Why do you feel lonely?

Loneliness is a very common feeling which most people will experience at one point in their life, regardless of their situation.

A common misconception is that loneliness is limited to people who are physically alone. In reality, it’s possible to feel very lonely when surrounded by friends and family. Being at a different stage in life from a group of friends can feel lonely (e.g. being the only one with/without children or working vs. studying) or feeling misunderstood by our partner or friends can also make us feel alone.

The causes of loneliness are sometimes deeper than we initially think, and often stem from a feeling of not being good enough or from unhealthy relationships.

What can you do about it?

A common response to loneliness is to isolate ourselves further and try to push away the feeling (for example, by binge-watching series). However, there are a few things that can be done to change our thought patterns and ultimately make us feel better…

Limit social media use

Always do this

  • There is nothing worse than scrolling through Instagram on a lonely evening and thinking that the whole world is having fun without you
  • We’ve said this several times and we’ll say it again: social media does you no favours in terms of feeling good about yourself!
  • Try to limit checking social media to once or twice a day, and avoid reverting to it automatically every time you’re bored

Don’t believe everything you see

Do this when you’re feeling lonely

  • You probably would never guess from your social media feed and conversations with friends that most people tend to feel lonely from time to time
  • Most people don’t usually share their negative feelings, but it doesn’t mean that they don’t have them
  • Reminding yourself that loneliness is a normal feeling and that there’s nothing wrong with it from time to time will make you judge yourself less and be more compassionate towards yourself and others

Talk to a friend

Do this when you’re feeling lonely

  • The problem with loneliness is that we often think no one feels the same, or no one will understand. This could not be further from the truth.
  • Connect with a friend (either over coffee or via Skype or phone) and share your feelings. This has not only been proven scientifically to help you feel better, but it will also help you realise that you are not the only one who feels like this.

Speak to a therapist

Do this if you feel like you are having trouble with these feelings

  • Speaking to a therapist sounds scary, but it really isn’t! In fact, studies have shown that individual therapy is the most effective way to change thought patterns and beliefs surrounding loneliness

Dig a little deeper

Do this when you’re feeling lonely

  • Do you notice that you tend to feel more lonely when you are not feeling good about yourself, or you’re stressed?
  • Loneliness is often caused by deep-rooted feelings, so rather than trying to push them away, why not ask yourself: “How am I really feeling?”
  • Once you know what the problem is, you can start doing something about it!

Ground yourself

Do this when you’re feeling lonely

  • Sit comfortably with your feet firmly planted on the floor
  • Push your feet against the floor as hard as possible and notice the physical feeling of this
  • Touch something – a pet, a set of keys, a phone, whatever! – and notice the feeling of the object against your fingertips
  • This really helps to distract you from your negative thoughts and focus on the present – try to do this as often as possible

Join a club

Do this when you’re feeling lonely

  • This sounds really obvious, but sometimes when we feel alone we tend to isolate ourselves further
  • Why not think about something you enjoy doing (running, painting, reading, whatever) and see if there’s a club of like-minded people in your area?
  • This will not only force you to do what you love (which in itself has mental wellbeing benefits), but also helps you to meet others and create meaningful connection

Support others

Do this when you’re feeling lonely

  • Doing something for others has been shown to really help with loneliness
  • Whether it’s doing something for a friend or enrolling in a local community programme, try to support someone else
  • This will make you feel less lonely both by increasing social interaction and by helping you to practise compassion, which is shown to help trigger positive feeling

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