Feeling lonely doesn't only happen when you're alone. Some people enjoy time to themselves. On the flip side, just because you're around other people doesn't mean you can't feel lonely. You might even feel lonely when you're in a room full of people. When you don't feel connected with anyone or feel like no one understands you, you might feel as though you are entirely alone, even if you're around friends or family.
Loneliness is a typical human experience. However, when left unchecked, it can be detrimental to your emotional and physical health. Whether you occasionally feel a little lonely when you're at home by yourself or you experience a deep sense of loneliness that never goes away, it's essential to address loneliness healthily. Here are some things you can do right away when you feel lonely.
Change your perspective.
Casting a different light on what it means to be alone can sometimes make it easier to navigate feelings of loneliness. Loneliness happens when you become isolated, and your needs for social interaction and human connection go unmet. Everyone has different interaction needs, so this doesn't happen at the same point for everyone. For example, if you're used to spending most nights with friends and loved ones, you might feel lonely with just one interaction per week. If you struggle to connect with a live-in partner, you might feel lonely even when you're usually together.
Most people need close relationships to thrive. Abraham Maslow, a humanistic psychologist, considered this need so important he included love and belonging alongside things like food and shelter in his hierarchy of basic human needs. That said, some amount of solitude, or quality alone time, is also essential. Solitude creates opportunities for self-discovery, creative thought, and self-reflection. Time alone can also open the door to greater mindfulness, which can boost emotional awareness and make authentic expression easier in all of your relationships, including those with you.
It's not always possible to spend time with friends and family, no matter how much you miss them and want to see them. You can still maintain your closeness even when you can't see them in person. Your interactions might look a little different, but you're connecting, and that's what matters. Aim to connect with the essential people in your life regularly.
If you previously spent Sundays with your family, you might try catching up every Sunday with a video chat instead. Sometimes a quick text can seem like the easiest way to connect but don't underestimate the power of hearing a loved one's voice. Even a 10-minute call can help ease loneliness for you and them.
Make the most of your interactions.
Simply spending time around others won't permanently relieve loneliness since the quality of your interactions often matters more than the number. That's why you might feel lonely in a large group of casual acquaintances but fulfilled by a quiet evening with your closest friend. How you spend time with others can make a big difference, too. Sometimes, you might need some company and feel fine watching a movie with a friend or sharing space while working or browsing social media.
When you feel the need to connect on a deeper level, try to find ways to make your interactions more meaningful. You could share emotions and personal experiences, talk about things that matter, or ask questions and listen to your loved ones' answers. It's hard to avoid talking about current events entirely, and you might want to stay informed about what's happening in the world. Even so, it can help to center your conversations around things that bring you both joy rather than dwelling entirely on distressing news.
Spend time outside.
A change of environment can distract you and help dull the ache of loneliness. Maybe you can't work in your favorite café, enjoy brunch with friends, or join trivia night at your favorite brewery just yet. Still, getting out of the house can put you in the path of others and remind you that you aren't alone in the world. Time in nature can also help ease emotional distress and boost your overall wellness. You could try visiting your favorite park, taking a walk around your neighborhood, or planning a scavenger hunt with your friends. Getting out on foot or biking can also tire you out, making for good sleep.
Talk about your feelings.
Emotions tend to gather under the surface and intensify when they go unacknowledged. However, expressing your feelings aloud can often help diminish their power to cause distress. Telling a loved one you feel lonely can make it easier to get the essential emotional support that helps loosen the grip of loneliness.
Talking about difficult emotions can also help empower your loved ones to share any feelings they're struggling with, making it possible to explore coping strategies together. Sharing painful or unwanted emotions with others can feel challenging, especially if you aren't used to talking about your feelings. Journaling offers a way to express and sort through feelings privately so you can work your way up to sharing them in person.
Do something you love.
Loneliness can occupy your thoughts to the point where it feels challenging to think about anything else, including what you usually enjoy. Still, favorite hobbies can fill the time until you're able to talk to a loved one or friend. Doing things you enjoy, from yoga to video games to baking, can create a sense of normalcy, grounding you and helping you find some inner calm amid turbulent times. Don't forget hobbies and relaxing activities also serve as self-care, which plays an essential part in overall well-being.
It isn't unusual to feel lonely occasionally, but people may be experiencing such feelings more frequently due to increased remote working and decreased face-to-face time. Whether you cope with the occasional bout of loneliness or a chronic sense of isolation, know that you aren't alone in feeling lonely, even though it feels that way. Exploring different coping mechanisms and reaching out for professional assistance can help you feel more connected.