As ironic as this may sound, if you are feeling overwhelmingly alone and isolated, you are not alone. According to a recent study by Cigna Health Care, one in five Americans rarely feel close to others, and only 53 percent of people report having meaningful relationships such as in-person social interactions with friends or family on a daily basis.
Feelings of isolation and loneliness in younger generations are worse than in older ones. Many doctors and organizations attribute this newfound loneliness to the increased use of technology and social media. Many people are replacing face to face interactions with scrolling, and it is hurting them.
In 2018, UCLA partnered with Ipsos and surveyed 20,000 people in the United States. They asked all participants to take a 20-item questionnaire. UCLA said that the test is “…designed to measure one’s subjective feelings of loneliness as well as feelings of social isolation.”
If you are feeling isolated and alone, I would encourage you to take the quiz. Becoming more knowledgeable on your emotions can help you live a healthier lifestyle and improve your overall mindset.
Get a piece of paper and pen and log your answers. You’ll respond with C, S, R, or N.
Here is what those options mean: C indicates “I often feel this way,” S indicates “I sometimes feel this way,” R indicates “I rarely feel this way,” and N indicates “I never feel this way.”
1. I am unhappy doing so many things alone.
2. I have nobody to talk to.
3. I cannot tolerate being so alone.
4. I lack companionship.
5. I feel as if nobody really understands me.
6. I find myself waiting for people to call or write.
7. There is no one I can turn to.
8. I am no longer close to anyone.
9. My interests and ideas are not shared by those around me.
10. I feel left out.
11. I feel completely alone.
12. I am unable to reach out and communicate with those around me.
13. My social relationships are superficial.
14. I feel starved for company.
15. No one really knows me well.
16. I feel isolated from others.
17. I am unhappy being so withdrawn.
18. It is difficult for me to make friends.
19. I feel shut out and excluded by others.
20. People are around me but not with me.
Keep scoring continuous. Here is how you’ll apply scoring: Make all O’s =3, all S’s =2, all R’s =1, and all N’s =0. A score of 43 or higher on the scale is considered lonely. The study approached the subject from the perspective of its effect on health and well-being, citing research that suggests loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. Scary, right?
Your mental well-being is just as important as your physical well-being. Taking the test serves as a reality check because it brings validity to your feelings and emotions. Now, let’s see what you can do to improve your situation and overcome feeling alone.
Stop blaming yourself.
Loneliness is not a fact. It is a feeling. Stop allowing your brain to process your feelings with prior situations. For example, if you are trying to make sense of feeling lonely, your brain may propose reasons. You might then ask yourself: “Is it because nobody loves me?” “Is it because everyone is mean?” or “Is it because I am a loser?”
You must work to rewire your brain from skipping to the justification of blame. Instead, try reciting positive affirmations every morning and evening, read books about adopting a positive mindset, or engage in activity that helps you feel good about yourself. While you won’t be able to reframe your thinking overnight, your no-blame process will help you feel better about yourself.
Adopt an attitude of gratitude.
Negativity can be very consuming. Being positive takes a lot of energy; however, being negative takes a lot more! Every day write down two to three things that you are grateful for. You can jot these down in your planner or create a gratitude journal.
Gratitude can be big or small. For example, here are a few things you may add to your list: the beautiful sunset, your favorite coffee, your spouse, your kids, your job, a neighbor, a random act of kindness, a relaxing day, a new album release from your favorite artist, or just slowly start to a normally fast-paced day. Acknowledging the things you are grateful for will help you turn around the most difficult times.
Talk to people you trust.
Sometimes talking about your feelings can be very beneficial. Confide in a close friend and ask for their feedback. Not only will you enjoy time with another person, but they will also probably be able to give you helpful advice.
If you do not have a friend, you feel comfortable chatting with consider seeking out a counselor or talking with your pastor. In some cases, talking to an unbiased third party is easier than discussing your feelings with someone who knows you well.
Commit to being social.
The last thing you want to do is be around people, but being around people is the opposite of being alone. So, you need to find a way to be social. Consider signing up for a class or activity you’re interested in. Some examples could be yoga class, spin class, book club, bird watching club, hiking retreats, a small group with a church, or a painting class. Starting a conversation with others will be easier because you’ll already have a common interest with your peers.
Being social could also look like volunteering. Connecting with others for the great good is a way you can find joy and other people to spend time with.
Make your positivity visual.
Adopting a positive mindset will help you feel less alone and isolated. Sometimes we must see what we are hoping to accomplish. What does that mean?
- Consider displaying inspirational quotes in your workspace, around your house, or as the wallpaper on your phone.
- Buy a graphic T-shirt with a positive message and wear it!
- Create a vision board and display ways you can be more social. Perhaps that is displaying a picture of you and friends, meals you could cook for others, vacation destinations you could travel to with loved ones, or a book you would like to read with a book club.
It’s okay to feel isolated and alone, but it is not okay to allow yourself to remain stagnate in that unhappy state. Be proactive and want more for yourself. If you are willing to put in the work, you’ll feel less alone and live a longer (happier) life.