So, after a long day, you check your phone to see if anyone has messaged you. You see no missed calls and no texts — again. It shouldn’t be a big deal, and maybe any other day, it wouldn’t be. But today, it is.
It’s hard not to feel lonely every once in a while. But there are times when every once in a while becomes a lot more regular. When that’s the case, it’s time to put together a game plan to fight the loneliness.
A 2010 study showed that loneliness not only does a number on your social confidence but it can also affect your mental health. So, it’s super important that you understand and work through these feelings. Here’s how.
One of the keys to combating loneliness is figuring out what’s causing you to feel lonely in the first place.
Change is a really common cause of feeling lonely. If you’ve just gone through a breakup, graduation, or a big move, you might feel grief or nostalgia due to what you’ve lost. This grief could manifest as loneliness after a time.
If you struggle to adjust to change, you might retreat even further into isolation out of frustration. But this could be an opportunity to reframe and explore how we make connections.
Here are some common types of loneliness and practical ways of combating them.
- New location loneliness. If you’ve just moved to a new city or out of an apartment you shared with friends, you might be feeling lonely. Carving out some weekly video chats with old roomies can go a long way.
- Relational loneliness. If you feel like you haven’t found a group of friends who share your values, try an online organizing group. Lots of collectives are having virtual meetings as a way to find new communities.
- Romantic loneliness. If your loneliness stems from not having a romantic partner, there are plenty of apps to help you make connections based on interests and preferences. Results aren’t often guaranteed, so give it time.
- Caretaker loneliness. Lots of people crave connection through the care of an individual or a pet. If you can, consider adopting a pet from your local shelter. If you can’t, you might be able to volunteer at a local shelter, daycare center, or vet clinic.
- Priority or “No time for me” loneliness. This one’s a common type of loneliness when you feel friends or family don’t have enough time for you. Honest communication is key. It’s important to be candid when talking to them about prioritizing your relationship.
- Untrustworthy friends loneliness. If you feel you can’t totally confide in your friends beyond the surface level, try being intentional about having deeper conversations. If they aren’t receptive, it may be time to expand your circle.
- Quiet presence loneliness. This loneliness happens when you miss hanging out with someone and doing nothing. Maybe you miss having someone nearby as you read on the couch. Try meeting friends in the park or doing another quiet activity.
Regardless of the type of loneliness you feel, it’s important to listen to yourself when it comes to finding a solution. Ask yourself what makes you feel seen and engaged.
Is it talking on the phone with your friends? How do you feel after seeing people you care about? Are you able to be vulnerable with your friends and family?
If you struggle to find answers to these questions, try journaling about your emotions or talking to a therapist. It’s sometimes difficult to fully comprehend your emotions without a bit of outward processing.
Socialization isn’t the only or best way to overcome loneliness. If you feel burnout from socializing too often, you aren’t going to feel less lonely by doing more of it. Combating loneliness is more about feeling heard and validated, rather than the number of people you’re with.
Feeling lonely and being alone are actually two different things. Loneliness is an emotional state associated with the absence of companionship. Being alone is a physical state related to proximity. While it’s common to feel one or the other, you can also feel both at the same time.
Introverts are primarily energized by being alone. This doesn’t mean they hate being around other people, nor does it mean that they enjoy being lonely due to a lack of sufficient connection.
Conversely, extroverts, who are primarily energized by social interaction, can still feel lonely even in a crowded room.
Regardless of your proximity to another person or your personality type, pay attention to the consistency of your feelings in any circumstance.
|Feeling lonely||Being alone|
|can cause apathy or emotional emptiness||can allow for rejuvenation through solitude|
|can cause feelings of being unwanted||can be relaxing or restful|
|can cause frustration, resulting in a desire to isolate even further||can cause fear due to feeling unprotected|
|can cause a decrease in communicative engagement||can cause boredom|
Your comfort level with living alone, traveling alone, or exercising in a full gym has nothing to do with your degree of connection to others. Be sure you have a good gauge of where your fulfillment level is.
Overcoming loneliness doesn’t mean ignoring your feelings. It’s actually quite the opposite. To thoroughly and consistently beat loneliness, you need to invest in finding out what’s underneath the surface that’s causing you to feel lonely.
Loneliness can arise due to reasons beyond your control, including mental health conditions like depression or bipolar disorder. If that’s the case, you might want to seek professional help with a therapist.
Feelings of loneliness are sometimes genetic or stem from historical issues of abandonment. When that happens, you can rely on a professional to help you identify those issues and work through them in a meaningful way.
Reina Sultan (she/her) is a Lebanese-American Muslim woman working on gender and conflict issues at her nine to five. Her work can also be found in Huffington Post, Rewire.News, Wear Your Voice Mag, and Rantt. Following @SultanReina on Twitter for endless hot takes and photos of her extremely cute cats.