How to Deal With Loneliness: 8 Tools To Feel More Connected
Humans crave satisfying relationships with others because it protects our physical and mental health. Without connection, we experience depression, alcohol abuse, anxiety, trouble sleeping, and other mental health issues. Loneliness can also cause a person to ignore their needs leading to physical health issues like heart disease, diabetes, or rapid aging.
Rates of loneliness among adults and children have increased since the Coronavirus pandemic. Lack of satisfying social interaction is particularly problematic for adolescents and children because they lack the coping skills necessary for battling loneliness. We all need to belong and feel loved – so how do you cope with loneliness and find ways to fill your need for connection?
Even the most introverted of us need to connect with other people to feel whole and healthy. This blog will explore the types of loneliness people experience during their lives and give you tools and strategies for overcoming your feelings of isolation.
Types of Loneliness
You may experience chronic loneliness or intermittent bouts of disconnection. Understanding the type of loneliness you experience can help you decide which tools work best to overcome it.
- Situational loneliness occurs because of a move to a new city, conflicts with loved ones, or even the isolation required during the pandemic.
- Developmental loneliness describes separation from loved ones, the hardships caused by poverty and difficult living situations, or disabilities. This can occur when a young adult moves away from home for the first time or when someone develops a chronic condition limiting their ability to participate in social situations.
- Internal loneliness is based on emotions and stems from mental illnesses such as depression, low self-esteem, or social anxiety. You may have plenty of people in your life, but you struggle to connect in satisfying ways that would assuage loneliness.
Tips to Combat Loneliness
Combating loneliness requires reframing your thoughts and changing how you seek connection in the world. These strategies may not solve all your symptoms of chronic loneliness. Still, over time they can help you feel more connected, so you avoid mental health conditions or other health problems caused or exacerbated by loneliness.
- Acknowledge Your Feelings of Loneliness
Denial is a roadblock to progress. Rather than fight your feelings of disconnection, or pretend you aren’t sad about your lack of social interaction, honor your emotions. Our emotions are clues that we need to make a change or take action. Name your feelings, admit you’re lonely, and then take steps to overcome them.
- Embrace Alone Time
If you find yourself spiraling into thoughts of worthlessness, or feeling upset every time you don’t have plans after work, or have a weekend to yourself, try reframing your thoughts by planning enjoyable self-care activities during your alone time.
Rather than wallowing in loneliness, try reading a book, spending time in nature, or even shopping without anyone else to cater to.
- Strengthen Existing Relationships
Lots of people feel lonely and disconnected even when around family members and friends. Often, those social connections aren’t satisfying for one reason or another. You may have friends but crave the fellowship of close friends who support you and see you for who you are.
Perhaps you struggle to be vulnerable and let people see the real you. Maybe you worry they wouldn’t love you. Try setting aside time for honest, vulnerable conversations, ask for the face-to-face time you need or seek relationship counseling.
- Know When to Engage or Disengage From the Online World
We spend more and more time connected to our devices than ever before. During the pandemic, this virtual connection saved many of us from complete isolation. But after a while, our habits changed, and we still spend more time in virtual interactions than face-to-face.
Learning to balance your time spent in Zoom meetings, online video game communities, and social media with a real-life connection can help reduce loneliness. Keep track of your screen time, and set a goal for reducing it or adding additional time to participate in live activities.
- Find New Ways to Spend Your Free Time
For people with social anxiety, this strategy may be alarming. However, learning to manage your stress so you can form social relationships, participate in new activities, and reduce social isolation will improve your life in many ways.
- Find a Volunteer Opportunity
Giving to others can help take the focus off what you don’t have and place it on your unique gifts. Volunteering can improve your self-esteem, increase your propensity for gratitude, and help you meet people.
Look for volunteer opportunities in your community, such as homeless or domestic violence shelters, the humane society, or working with the elderly or in a classroom. Choose something that feels like “you” and fills you with excitement.
- Join a Group or Club
Do you enjoy reading or writing? How about playing a sport? Are you crafty or interested in fitness? Joining a club or group of people who want the same activities can help you connect with new people and enjoy your hobbies. Check your local library, or look for a Meetup in your area of people doing things you enjoy. Don’t be afraid to try something you’ve never done before if it interests you – you may find a new hobby.
- Adopt a Pet
Adopting a pet can reduce feelings of loneliness if you have the time and energy to devote to a furry friend (or a scaly or feathered one). You’ll always have someone at home to greet you at the end of the day and someone who relies on you for comfort (and gives it in return).
Work With a Therapist to Combat Loneliness
if you experience chronic loneliness caused by mental health or physical health condition that affects your well-being, a mental health professional can help. A therapist can guide you through tools and strategies to reduce feelings of isolation and support you as you learn to reach out to others and build a social support system.At SMPsychotherapy, our clinicians provide an individualized, holistic approach to therapy, so we don’t just tackle loneliness in our sessions. We will uncover the root causes of your disconnection, address any other mental health issues, and support your growth. Reach out to our office today to schedule an appointment so you can live your best, most connected life.