Dealing With Loneliness

If you live long enough, you’ll come to realize that loneliness does not discriminate.  You may have many friends and a good career, and still feel incredibly lonely because you yearn to get married and start a family of your own. Or you may have your own family complete with a spouse, two children and a dog, yet still feel overwhelmingly lonely—lonely for social connections or a sense of belonging outside of your immediate family circle. If these situations describe you, I wholeheartedly understand. I’ve dealt with intense loneliness during  periods in my life even with a husband and children. At times, I’ve blamed my career and busy schedule, or myself for not being social enough or “more” of something. Many times the feeling of loneliness is a sign that you are longing to connect with you. This is why you can be around a group of people and still feel lonely. I believe it is our spiritual side that beckons us to more fully appreciate the true “us” that God made us to be. Oftentimes, we look for happiness and joy outside of ourselves, but when we focus on ourselves and seek God’s guidance along the way, we can be more at peace with our journey. Loneliness is kind of like a challenge, an uncomfortable feeling that dares us to make our lives better or tempts us to sit back and wallow over what it is not.

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{image courtesy of Michelle Llewelyn}

If you find that you are struggling with loneliness, and have been feeling pretty down and out about it, there may be a couple steps you can take to connect with you and work harder to design a life that will make you feel less lonely.  Here they are:

1.)    Get Active. Many times when I conduct psychological evaluations on children, I recommend that they get involved in an extracurricular activity to build self-esteem and social skills. The idea is that if you immerse yourself in an activity, a hobby, or a passion, you feel better about yourself simply because you have an opportunity to learn new skills, make connections, and be of help to others, all of which gives you less time to be lonely.

2.)    Start Something. Perhaps you’ve always wanted to start a book club, an online or brick & mortar shop, or even a blog. There’s something about an entrepreneurial spirit that compels you to give of yourself, encourages you to take risks, and pushes you to get out and make things happen. As a result, you are less likely to feel lonely, not only because you are focused on something other than yourself, but life has a way of giving back to you what you want and need when you give  of yourself freely.

3.)    Be the Friend You Want. At times it can be difficult to build social connections, particularly when you don’t see the same group of people every day like you did when you were in school. So there may be times when you have to put yourself out there and just be friendly. For some, this is not a big deal, but for others who may be more introverted, this may be particularly difficult, especially when you come across a group of people who seemingly don’t need you. Many times, when you are the new kid on the block, you will be faced with a situation where everyone knows everyone else, and you'll have to exert a little more effort than they do in order to make a few friends. If you’re like me, you may be inclined to feel badly when the friendliness is not reciprocated, but don’t. This is the process of being new. Keep being friendly and putting yourself out there, and eventually you’ll form connections without feeling like you have to exert so much energy.

4.)    Stay Away from Social Media. When you’re feeling lonely, social media can be the worst thing for you. You can get lost spending hours looking at others’ lives, and before you know it, you’ve conjured up a whole story about how great their lives are compared to your own. Even though we know social media may not be good for us, sometimes we look anyway because it feeds into a fantasy we would like to have. Unfortunately, it only make us feel worse, and before we know it, we're pining after something we feel is out of reach for us. The best thing to do when you feel the urge to peruse through social media is to put down your cell phones, stay away from the computer, and do any of the other things on this list. It may be hard to resist the urge to look at social media at first, but in the long run you’ll feel happier and less lonely.

5.)    Get Spiritually Connected. Many times we cater to our physical needs through eating and exercise, or our intellectual needs through classes and reading, but we often neglect our spiritual needs which are just as important. For someone like myself with a strong Christian faith, I often seek God when I’m feeling down and out because I know that He designed a plan for my life and has the answers. When we are spiritually at peace, it's difficult to feel lonely and depressed because the peace brings a calming presence that seems to drive away the sadness. How do you cater to your spiritual side?

These are only five tips for dealing with loneliness, but maybe you have more. Feel free to share them here. They may be of great help to someone. ♥