Loneliness is a common feeling everyone experiences at some point in their life. Feeling lonely can be a hard emotion to face, but you are not alone. It can feel like the lonely feeling will never go away, but with the right kind of coping mechanisms and understanding where it’s coming from can help. It is perfectly normal to feel lonely from time to time as humans are social by nature.
Is It Normal to Feel Lonely?
It is typical to feel lonely on occasion. Everyone goes through changes in their life that can trigger these feelings and over time, these feelings start to go away as we adapt to the new changes in life. Loneliness impacts everyone from young adults to seniors and doesn’t discriminate to those who are only single. Even people who are married report feeling lonely.
If these feelings persist for a long time and feel like they are getting worse, it may be an indicator you are dealing with something else psychologically and it’s important to consider talking to a therapist.
Why Do I Feel So Alone? Reasons You Feel This Way
Feeling lonely can be caused by many things. Circumstances like being single or a primary caregiver can make it hard to form connections with others, and there are many mental health conditions that can cause you to feel alone.
Reasons you may feel lonely include
- You feel like you don’t fit in: It can be hard to know what to do when you don’t fit in. When you feel like you don’t belong, it can leave you feeling isolated and alone.
- You have a mental illness: Underlying issues like depression, trauma or anxiety can trigger feelings of loneliness or leave you feeling a chronic sense of loneliness. It’s important to consider that your feelings may not be reality and to get professional help.
- You’re single: When all your friends are in relationships and you’re the third wheel, it can leave you feeling lonely at times
- You are a primary caregiver: If you are caring for a loved one who needs a lot of time and attention, such as an aging parent or a newborn, it can leave you feeling lonely as all your time and your lifestyle is based around the needs of someone else.
- You live alone: Living alone can leave you feeling lonely just by the fact that there is no one else around to talk to or exist with.
- You feel distant from family/friends: You are generally feeling distant from family and friends, either because of lifestyle changes, other demands or mental health–this feeling can make you feel more withdrawn as well.
- You are dealing with grief: If you are dealing with grief after the death of a loved one, it can leave you feeling lonely, even if there are many living loved ones around you. Grief and engulf you in your feelings of loneliness.
What to Do When You Feel Lonely
No matter how lonely you feel, there are things you can do to cope. Taking practical, actionable steps can help you feel more empowered and less lonely.
The following are 12 things to do when you feel lonely:
1. Do Yoga
Yoga allows individuals to express emotions through their body. There are a lot of benefits to moving your body and exercising, however yoga takes that one step further as the goal tends to be finding balance. When finding balance and an emotional equilibrium is at the center of one’s mind, it becomes that much easier to process stressful emotions to get to a balance. There are many guided yoga meditations and yoga assist classes that can help restore this missing balance.
2. Start Journaling
Journaling allows individuals to write how and what they are feeling about the stressors in their life without any judgment. They can pour their emotions onto a blank page and unload their fear, anxiety or depression from their mind and heart. Journaling allows individuals to keep a record of their reactions and over time reflect and find opportunities for emotional growth.
3. Call a Friend
Calling a friend or a loved one is a great way to connect and combat loneliness. Talking on the phone or having a video call helps to remind you you are not alone even if you are feeling lonely.
4. Try Mindfulness Meditation
Focus on your actions and emotions and comfort yourself. This isn’t selfish and in fact important to do in situations when you feel lonely so you don’t begin to internalize any negative emotions.
5. Join a Support Group
Support groups help you stay connected and supported when you may not have a lot of other support systems. Groups are a great way to feel a sense of belonging and empowerment.
6. Enter a Club Sport League
Similar to support groups, sports groups are a great way to join a team. Teams tend to lean towards friendship development and when people can accomplish something together, it creates a deeper bond between people.
Getting outside and moving your body is bound to make you feel better. Exercise is proven to improve mood due to the release of endorphins during cardiac activity. Exercising is also good for your body, and when your body feels better, your mind and spirit start to feel better.
Taking time to volunteer and help those less fortunate is important and can be very helpful in restoring gratitude. Volunteering helps us feel better because as humans we want to feel needed and helpful. When we can channel our emotions into helping others, we start to feel a sense of purpose and feel less lonely.
9. Keep a Structured Routine
Having a routine that includes some of the above and having structure can help you feel less lonely. When you have things to look forward to, you have goals and a purpose and that can help you feel better.
10. Go on Nature Walks
Nature is also very therapeutic. Taking a daily walk in your neighborhood or park is a great way to feel less lonely. When you are out in nature you are engaging with the world around you. Listening to some music while on your walk is a great way to remember how much is truly around you.
11. Consider Adopting a Pet
Having a pet companion is a great way to help our loneliness and likely a pet who is in need of a loving home. Having pets can give us a sense of routine and purpose as they rely on us to care for them. Pets are very loving and can give us a sense of belonging.
12. Attend Fairs & Events in Your Community
By taking steps to go to events and programs in your community, even by yourself, you can find yourself belonging to a community. You may meet people that way or run into someone you know. By being able to go out on your own, it can empower you and leave you feeling more encouraged.
When to Seek Professional Help
It’s important to understand what your baseline level of loneliness is and how much you tend to handle this and how much of that you feel is handled well. If you are living with roommates or a partner, getting their feedback might also be helpful in giving some insight as we can often overcompensate for ourselves when we are lonely.
When you start to feel tense muscles, physical pain, headaches, feel isolated, withdrawn and start to engage in avoidance behaviors, it’s important to consider getting professional help as these are signs of clinical depression. Changes in behaviors such as eating habits, alcohol use and mood swings can also be red flags that you’re undergoing a lot of negative emotions related to loneliness.
Sleep issues, general feelings of withdrawal of manic behaviors such as hyperarousal, anxiety and depression are also major signs that your body and mind need help. If these become so extreme that they are interfering with your normal activities of daily living, such as going to work, seeing family or friends or attending routine social gatherings, it’s a sign you may need to seek out professional help.
One great way to find a therapist for these types of relationships is by searching an online therapist directory. All licensed therapists are equipped to help people struggling with mental health issues. It is important to read reviews and look at clinician bios to understand the scope of their practice and get an idea about whether their experience suits your situation.
When you are trying to choose a therapist, many therapists offer a free phone consultation to help you know if you’ll be a good fit. Another way to locate a therapist is by referral, which can come from a trusted loved one or a physician. Healthcare providers often have access to a network of other providers who can be helpful. Going through your physician or specialist is a great way to keep them in the loop about any treatment options or trauma experienced.
It can be hard to admit and acknowledge that we are feeling lonely, even if we know we aren’t alone. Loneliness is hard to overcome but there are ways to improve how you feel. Trying at-home solutions is a great way to help yourself, but working with a therapist if these feelings are overwhelming is definitely something to consider. Together you and your therapist can come up with a plan to help you feel better.