Humans are social creatures and feeling connected to others is a key part of our well-being. We may think that we live in an age of great connectivity — yet the same tech that connects us may be responsible for our loneliness as well. In fact, loneliness is growing to be such a global concern that some countries have even appointed a Minister of Loneliness to help their citizens!
Such is for good reason. More than just an emotion, loneliness can have a negative impact on our health. Studies have associated loneliness with impaired sleep, anxiety, and poorer health. Some studies even show evidence that loneliness can be as bad for health as obesity or smoking.
With the pandemic, we may be feeling more distanced from others than ever. Here are some ways you can deal with loneliness and cope with feeling lonely.
But first — what is loneliness?
Loneliness is not just about being alone. Think of a familiar scenario at a party: you may be surrounded by a room full of people yet still feel incredibly lonely.
More than just the lack of the physical presence of others, loneliness is a state of mind. When you feel lonely, it means that you are yearning for meaningful connections. Even if the room is filled with family and friends, you may still feel lonely if you do not find that you are connecting meaningfully with them.
How to deal with loneliness
If loneliness is about needing connection, what makes some people feel lonelier than others?
Our sense of self-confidence and self-worth and the quality of our relationships influence how lonely we feel. Being comfortable in your own skin and having genuine friendships with others helps mitigate the feelings of loneliness.
This may be easier said than done. Below are a few tips to get you started.
1. Learn to love yourself
The person that you spend the most time with is yourself. Dealing with loneliness means being content with being alone. This first means you need to learn to accept yourself for who you are, flaws and all.
Understandably, loving yourself fully may take some time. It is a journey made up of numerous little steps. To get started, take your first few steps by:
- Picking up a new skill or activity that you have always been curious about. Not only does this better yourself, but you can also be part of a community that shares the same goal as you do. This makes it easier to forge deeper connections.
- Acknowledging your emotions. There is no shame in feeling lonely. Embracing our different emotions and moods, no matter how ugly they may seem, is key in cultivating a healthier mindset.
- Dropping toxic relationships that may be putting unnecessary burden on your mental health
- Getting enough hours of quality sleep for your mind to function at its best state
The more you love yourself, the more able you are to be alone. This also helps you make better choices about your relationship with others, which leads us to tip #2.
2. Strengthen your relationships
One of the best ways to improve friendships is to lend a helping hand. Take the initiative to re-connect with loved ones and offer your help instead of waiting for others to reach out to you.
You might be thinking, “If I’m feeling lonely, shouldn’t I be asking for help instead?”
While that may not be wrong, remember that relationships are a two-way street. Volunteering your help gives you the opportunity to establish a deeper relationship with your friends and build more genuine social connections.
Suggestions for what you could do include:
- Helping a neighbour run an errand
- Using your skills to aid others around, such as helping an elderly relative with computers
- Or for something even simpler – just texting a friend to see how they are doing
Helping others also gives your brain an extra positive buzz, which helps to improve your mental wellbeing as well!
Learning to deal with loneliness will not be something you can accomplish immediately. Be patient with yourself. Like any skill, finding acceptance in being alone and cultivating self-love requires effort and time to hone.
If you find that your mental health is being negatively affected by intense feelings of loneliness, it may be useful to seek professional support for early intervention. Speak to a psychologist anytime via the Doctor Anywhere app.