Loneliness is one of the greatest fears and pains you can experience. In fact, it is considered a public health issue because researchers have linked loneliness to physical illness and to functional and cognitive decline. Here’s a rather surprising fact: loneliness and isolation surpass obesity and smoking as predictors of early death.
Studies show that about one in three people over 65 and half of people over 85 live alone. But loneliness is not limited to the elderly. Despite isolation having a serious, detrimental effect on physical and emotional health, you can experience loneliness even when you are around people all day. Some people experience extreme loneliness in a lifelong marriage, for instance. In addition, recent research shows an increasing number of successful millennials are experiencing loneliness, and a 2014 study showed 18-24-year-olds were four times as likely to feel lonely than those aged 70 and above.
Social media has been both a blessing and a curse for people who experience loneliness. Click to tweet
On the one hand, it's easier than ever to engage with people using the internet. However, social media has also been responsible for a culture of comparison. Since it is now possible to see the glorious life of others in pictures — regardless of whether it’s true or simply a manufactured image of success — it is easy to make a sad comparison to our own life and think we are missing out.
Social media has also changed the way we interact. Many people have confused information sharing with a personal connection. It is possible to form friendships online; however, most interactions lack genuine connection because of the restrictive nature of the medium. Regardless of what modern technology may have led you to believe, a text does not communicate accurate feeling, even if you use hashtags or emoji icons.
So you see, when we feel lonely, we are lacking connection.
Instilling a sense of connection can happen different ways. One of the best ways is to reconnect with love in your heart rather than regret. So participating in something you enjoy or that you used to enjoy will open the door to the feeling you once had.
Once you feel even the smallest increase in love, you are ready to take even greater steps to overcome your isolation.
Thus, it is essential to get comfortable with yourself if you are ever to manage loneliness.
1. Accept your feelings. One of the first things is to acknowledge you feel lonely and that how you feel is different from who you are. This distinction is subtle, yet very important in order to overcome lonely feelings. When you identify with any feeling, you perpetuate the emotion.
2. Adjust your perceptions. When you accept that you feel lonely rather than you are lonely, it is easier to take steps to change what you do rather than who you are. There is less likelihood of blaming yourself. Instead, you will initiate actions that strengthen your enjoyment of yourself. Adjusting your perceptions protects you from loneliness, regardless of what’s going on in your life.
3. Stay present. Any anxiety you may feel about being alone needs tender care. The best way to deal with these feelings is to be very present with them. Even though you want to avoid the discomfort, it is best to sit or lie down and focus on your breath for a few minutes. Just practice and don't think you have to do it for a set time. Count to three as you breathe in and six as you breathe out. When you feel calmer — and you will, then you can move to an activity that will revive your sense of connection.
4. Look for inspiration. Art and beauty — uplifting songs or words — can transform your mindset.
5. Get some energy work done. Shifting your energy is sometimes best placed in the hands of an experienced practitioner. It can be a powerful way to change your state of mind.
6. Take a walk. A walk outdoors is an excellent way to feel connected with nature, and movement shifts your mindset like nothing else can. Make yourself do it, and while you are walking, make your mind focus on what you are observing, rather than ruminating on your feelings. This is a life-saving activity!
7. Talk with someone. This seems obvious but is strangely often overlooked when we are feeling lonely. Challenge yourself to connect with others. Your friends and family can give you comfort — and sometimes, so can a stranger. Sometimes, saying a few words to a stranger or a neighbour is easier than having to explain yourself to a family member or friend.
8. Make a plan. What will you do today? Plan to go somewhere or do a task where you will feel a sense of accomplishment. Focus on today, not the rest of your life.
9. Volunteer your services. Shift your attention to someone else. Focusing on others will help you to feel happier and more satisfied.
10. Pursue your interests or find new ones. Find new places to hang out. Join a Meetup group or go to a concert where you’ll be surrounded by others who share your love for science fiction or French cooking.
It is natural to struggle with loneliness from time to time. It is an opportunity to reconnect with yourself first and then look for practical ways to reconnect with others. Treat yourself with kindness and compassion. Dealing with loneliness constructively will help you feel love and connection all around you
If you would like further help with feelings of loneliness and isolation, perhaps you would like a personalized meditation to help you overcome your anxiety. You can schedule a free SOS breakthrough session to tell me your concerns. I'm happy to help you choose your next steps. Let's chat