Being alone and being lonely are two different things. You can be all by yourself and not feel lonely but may feel lonely even when surrounded by people. Human beings are a social species and we depend on each other for survival. As infants we are dependent on our parents and caregivers to provide nourishment, safety and affection. The goal is to develop into a well-adjusted social adult human being and this connection with our caregivers and family and friends helps us achieve that goal.
The distressing experience of perceiving one’s social relationships to be less in quantity and or in quality than one would desire is loneliness.
Over the years the psychological and health effects have been studied and it’s been found that loneliness is associated with depressive symptoms, poor social support, neuroticism, and introversion. Loneliness also puts people at risk for mental and physical diseases and may contribute to a shortened lifespan.
Loneliness is not a form of weakness and it doesn’t make you a less than human. Everyone feels lonely from time to time. Here’s what we can do to break out of loneliness:
What kind of lonely are you?
Emotional loneliness is when you are dissatisfied with the emotional connection with one particular person and social loneliness is when you are dissatisfied with your social connections in terms of quality or quantity. This recognition will give you an awareness of what you want.
Sharing in joy:
Simple acts of volunteering in our community can be helpful in overcoming the feelings of loneliness. It’s been shown that connecting with others in a way that may bring them joy can be beneficial in alleviating feelings of loneliness. (Links of places you can volunteer is mentioned below)
Strengthening pre-existing relationships
This may sound like an obvious solution but often one might forget that there are certain relationships that we can go back to. Recognise the relationship that has made you feel safe and get in touch with them. Remember every human is a social being and is constantly looking for connections and maybe you saying, “Hi” to an old relationship is all that they needed.
Seek help from a therapist
If the feeling of loneliness has persisted over a period of time it is best to seek help from a therapist who could help you understand your emotional needs and guide you to a more fulfilling and socially satisfied life.
Feeling lonely and talking about it is not a sign of weakness you can always reach out to old friends and family or even a therapist if the feeling is getting too overwhelming.
Cacioppo, J. T., & Hawkley, L. C. (2009). Loneliness. In M. R. Leary & R. H. Hoyle (Eds.), Handbook of individual differences in social behavior (pp. 227-240). New York, NY, US: The Guilford Press.
Places to volunteer