When you are caught in the throes of loneliness, it can be easy to assume that you are the only one who feels the way you do. Many studies, however, report that over 60% of Americans are lonely, and that number has surely risen since the start of the pandemic, particularly among young people. Whether your loneliness is due to isolating school or work structures, or you simply have trouble connecting with the people around you, it is possible to learn from the experience and find ways to lessen its effects.
Accept Your Feelings
Society values problem-solvers, but what happens when an issue seems to be an inevitable part of your day? Perhaps the reason that loneliness is so pervasive is that many people see it as merely an occupational hazard that can't be helped. Others who have ample opportunity for social connection but still feel isolated may experience shame about feeling lonely. If others seem to be getting everything they need from their social circles, it may be tempting to hide that you're not.
However, accepting your feelings and sharing them with a therapist or trusted friends may be the key to feeling less lonely. Charlotte Donlon recommends that rather than running away from the pain of loneliness or denying that it affects you, you should instead turn toward it. Acknowledging your feelings allows you to explore not only where they're coming from but also the specific needs that may be behind them. It also can open you up to deeper connections with the people with whom you share those feelings.
Develop New Practices
A busy lifestyle is not enough to keep you from feeling lonely. In fact, it may exacerbate the problem if it doesn't leave you with enough time to foster solid relationships. A long checklist of things you must get done before you allow yourself to take care of your own needs is self-defeating at best.
It may seem counterintuitive to add more activities to your planner in order fight busyness, but it depends on what those new practices are. Intentionally make space for things that connect and ground you:
- Taking a walk outside, especially if you invite your partner or a friend to join you
- Reading books, especially if you join a book club to discuss them
- Listening to music, especially if you attend a live event
- Making art, especially if you collaborate with other artists or share your work
Life is more than just your job and other obligations. You must make time for self-care and connection if you want to feel like a whole person. Perhaps loneliness is the prompt you need to remind you that these things are important.
Pray for Guidance
The last thing many people want to do when they feel alone is dwell on those feelings. This is why so many believers find themselves praying less rather than more during their loneliest times. If they don't have to talk about it with God, then it's easier to deny it's happening.
One unexpected benefit of loneliness is that it may drive you to a deeper relationship with the divine. You may first reach out in desperation but then find that you feel more at peace the more often you pray. Maybe you start to notice all the opportunities you have for real connections in your life. Taking your burdens to God, whether through prayer, journaling, art or some other means, can relieve some of the pressure and help you adjust your overall mindset.
Loneliness feels very isolating, but it's not as uncommon as you might believe. In fact, if you address your loneliness, you may learn some valuable things and forge new connections with others.