Every important stage in our lives produces a variety of feelings. As teenagers, new college students, newly married, new parents or moving to a new city all produce numerous feelings of excitement and anticipation and even feelings of loneliness. Loneliness is not about being alone. Sometimes we are all by ourselves for long periods of time and do not feel loneliness but on other occasions we may be in familiar settings and feel lonely not knowing why. To understand loneliness it is important to understand you are not alone in feeling lonely and different people experience loneliness in different ways.
You may feel lonely when:
- You are alone because you feel you don’t have a choice than being alone
- You feel detached from things, places and people in your life that were important to you in the past
- You are going through life changing events like- new college, new job, new city etc.
- You feel you don’t have no one in your life to share your feelings and experiences with
- You feel something is wrong with you, your self-perception is you are not interesting, lovable, worthy of attention may be even “I don’t belong here”
Myths About Loneliness
What we tell ourselves is what we experience. We can make our loneliness intense or eliminate it by our self talk. There are some misconceptions about loneliness that we have learned growing up like:
- “Something is wrong with me, I am the only one who feels lonely. I am in prime of my life I should be enjoying.”
- “Loneliness is a sign of strength (masculinity), so I have to act as if it is fine with me.”
- “Loneliness is a sign of weakness; it means I am not acceptable within this group” etc.
Believing these conceptions means you also believe you are to blame for your loneliness; it is due to a flaw in your personality. Research suggests those who think of loneliness as a personality defect have following difficulties:
- Difficulty in asserting themselves, taking social risks, initiating conversation with others even in familiar settings. Have difficulty in participating in group activities and enjoying themselves at parties.
- Difficulty in self-disclosure, they approach social encounters with skepticism, cynicism and mistrust.
- Accepting self and others in positive terms, they evaluate themselves and expect others to reject them.
Lonely people are often depressed, angry, afraid and misunderstood. They are highly critical of themselves and others. They pity themselves and blame others for their situation. This in turn sets up some lonely people in doing things that further perpetuate their loneliness. Such as, they feel discouraged and may lose motivation to go out and get involved in meeting new people and encountering new situations. They isolate themselves from both people and activities. Where as, others try to deal with their loneliness by becoming too involved and occupied with people and activities too quickly without evaluating its effects on them. Later they find out they are in unsatisfying relationships or are involved in too many activities that do not interest them or are demanding too much of their time.
Dealing With Loneliness
Start by accepting you are not alone in feeling lonely for no knowable reasons. There are many people like you who feel the same. Research shows every few weeks most adults experience loneliness and this incidence is higher in adolescents and college students.
Instead of believing loneliness to be a personality defect start believing it is a changeable personality characteristic. Loneliness is neither bad in it self nor a permanent state. But is an indicator of some thing amiss, some important needs going unmet.
Begin by identifying those of your needs that are going unmet in a specific situation. To feel loved (non judgmental company), safe (no fear of repercussions) and encouraged take rightful actions are common basic needs in most situations. Loneliness may emerge from one or more unmet needs in a particular situation. Lack of friends or a special friend may be one cause. May be you are feeling difficult to work without your friends. May be you have difficult to be by your self and accepting yourself for who you are. Developing lasting friendships is a good way to end Loneliness.
- Start believing this loneliness is not here to stay for ever
- Start involving people in your every day routine tasks like, eat your lunch or have coffee break with other colleagues, find a study/activity buddy, if you are a stay at home mom call some friend and schedule play date for your child(ren) or go out together for a walk.
- Engage in activities that interest you that way you’ll meet people with common interests. Attend social events that interest you.
- If you are new to the place, use community resources or ask a native about interesting places and events then attend what interests you. Attending events and activities that do not fascinate you will further exacerbate your loneliness while in the crowds.
- Volunteer at a place of your choice that is a good way to meet like minded people.
- Develop your social skills give people time to know you before your write them off.
- Don’t color your present with your past experiences, each person and situation is unique give it a chance.
- Think before declaring friendships. True friendships develop gradually, both friends take time to know each other and accept one another for who they are instead of asking them to change. Sharing too much information too soon and spending too much time together is again a sign of trouble as you may grow dependent on the other person.
- Friendships are equally important like romantic relationships and they have a potential of their own to help end your loneliness. Give them a chance.
Loneliness is an Opportunity for Self Development
Consider yourself as a whole person. Don’t neglect your other needs just because your companionship or friendship needs are unmet. Loneliness is an important issue but it is just a small part of your life.
- Work on keeping your mind alert and body healthy by following healthy habits.
- Use your time alone as an opportunity to know your self and work on skills that you think you lack. Example, you can practice assertiveness scripts or a hobby.
- Find constructive ways to enjoy your alone time. It is not possible to have company at all times. You should have a plan how you’ll spend your alone time.
- Look back and see what you enjoyed in the past to tackle your loneliness does it still work or you need to find a new activity. Sometimes our past experiences of enjoyment can give us important clues to address our present situation.
- Keep few things handy that give you pleasure like, books, music, crafts etc.
- Try doing things by your self. Like if you went to movies with your friends for a change go to movies by your self. Go to a restaurant, exhibition or a play all by yourself. It will be an interesting experience.
- Do not anticipate how you’ll feel about an activity, keep an open mind. You’ll discover a great deal.
Don’t accept the “loner” label even if you have given it to yourself. If you focus your attention on your unmet needs soon your loneliness will be a thing of past. Start with a small change and big changes will follow. If you are not comfortable in your own company why do you think others will be. Start enjoying your own company, if you don’t like something about it then take steps to change it.