELING, but it doesn’t have to be a FACT! In that moment or perhaps moments of loneliness, think about what you did yesterday, last week or last month. You might be surprised to discover that you had fun with family; played a game in the dorm lounge with friends; or went to a singles’ event at church. Those things were not done by yourself, so you do have people around that love you and/or enjoy your company. Yes, you might be having a lonely moment, but you are not alone.
- Be intentional (there’s that word again) about embracing and displaying your authentic self. There are some who might feel lonely even when they have a ton of people around them. Oftentimes, it’s because they are hiding a piece or pieces of who they are. It’s hard to have that sense of belonging when you’re hiding your authentic self out of the fear of not belonging. It’s crazy how us humans make the simple things more complicated than they have to be.
- Make a social plan to combat loneliness. Once again, we must be intentional about training our brains to think differently. That means we must encourage ourselves to get up, get out and seek interaction, start a conversation and/or plan a lunch date even if we don’t feel like it. Even if we feel inadequate, scared, nervous, anxious or depressed, we must commit to some sort of social interaction everyday. Remember, you are not inadequate; you are not a loser; and you can still do it even if you’re anxious, scared, nervous or depressed. Don’t let your brain convince your otherwise.
- Be aware of self-sabotaging. Stop yourself from saying things like, “I’m lonely or sad, so that must mean I’m a loser and inadequate.” No, it simply means you feel lonely and sad. Don’t give those words anymore power than that. When you have a neck pain or a cold, you don’t go around calling yourself a loser, stupid or inadequate, do you? No, you tell your brain, “I need to take some medicine to get rid of this pain or help my cold symptoms. You must learn to treat an emotional or mental pain the same way.
- Take the focus off of yourself. The most important thing you can do when you feel lonely is to help someone else. Volunteer at a local humane society or senior citizens home. Ask a friend if they need help studying. Ask a friend if they need help moving. If you’re in a school club, ask one of the officers if you can help with anything. If you’re a stay at home mom, sign up for the PTO or to be a room parent.
- Remember, progress and not perfection. Your goal is to build relationships, not to see how many likes you can get on social media or how well known you can be. That goal alone will make you feel even more lonely. Instead focus on learning; learning more about others. Approach each social interaction as an opportunity to learn more about who you’re with. This takes the pressure of “performing” off and makes the interaction more organic. It also takes the focus off of yourself.
- Persistence is so important. Don’t be discouraged if a person or particular group of people isn’t/aren’t right for you. You might have to go through some “wrong” ones before you find the people who are the right fit for you. Don’t allow those feelings of loneliness to convince you to give up. Your persistence, social plan, awareness and curiosity will pay off. It’s just something you’ll have to be intentional about.