Loneliness is a negative mental reaction to assume that you are alone. Loneliness is often referred to as social pain, which is a psychological force that drives people to pursue social relations. It is often linked to an unwelcome loss of communication and affection.
Maybe you haven’t seen friends or family members in a long time. Maybe pandemic stress has caused anxiety in your home. Given the fact that you are in a packed home, you are sad and depressed.
Loneliness can be caused by feelings of regret for “before times” and a desire to return to pre-pandemic life. You may lack passing social encounters or the opportunity to actually sit in public. About the fact that I am not speaking to others, I am also learning from the involvement of others.
Prolonged loneliness can drain you emotionally, making life seem bleak and pointless. It can also lead to physical symptoms, including aches and pains, sleep problems, and a weakened immune response.
When it feels impossible to escape feelings of loneliness, pandemic-related or otherwise, these 12 tips can help you navigate them and keep them from wearing you down.
It may be helpful to cast a new perspective on what it takes to be lonely to better handle feelings of isolation. 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 prefer being on your own, you might feel perfectly satisfied by seeing one friend each week.
- You might feel lonely upon returning to an empty house, even when you have plenty of strong friendships.
- If you struggle to connect with a live-in partner, you might feel lonely even when you’re usually together.
Most lonely 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.
Time alone can also open the door to greater mindfulness. Which can boost emotional awareness and make the authentic expression easier in all of your relationships, including the one you have with yourself.
Next time loneliness begins to surface, accept it as it comes. Maybe you put on music, pick up a forgotten sketchpad, flip through old notebooks, rediscover your love of poetry, or simply sit and get in tune with your feelings and personal goals.
Whatever you choose to do, finding ways to make the most of your lonely time can help you lean into solitude and use it to your benefit.
Fill your house with sound
When you begin to sense the vast space of isolation pressing in on all directions, the force of sound will drive it aside. Sound helps fill the space in your environment and thoughts, making it less overwhelming. For example:
- Music can lift your spirits and inspire you, while audiobooks can offer a diversion and a fleeting release from loneliness.
- Podcasts and talk radio can both educate and entertain, and their conversational nature can foster a sense of community.
- A favorite TV show or movie will help to crack the silence. And if you don’t sit down and watch it from beginning to end.
Even if you miss and want to visit your friends and family, that is not always possible. Make an effort to maintain daily contact with the important people in your life. If you used to spend Sundays with your family, you could try catching up with them via video chat every Sunday instead.
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.
A short text message can seem to be the quickest way to communicate at times. But don’t underestimate the importance of hearing the voice of a loved one. Even a 10-minute phone call will help alleviate isolation — for both you and them.
Looking for new connections?
Virtual events may not feel quite the same, but they can still have benefit. Plenty of groups have taken their meetings online during the pandemic, so it’s worth checking Meetup, Facebook, or libraries and other community centers for information about virtual fitness groups, book clubs, museum tours, and other gatherings and social opportunities.
If you’re missing the dating scene, keep in mind you can connect with potential partners over dating apps and get to know each other online before meeting in person. Dating apps can also help you find platonic friends — just be up-front about what you’re looking for in your profile.
Make the most of your interactions
Simply spending time with others won’t necessarily ease isolation, as the nature of the experiences always matters more than the quantity. That’s why you may feel lost in a big community of casual acquaintances but pleased by a quiet evening with your closest friend.
When you feel the need to connect on a deeper level, try to find ways to make your interactions more meaningful:
- Share emotions and personal experiences.
- Ask questions, and really listen to what your loved ones have to say.
- Talk about things that matter — work, creative projects, mutual interests.
It’s hard to entirely avoid talking about current events, 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.
A change of environment can distract you and help dull the ache of loneliness.
Perhaps you are unable to function in your favorite cafe, enjoy brunch with colleagues, or participate in quiz night at your favorite brewery just yet. Moving out of the home, on the other hand, will place you in the direction of others, reminding you that you are not alone in the world.
A few ideas to try:
- Visit your favorite park. Try to identify different birds — both birds and birdsong can have a positive impact on well-being, according to recent research.
- Take a walk around your neighborhood. Explore streets you’ve never visited and greet neighbors when your paths cross.
- Plan a physically distanced scavenger hunt with friends.
- Visit and support local businesses, if possible.
Getting out on foot (or bike) can also tire you out, making for good sleep.
Talk about your feelings
When emotions go unacknowledged, they appear to collect under the surface and escalate. However, expressing your emotions aloud will also help reduce their ability to cause anxiety.
Telling a loved one you feel lonely can make it easier to get the important 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 uncomfortable or unwelcome emotions with others can be challenging, particularly if you are not used to discussing your feelings. Journaling allows you to share and sort through your thoughts privately before expressing them in public.
Draw out your creative side
Creative pursuits like art, music, and writing help many people cope with isolation and navigate feelings of loneliness.
Artistic endeavors help you express emotions without (spoken) words, which can have a lot of benefit when you struggle to share them aloud.
Creation can also leave you with a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction, emotions that might challenge a prevailing mood of loneliness and sadness.
Find your flow
Another significant advantage to the imagination is the ability to achieve a state of flow. Flow, also known as being “in the zone,” will occur if you test yourself with an experience you enjoy.
Finding your flow means reaching a point where distracting sensations and emotions (like loneliness) temporarily fade away, allowing you to fully focus on your art, music, or anything else.
While a fresh canvas or blank page may not completely erase loneliness or keep it from coming back, art offers another area of focus, one where you can harness your emotions to create something permanent and moving.
Consider a pet
Not everyone has the means or ability to care for an animal companion, so this strategy won’t work for everyone.
But if you’ve ever thought about adding a pet to your life, here’s another reason to expand your family: Research from 2018 suggests pet ownership can improve both mental and physical wellness.
A pet may not be able to talk (unless, of course, you have a vocal bird), but they provide companionship all the same. The presence of another living creature can comfort you, and their antics can help lift your spirits and relieve stress, as thousands of pet videos on the internet can confirm.
Bonus: Adopting a dog gives you a reason to head outside on a regular basis.
And though “pet” generally brings to mind cats and dogs, many people find that birds, fish, and other small animals make great pets, too. Just be sure to look into the type of care your potential pet will need before bringing them home.
For a quick fix
If you love dogs but can’t have one, consider heading to your local dog park to enjoy the sights. If anyone asks why you’re there, just explain that you love dogs but can’t have one of your own. Everyone there is already a dog lover, so they’ll likely understand (and maybe even let you toss a ball to their dog).
You can also look into volunteer opportunities at local shelters. Some may be closed to new volunteers due to COVID-19, but many are starting to open back up.
While social media often seems like an appealing way to maintain connections with loved ones, it can sometimes increase feelings of loneliness.
A loved one’s happy, carefree post can give the impression they don’t miss you quite as much as you miss them. When you’re alone, seeing others spending time with romantic partners or family members can also sting.
Of course, social media never shows the whole picture, so you can’t really know what your loved ones feel without asking. It’s also worth considering some of those posts might serve as someone else’s approach to countering loneliness.
In short, it never hurts to close those apps and connect with a quick phone call or text instead.
Don’t forget hobbies and relaxing activities also serve as self-care, which plays an important part in overall well-being.
Remind yourself it isn’t permanent
However overwhelming it feels, loneliness won’t last forever. Acknowledging that fact can sometimes bring some relief.
In time, COVID-19 vaccines will become widely available, and schools and universities will reopen for in-person classes. You’ll reconnect with friends and loved ones and meet new people (and potential partners) once again.
The loneliness that doesn’t have anything to do with the pandemic will pass, too. Sometimes it can take a little time and effort, but it’s always possible to reach out and strengthen existing connections or forge new ones.
The capacity to create a state of flow is another major benefit of creativity. Flow, also known as being “in the field,” can arise if you put yourself to the test for an enjoyable encounter.
In therapy, you can:
- Get more insight on what might be going on.
- Learn skills to manage distress in the moment.
- Explore strategies to prevent loneliness in the future.