How to Feel Less Lonely
For introverts, going an extended period without any human contact can bring you down. For an extrovert, even a few hours without speaking to anyone or being around people can feel draining.
Everyone can experience loneliness sometimes. And feeling lonely isn't limited to people living in isolation, although that's very common. People who are surrounded by others (in person or virtually on social media) can even feel lonely if they don't have anyone to connect with and relate to.
It can be painful because, after all, humans are social beings. We crave social interaction. When we lack social connection, it's uncomfortable.
It's important to be able to talk about feeling lonely. Because loneliness can be associated with mental health issues like depression, if you're experiencing profound loneliness or chronic loneliness, reach out to a professional licensed counselor.
If you're feeling just a bit lonely and are looking for some gentle suggestions for how to feel less lonely, here are our recommendations.
Reach out to someone
Here's the good news: there are actions you can take to help you feel less lonely. Focusing on actions can help you feel in control, thereby reducing feelings of anxiety. Feeling in control is empowering!
As much as you may be hoping someone will reach out to you, I've observed a casual practice among the most sociable people I know: they initiate.
Sometimes, you've got to make the first move. Get out of your head and quit worrying that they won't respond or will won't want to hear from you. Those things may happen. But it's more likely that they're going to be so happy to hear from you and thrilled that you reached out.
Plus, how frequently have you heard this reaction after contacting someone?
"I was just thinking about you!"
It happens all the time.
But here's the thing: it takes two to tango. So if both of you and your friend are dragging your feet to reach out, then you won't have those great conversations. So go ahead. Make the first move!
Have you ever crossed paths with someone who just seems to be in their own world, completely at ease, and oblivious to the fact that they're alone?
With the right playlist, that's me, folding my laundry and rocking out. Completely alone. Having a blast.
You know the phrase "time flies when you're having fun"? That's what's happening when you're in what's called a state of flow: you're zoned in, so immersed in an activity, that you lose track of time.
It stands to reason, then, that good distractions can also help you lose track of loneliness.
If you're absorbed in a new activity, say trying a new complicated recipe, or learning to code, you'll be less aware of feeling lonely because you'll be so focused on the thing you're learning. And as a bonus, you'll get a boost of endorphins from the novel activity you're focused on, which will help to combat the blues of isolation.
Find one activity every day that excites you and consumes you, even if for a short time. As beloved TV painter Bob Ross said, "It's so important to do something every day that will make you happy."
RELATED: 14 Ways to Distract Yourself From Temptation
Begin a new routine
A routine can be grounding. Similar to how actions can help you feel in control, routines are actions that occur at certain times. When you have moments of structure, you know what to look forward to. When you start a new day of your routine, it's like the day is saying, "Why, hello old friend. Good to see you again."
In fact, a routine can be comforting in a way that a dear friend can be. It's reliable. You can count on it. Think about your routine almost as a way of strengthening your relationship with your behaviors.
In addition to feeling in control, a routine can help distract you, especially if it's new. Shake things up a bit by incorporating one new, positive habit into your routine. Here are some examples of healthy, grounding habits that can make you feel good and in control:
Start the day by writing down 3 things you're thankful for
Make your bed in the morning
Listen to a podcast or good music as you make breakfast
Go for a walk at lunchtime
Do some stretches in the mid-afternoon
Floss at night after dinner
Choose tomorrow's outfit and lay it out the night before
Read a novel before bed
Each time you do your new routine, assess how it made you feel. If it makes you feel in control and supported, recommit to doing it again tomorrow.
RELATED: Daily Habit Ideas
Albert Einstein said it best: "If you want to cheer yourself up, try cheering someone else up."
You know that warm glow feeling after you do something nice for someone? It's called the "helper's high" because altruism activates the same part of the brain that's stimulated in response to food or pleasure. And the good news is that a smile is contagious.
So how can you easily pay it forward? Well, there are plenty of ways you can volunteer without even leaving your house. For example:
Lend your eyes to solve tasks for people with low vision or blindness with Be My Eyes
Offer your translation skills through Translators without Borders
Help researchers by answering simple questions through Zooniverse
If you're able to donate to causes you care about, that's a great way to also feel connected and supportive. In addition to donating, you can also help support small business owners. You could write a nice review for your favorite services and restaurants, and Kiva allows you to lend loans as small as $25 to entrepreneurs around the globe.
Intimidated by volunteering or donating? Keep it simple, and go back to our first tip: Reach out. You may never know exactly how much you might be cheering someone up simply by checking in on them. Know someone who lives alone? Give them a call. Send a funny video to someone you haven't spoken to in a while. Send a handwritten card to Grandma.
You may be surprised how much you get out of giving.
RELATED: The Protégé Effect: How Doing For Others Make Us Do More
Do the Stay Connected Challenge!
To ease feelings of loneliness, we put together a checklist of ideas for reaching out to people. You can do one a day, or one total: whatever you want! Or, come up with your own ideas on who you can reach out to and how.
Better yet: Invite someone to do the challenge with you.
The list of ideas in the Stay Connected Challenge is meant to inspire you and help you feel less alone. Get your copy today!