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3 Ways to Lift Loneliness

All of us, from time to time, have experienced the ache of loneliness, whether we’re actually by ourselves or among others. And, of course, it never feels good.

But, curiously, this “social pain” is actually adaptive. According to John T. Cacioppo and William Patrick in their book, Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection:

Keep in mind, too, that feeling the pain of isolation is not an unalloyed negative. The sensations associated with loneliness evolved because they contributed to our survival as a species. “To be isolated from your band,” wrote John Bowlby, the developmental psychologist who pioneered attachment theory, “and, especially when young, to be isolated from your particular caretaker is fraught with the greatest danger. Can we wonder then that each animal is equipped with an instinctive disposition to avoid isolation and to maintain proximity?”

25 Comments to
3 Ways to Lift Loneliness

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  1. Great article Margarita!!

  2. The premise of the author’s claim that loneliness is bad is that self-gratification is one’s supreme value.

    This premise is faulty. Being happy is not always a supreme value. As the saying goes, better to be alone than in bad company.

    Therefore, the author’s claim that loneliness is inherently bad is false.

    • I stuggle to be more social but I know one thing my father-in-law moved from a bustling city with lots of interaction (even though he values his privacy like I do and needs a lot of down time) and he got predementia from being by himself in the house so much. Sometimes I get very lonely and then I go out to watch a football game or do something with 1 or 2 people and the next day (after 2 weeks of feeling very disconnected) I feel fine. It is a fine line for me. Overstimulation or too much solitude. P.S. I work from home as well.

    • Loneliness is bad. Solitude is fine. It’s possible to be lonely in a crowd and perfectly happy alone. Each of us is different in our tolerance for solitude vs. company and have different triggers for feeling lonely.

  3. Delightful article – refreshing change from the do-these-5-steps-and-be-happy type of advice. Not that it is easy to sit quietly with yourself and just be with any of these uncomfortable feelings; but if you cannot find a way to tolerate your own feelings, I think you will be continually frustrated in trying to connect to others. You may also have to add some deliberate social planning (at least if you are like me and tend to isolate yourself at any sign of stress. It also sound downright silly at times, but just breathing consciously helps in so many situations, so that instead of feeling overwhelmed by mysterious forces,you calm yourself and take a look at what is happening. (Used to have a sign by my work phone that just said “BREATHE” as a reminder to calm down and pay attention to the caller – not to what I expected from the caller)

  4. Introverts like myself often are most lonely in a crowd-which can be as few as one other person if that person is ADHD or even just vert talkative,and this is a Catch-22 when you get lonely easily like I do – One of the huge benefits of social media is being able to “break” loneliness with a bit of distance in place-I can just go read, go outside or take a nap from the exahstion felt by just having 20 minutes of social interaction. That said- the author’s 1st 2 premises are convincing but I do not see food as a way of connecting with the eorld – I think the author crreated a nifty tripartate and then har to stretch to complete it. And I think the author should have made clear that being alone is not all bad. Just the loneliness part.

  5. Firstly, with due respect to John T. Cacioppo and William Patrick, at best they are positing theory on top of theory. It is bothersome that they state their synthesis of these hypotheories as fact. It is not so.

    Secondly, it is important to stress that connection is not a stagnant process, but is dynamic and continuous. In my blog this point is addressed.

    Also, I would ask the reader to consider whether loneliness from self and loneliness from others are really along the same continuum. In my experience they are quite different and divergent.

    • I’m curious how is being lonely by oneself or lonely with others company differ to you?

      Usually if you are willing to suffer loneliness in the company of someone, they are someone like a family member or old friend or neighbor who you love/share history/share community and you are putting up with it with a goal in mind.

      If you are willing to suffer loneliness in the company of someone to which you aren’t really connected, one could say you are basically lonely by yourself.

      Personally, I was never lonely by myself (bored sometimes, but not lonely) until I allowed the wrong people into my life. People whose values do not coincide with mine, people who don’t really want to know me, people who are cynical or warped and don’t really act from kindness.

      The problem was by allowing these people in (from coping with a dysfunctional work environment) the more time I spend with them the more lonely I feel. Until now, even by myself I feel lonely, or rather unproductive with my free time .

      The key I think is to nurture oneself. And realize that certain relationships (toxic) may behave in ways that make us upset, isolated or underappreciated. Once you identify these, spend more time with people who really make your heart smile. People who are secure in themselves and don’t have to beat others down. Be this person yourself. The Drama of toxic relationships just becomes an excuse to why you aren’t living the life of your dreams,

  6. I am 67 and seem to have been born with a connection problem. I have found it difficult to make friends, with feelings of always being on the
    outside looking in. I came from a disfunctional family which is a likely basis for this. I’m not a shy person, and have ocassionally tested myself outside of my comfort zone–which always concluded badly for me. I’ve learned to live with this, and is why I emigrated to the U.K. from New York City as a young man, with my English wife (a fresh start?). Sadly, my problem stayed with me (still no friends, feeling shunned by the English—now I have an excuse!!) I’ve come to terms with having a fun-less life. I’m probably so used to being in an unfulfilled semi-depressive state, I’m not even aware of it. My sanity score is 74. What more can a misfit expect. I don’t feel sorry for myself, nor do I look for sympathy—certainly not at age 67. I am a realist with feet planted firmly on the ground and have concluded life is a bitch, but it is also a gift,so I just carry on as best as I can. Maybe I am confusing loneliness with solditude, having possibly become a person of solditude. For some, connecting with people is a task akin to banging ones head against a brick wall. It begins to hurt, so avoidance measures are taken.

  7. I felt article had some very good suggestions. to break isolation pain.. fascinated by it being part of evolution to feel pain. Ive been struggling since a harsh cold break up. with . a really powerfull, romance.. for me lately, ive found it amazing how, loneliness, indeed fuctions in self love arena… lack there of it… as i see how ive sabatoged thru small and large mistakes , mostly emotional conflict failures…….Im beginning to have compassion for a growing human that i am… self encouraging. really self empathy. blooming ,,lifts a sense of seperatedness. ive lived a 60 to 70 percent self love reach out.. not enough…. so .. amazing as i increase this self love.. new better people and new woman.. that also reflect improvements,, fom my newly born.. self love guess what.. lonliness is inverse of confident connectedness.. thanks sam

  8. I spent the holidays alone. My relatives are dead. I never had children. I am divorced. When my mother got sick I moved to be near her. She has since passed on. I had three cats. Two of them have died. I am left with a 14-year-old cat. I a very active in a major Christian denomination. We used to have activities for single people. I was on the committee and was released from the committee along with other members of the committee. This happens periodically. There were new people assigned but the singles program fell apart. People around me were born here, they live here and will die here. I spent Christmas alone. Not even a card or a phone call. I made it clear to my pastor and his assistant that I would be alone for Christmas as I have no extended family. I was told it was too bad. I do not drive. I live within walking distance of most people in my congregation so I can walk about two miles. It’s really cold and sidewalks are slippery. The busses do not run on holidays and service is very poor. I would have served meals to the homeless if I had transportation. I had to come home early last night so I couldn’t remain downtown for the New Year’s celebration. I made a mistake in taking too many consecutive days off from work. I am really miffed that people in my congregation don’t care enough about. Sunday the theme of the service was charity. In the sermons were stories of how people did service to others and how the Holy Ghost led them to do that. Well, obviously the Holy Ghost didn’t think enough of me to inspire people that I was alone. I realize my social skills aren’t the best and I am not perfect. I also realize that people might be afraid they are intruding on me–however, I made it very clear to my pastor and his assistant that I didn’t really want to be alone. It is harder for me to make a dinner for 10 people than it is for someone to invite one person over. One person isn’t that much and I could bring a dish. I have been so depressed that no one even cared. Even when I said something about it to several people on Sunday, again I got, “Gee, that’s too bad.” I also spent New Year’s Eve alone. I went to town for awhile but had to get back home before the busses quit running.

    • You see GailH, even Jesus hates you. Join a Satanic cult, it can’t be worse than those xtians who don’t care about you.

    • Gail:I would find a different church–maybe a smaller one. That is atrocious behavior from “Christians” too caught up in celebrating than caring for one another, which brings a deeper sense of celebration & hope.

      Or try a meetup group of single women who do activities together. Meet other singles who have the same interests through meetup groups & then spend holidays together.

      Invite people to activities. I’m new in town & made a real effort to make friends as they already have their circle of friends.

      My meetup group is going to the Film Festival this Friday night & I even asked for a ride in the Comments section as I can’t drive in the dark. Have made some good friends who are kind enough to give this stranger a ride. We talk & get to know each other on the way.

      Have had a lunch date w/one I met 2 weeks ago & we hit it off. Ask about their lives. People are so interesting & come from such diverse backgrounds yet we all crave basic human needs.

      I take classes at the gym (yoga–never done it before & I’m 60).It’s wonderful. Try new things & meet interesting people.Went to an all-day yoga retreat w/yoga instructor even though I’m a newbie.I invited her & it was a 2 – hr drive. We really got to be friends & found out we both moved here from same state & close by towns.

      Book group at the library. Libraries usually have many interesting functions–even cooking classes.

      I invited one of the front desk ladies at the gym to learn how to knit w/me. I like taking classes & doing group activities 1st to meet people as I am shy & it gives you a topic to focus on instead of just trying to make conversation w/someone you don’t know anything about. You have the group activity in common & can launch conversations about that & get more comfortable w/more personal stuff.

      We always have people over for Thanksgiving & Christmas who have no relatives or group of friends to get together with. Many have families far away. They are not losers. Even in a new town my husband played tennis w/a guy whose family (& his wife’s are in Europe). They are coming for both Christmas & Thanksgiving w/our grown kids who are flying in.

      Sorry for ramble.

    • Yes I know how you feel. It’s the same way with me,I’m always alone on the matter how many times I tale them.

    • I am 67 and have practiced meditation and Tai Chi for a long time. I know how to breath and appreciate all the blessings bestowed upon me. Although I am spiritually healthy, i miss the connection of human contact. I am somewhat of a introvert (not as bad as i used to be as a kid) I do start conversations randomly with strangers as I enjoy getting to know people. A year ago i moved back to where I moved from 15 years ago. Its pretty shocking that my neighbors barely say hello to you much less carry on a conversation. The small town I moved from, the neighbors were very friendly and really cared about each other. I think its just come to the point that people do not have the compassion or are afraid to reach out.

  9. Since we moved to this small town 24 years ago I have been so lonely. I tried to make friends through volunteering in different activities. It seems like if you did not grow up here, you don’t belong. It find it very hard to fit in. My husband works long distance, my kids are busy with their own family.

    • I have just found this site. I too have moved to a small town/village…..It is very difficult. My children have their own lives. It seems here you are under a microscope. Successful people judge you.

  10. I’m 14 years old. I tried to take some psych tests. One had told me that I’ve been suffering from severe depression. I usually have anger management issues and recently I feel having instant obsession over movies, things and mostly people. I don’t know how to cope with it since my parents tell me that I’m just having those symptoms because I was reading psychology books recently. I also feel uncomfortable and insecure when I mingle with people. It all started when my father left. I tried to seek help from the guidance office but I suddenly bursted out in anger without knowing the exact reason why and that’s when I started to notice the symptoms stated in one of this site’s pages. What am I supposed to do?

    • Hiya, I can relate to your problems here, I find it easy to find some sites where you can actually make friends and talk about all these obsessions and you don’t feel the embarrassment of meeting in person and getting all insecure, I suggest wattpad or quotev, they’re both nice websites and they’re alot of friendly people on there where you can talk and take quizzes, read stories and talk more to people just like you :)

  11. I work hard, I help all I can…..everybody. Feeling like this is so very difficult.

  12. Could just be renamed “how to practise mindfulness in three different contexts.” Been doing this for years. Doesn’t help.

  13. yep, I could relate this to my self. I am a very super introvert person. I get so often be in social community or while I was in crowd. It just didnt help me at all rid of my loneliness by join social meeting. I am really in peace and relax finding myself not so lonely just by mysef watching TV, movie, reading a book even when I’m travelling I am very comfort with just by myself. It;s not happen recently but already my character since I was a child. I remember when I was in kinder garden when break time come I just ran to special place with I could be with myself alone my parents and teacher kind of worry of me at that time. They said it’s not normal seeing young kids didnt like playing with their friend. But at that time I already know who i am and what I want, and what kind of situation that I really enjoy with. So yeah, I think I just like being alone or maybe i just have 1 or 2 friend but its ok for me.

  14. Your site’s advice is sugar coated pap. Meditate? Why? What is the goal here? I hit a 30 on the index; In 12 years here, I know the names of 8 ‘neighbors’, yet rarely even see them. All are inside, doing who knows what. I have 2 children, one overseas, one in town with a new baby. 3 friends, online, 250 and 140 mi. away. What do I do – go tell someone that I’m lonely as hell and would they take me as a friend? Nuts. Part of me has always been rather shy, tho i try to cover it. I suspect that little will happen to improve this; it has not worked before. Blessed are we who expect little; we shall not be disappointed. – and why were notes added to the site here at least 3 months old? Does even this get that little attention? Steve

  15. The last step on this article would be helpful if I’d been unaware that other human beings exist. However, I know that other people exist. The problem is that I don’t have a meaningful emotional connection to any of them. No amount of wondering where my rice comes from is going to change that.

  16. Hi, I’m a 28 year old mother and wife. I feel so lonely. I do have friends,but are all busy with life. My husband is not very talkative, he’d rather watch TV then to spend time with me our son. Sometimes I wonder if he’s autistic, he’s a bit awkward in public settings, he’s also a faker, a ppl pleaser, which is so embarrassing to watch. I’m shy,but once i open up, its cool.Any who, I feel so alone, my closest friend has so many issues I’m actually frightened to be around her by myself with my child. I’m scared for her kids. Anyway i see how loneliness is linked to depression, since when you’re depressed you tend to shy away from things, but I’m not depressed, I do however have severe anxiety. So high th a t I’m starting to have panic attacks in the car,but bc it feels like motion sickness, dr said its probably car sickness since my b vitamin levels are LOW. Hmm…. anyway good luck to all of you, i hope next year brings you all many blessings and prosperity in all that you do. Ma’am find another church. I dont know if you’re an only child too, but being an only has been good to me,but also so bad… so I understand…



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