Loneliness can be a painful feeling. Low self-esteem, depression, negative thinking and low self-worth can all reinforce or lead to feelings of loneliness. Loneliness is a complex mental and emotional phenomenon that is a result of many different brain functions. Like any emotion, loneliness will ebb, flow and eventually disappear but like any emotion practical steps are necessary to recover from it. Whether you are recovering from a breakup, the loss of a loved one or are feeling depressed, here are a few tips and reminders that can allow you to begin to heal or bring you back to your usual self.
Dealing with Loneliness
1 - Realize you are not alone
This is an important first step. Whether you believe it or not, you are not alone. Brain functions can trick you and it will make you believe that no one understands how you feel. The truth is not so simple. As you will see further down, there are practical steps you can take to reach out to people or to feel better about being alone. Remember that even if someone like a family member, significant other or friend does not understand how you feel, the ability to confide in them can make a big difference in your mental fortitude. Believing that people really are there for you is an important first step.
2 - Force yourself to be social
Depending on the root cause of your feelings of loneliness, forcing yourself to be social can be a great step towards improve your mental wellbeing. Being social may seem like the last thing you would want to do, but humans are great at mirroring emotion and being surrounded by social groups can make you happier. Being social can also be done alone. If you are reeling from the loss of a loved one, going to see a movie or visiting their favorite restaurant alone can be a cathartic act. Here are some tips:
- see friends - organize a get together, go see a concert, take a walk or meet for coffee.
- go to a movie alone - No better place to lose yourself than at a movie. A healthy distraction for a few hours can do wonders.
- go eat alone - People tend to feel weird when it comes to eating alone but this can be a real confidence booster! Visiting the favorite restaurant of a deceased loved one can also be a very cathartic act that will help in the healing process.
- take dancing lessons - This has the benefit of boosting confidence, getting exercise and meeting people. Chances are that many people in a class may be feeling the same way as you do.
3 - Better yourself/Be proactive
- take cooking lessons - Learning a new skill can benefit you by boosting your confidence and can really help in the healing process. Feeling lonely can often make you question your self-worth. Fight against this feeling by teaching yourself some new skills!
- join a gym - This advice is probably one of the most proactive steps you can take. Exercise releases endorphins into the brains which help to make you feel happier, less stressed and less anxious. This in turn can make you feel better about yourself, others and your situation in life. If you do not want to join a gym, start running or walking and make it a part of your routine!
- write a journal or start a blog - If you are grieving, document your experience. Writing for yourself is a healthy way to organize your thoughts and better understand your life. If you start a blog, remember that your words may help someone who is going through similar experiences and that can be a rewarding process.
- turn off the electronics - Connect by disconnecting. The electronics in our lives, while seemingly connecting us to a large social circle, often do the opposite. Turn off your computer and go for a run or grab a coffee or meet with friends. You should not define yourself by your online life.
- write down good thoughts - Keep a notepad next to your bed and when you wake up in the morning, write down three positive things about yourself. When you go to bed at night, write down three positive things that occured to you during the day. No matter how small, write it down.
When you look back on it, you will realize just how proactive you actually are.
Finally, if you cannot get out of your funk… why not fake it?! A study conducted by psychologists at the University of Cardiff in Wales found that when forcing people to smile, their moods would automatically shift. Smiling can reinforce emotional responses in our brains without our even realizing it. Be confident when you walk into a room, smile even when you are alone and think good thoughts about yourself. It is hard work but the payoff is immense.
Mental illness is a rope walk. Depression can leave you feeling as if you exist in the world but not of the world; two realities that often cannot find common ground. As Robin Williams' and millions of other people have sadly discovered, depression can leave sufferers feeling as if there is no way out. Remember that there is always a way out. If you or anyone you know is suffering from mental illness, please seek help. There are resources available to everyone and reminders that you are not alone. For more information, please consider the following resources: