A young woman in the fashion industry is sitting on a park bench in a city in the fall on a sunny day.
It can be nice to spend time alone. It usually means putting your attention on yourself, doing what you want to do, and giving yourself that all-important “me time.” But if you’re lonely, none of those things will sound good. Instead, you’ll feel bad about the situation and want to fix it as soon as possible.
“To understand why loneliness hurts so much, it’s important to know how it’s different from just “being alone.”” Jennifer Weaver-Breitenbecher, the owner of Polaris Counseling & Consulting and a psychologist with an MA, CAGS, LMHC, tells Bustle. “We can be physically alone and not feel lonely. Even worse, we can be with other people and still feel alone.”
It’s often more about how you feel than how much time you spend alone. Weaver-Breitenbecher says that when we feel lonely, it tells us that we don’t feel very linked, heard, or understood by the people around us. “It can hurt because it can make us feel bad about ourselves and change how we see ourselves.”
But being alone can make you feel lonely. This can happen when you move to a new place, start a new job, work from home, drift away from a group of friends, etc. Weaver-Breitenbecher says that it happens all the time and to everyone. But you can be sure that there are many ways to deal with it. If you’ve been feeling lonely, keep reading for some tips from experts that can help you feel more linked.
1 Get in Touch
If you’ve been feeling lonely, reach out to a friend.
Even though this may seem simple, calling a friend and making plans to hang out is often all it takes to feel better. But it can be hard to see that when you feel alone or if your loneliness has hurt your sense of self-worth.
Weaver-Breitenbecher says, “Sometimes patients tell me, ‘No one ever calls me to do anything,’ but when I ask them how often they call their friends, they often say, ‘Never.'” Waiting around for a phone call is common, but it’s not the most effective thing to do.
Weaver-Breitenbecher says that you shouldn’t make assumptions about whether or not a friend wants to hear from you. Instead, you should be the one to call out. Chances are they’ll be happy, and you might even get back in touch with them.
Volunteering is a great way to feel linked, even if it’s just for a few hours on the weekend. A qualified marriage and family therapist, Bridget Bertrand, MA, LMFT, tells Bustle that volunteering will help you make friends, improve your people skills, and boost your self-esteem. “We are social animals, and the more connections we can seek out, the better we will feel.”
Look for charities in your area to find a place to help. Choose a cause that’s important to you and look for ways to help. You could help out at an animal shelter, sort clothes at a thrift shop, clean up a beach, or anything else that interests you.
3 Spend time outdoors
Going outside and taking in nature is a simple way to feel less lonely.
If you’re feeling lonely or don’t know how to get back in touch with people, go outside. Melanie Gonzalez, LMFT, a qualified marriage and family therapist, tells Bustle that nature has many ways to help people feel less alone.
Walk around your neighborhood park, read by a waterfall, or find a nice trail and go hiking. Gonzalez says that this will help you get back in touch with the world, and you might even meet someone new while you’re out and about. In either case, it will help you feel better about any bad feelings you’ve been having and make your loneliness easier to deal with.
4 Admit that you’re lonely
It’s great to find ways to get over loneliness by connecting with other people, but it’s also fine to sit with your loneliness sometimes and see it as just one of the many feelings we all have.
“Let yourself be lonely and feel it,” licensed marriage and family therapist Kim Egel, LMFT, tells Bustle. “It’s important to think about how lonely you are.”
You can feel it, and you can let it go. Or, if the feeling keeps coming back, you might try to figure out where it came from. “A great way to deal with your feelings is to talk to them as if they were a friend,” says Egel. “A great question to ask yourself is, ‘What are my lonely feelings trying to tell me?'”
She says that you might find you’d benefit from spending more quality time with a partner, looking for a group of friends who are more like you, or looking for a job that makes you happier. Being alone can hurt, but it can teach you a lot.
5 Get into therapy
You can figure out why you’re lonely by going to therapy.
Since it’s hard to deal with being alone, there’s no reason to try to do it on your own. By going to therapy and getting help from a professional, you can figure out what’s going on and learn how to deal with it.
A qualified professional counselor, Natalie Mica, MED, LPC, CART, CDWF, says that this can help you figure out the cause of your loneliness and some of the negative beliefs you have about yourself, other people, events, and memories that make it hard for you to feel connected.
A therapist can also help you figure out how well your present relationships are serving you. And if something like social nervousness has kept you from making friends, they can also help you start to deal with that.
Join a club in your area.
If you don’t have anyone to talk to right now, it might be time to start looking for new friends. Even though it would be nice if they happened on their own, it usually takes work to start and keep them going.
Vinay Saranga, MD, is a psychiatrist and the founder of Saranga Comprehensive Psychiatrist. He tells Bustle that if you want to meet new people, you should join a neighborhood social club or special interest group. You might want to join a book club, take a class, or go to a meet-up and get to know the other people there.
But don’t give up if you have to take smaller moves. “Many people get rid of their loneliness and find people to talk to all over the world online,” says Saranga. “It’s like having a pen pal, which we used to do by writing letters to each other,” and it’s a great way to feel linked.
7 Pay attention to what you need
Putting your attention on yourself can help you feel less lonely.
When it comes to dealing with loneliness, it will help to join clubs, reach out to friends, and go to therapy. But don’t forget to pay attention to yourself.
Brittany A. Johnson, LMHC, a licensed mental health counselor, tells Bustle that being lonely isn’t always a sign that it’s time to connect with other people. “In fact, it’s usually a sign that you need to take care of yourself and refuel.”
Even if it’s not social, you might want to spend some time doing what you need to do. Have you been putting off a hobby that’s important to you or working too much? Slowing down might be just what you need to do to get back in touch with yourself, which will make it easier to get back in touch with other people.