Being alone and feeling lonely are two completely different things. You can be alone and perfectly content with your surroundings. Or you can be in a group of people and feel such a disconnect from those around you that the loneliness can be overwhelming.
And many variations in between obviously.
Loneliness is a complex mental and emotional phenomenon that can cause feelings of abandonment in ourselves, real or imagined. Mostly it’s an emotional echo of a past feeling of perceived abandonment that can cause these scary feelings to resurface.
Or it could be that all you want is someone to hang out with, not necessarily go out, but anyone you’d like to spent time with are either too busy with other friends or partners.
It’s all about figuring out what the triggers for these feelings are, and finding ways to overcome the loneliness that ensues.
Realize that loneliness is a feeling, not a fact.
Just because you’re alone on a Saturday night when you’d rather be spending it with friends, doesn’t necessarily mean you’re actually all alone in the world. It’s too easy to allow your brain to jump from feeling alone to other negative thoughts (Am I a loser? Why doesn’t anyone love me?) that can be damaging to your psyche and emotional state.
By confusing your feelings with actual facts, you’re causing it to become a bigger problem and can start overreacting.
Reach out to others.
It’s not always an easy thing to reach out to others when you’re feeling lonely or abandoned by your loved ones. In fact, it’s probably easier to just withdrawal from the world and try to deal with your feelings by yourself. But you’d be wrong.
Reaching out and trying to cultivate friendships is probably the healthiest thing you can do when sad and alone. As children, we would cry to evoke a comforting response from others to overcome these feelings. But sadly as adults, this doesn’t evoke the same response.
Be aware of your self deflating thoughts.
It’s hard to be aware of those around you who love and care for you when you’re going through a loneliness spell. Instead all you can see is the how the world around you sucks, and can’t see any possible light at the end of the tunnel.
This thought process can start in childhood and progress into adulthood in the form of habitual assumptions about the social world around you. You look and compare yourself to other’s perceived social standing, which will always leave you feeling worth less than them.
Fight the mental and emotional habits.
Once you realise you’re dealing with a recurrent emotional habit, you can plan to fight it and deal with the loneliness. Make the effort to reach other and connect to others. Healthy interactions with friends are good for you emotionally, so reach out, initiate conversations, and put in some quality face-to-face time.
It’s hard work, but vastly worth it in the long run.
Focus on the needs and feelings of others.
It can all too easy to turn inwards when you’re feeling down, and focus solely on your own issues. But sometimes you just need to make the effort to turn your focus outwards to those around you, even if it’s just the people sharing the sidewalk with you as you stomp down the street. Mentally wish them a good day or give them a brief smile as you pass. Every little bit helps, and you could be helping someone else almost as much as you’re helping yourself.
Find others like you and show up.
Sometimes all you need to get over the loneliness is to find a group of people who share some of your interests – a book club, sports group, massage classes, etc. But finding that group of kindred spirits is only half the battle – you have to actually show up! It can be hard, especially for the procrastinator in all of us, but if you make the effect then you’ll reap the rewards.
And most importantly, if the group you join doesn’t work for you, don’t just give up! Dust yourself off and find another group that may be better suited to your needs, and keep at it until you find the right fit. It’s not always easy or quick, but you’ll get there in the end.
Be curious and kind
You have a choice whether to be curious and kind, or to give off an aura of disinterest. The former will easily attract others to you as the attention you’re giving them will be returned to you. And this will take the focus away from your own feelings and negative thoughts.
As they say, ‘You catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar’.