Psych Central

Feeling Lonely Tonight? 7 Strategies to Combat LonelinessOne major challenge within happiness is loneliness.  The more I’ve learned about happiness, the more I’ve come to believe that loneliness is a terrible, common, and important obstacle to consider.

According to Elizabeth Bernstein’s recent Wall Street Journal piece, Alone or Lonely, the rate of loneliness in the U.S. has doubled over the past thirty years.

About 40% of Americans report being lonely; in the 1980s, it was 20%. One reason: more people live alone (27% in 2012; 17% in 1970).

But being alone and being lonely aren’t the same.

14 Comments to
Feeling Lonely Tonight? 7 Strategies to Combat Loneliness

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  1. And reach out to family members, to chat or to invite them to visit. Not just your immediate family, but become close to your cousins, their children, and so on. You have more people than you realize.

  2. Number 2 actually contributes to loneliness when it says be “attached” as “attachment” is the source of the suffering. Care for others, be compassionate but it is the attachment to something or someone who is not there that creates the loneliness. When one is okay with being alone and able to practice non attachment there is not loneliness just “aloneness” which can be beautiful.

  3. Great article! I find that maintaining a social life takes constant thought and effort. People generally don’t reach out and organise things for you – you have to be regularly reaching out then you’ll start to get some return invites. (I’m lucky to have a lovely husband for my ‘close friend’ needs).

    One thing that interests me that you could cover in a future article is the intersection between aging and loneliness. I seems there’s a harmful lonliness epidemic among older people – what can be done to help short of volunteer befriending (which I think is very labour intensive and limited in it’s results). I’d like to think of something to help older people make new connections among themselves, but in spite of the loneliness there’s also a lot of resistence to change.

    I guess if you’ve spent your life losing people to death or distance, it’s hard to muster up the energy to keep making friends, especially when you’re getting to be less mobile and less well.

  4. The only thing missing in my life is someone to share it with….thus…no more lonliness. I have family and a few friends am working and going to school; I need more than that…another human being to share my life with…that and ONLY that will stop the loneliness….those other stragegies don’t work for me.

  5. It’s so very hard to commit to any of these strategies. Loneliness often leads to, in my case, deep depression, which causes one to want to curl more inside oneself and avoid the outside world.

    Thankfully, I have a wonderful dog who keeps me clearly grounded in the present or I might actually lose track of the day, or might decide to just leave this awful world. :(

    Also, when one is doubly “blessed” with social anxiety which adds to the loneliness . . . it’s not exactly easy to call a friend and commit to getting out. Often, I end up cancelling at the last minute and then feel even worse about myself. And yes, I’m in therapy. :D

    Thanks for listening.

  6. I have aspergers syndrome and have never had a girlfriend. I am very lonely but luckily my parents live nearby. No matter how hard i’ve tried it alway fail and i’ve tried everything. When my parents are no longer around I will definitely commit suicide.

    • Paul, may I suggest looking up the mental health consumer run organizations (CROs) in your city/county or state. They form close-knit communities of peers where anyone with a mental illness can find friends. (I did). Or there may be groups for Aspergers that get involved together in things. You might find a church of humble people who live the gospel and look to God and treat one another like a family. If you like animals, the shelters appreciate volunteers who hold and play with kittens and puppies to help them get used to people, or exercise for dogs and cats. You might not feel it but you are precious to the Lord and he does not want you to give up hope.:)

  7. Thank you for your suggestions but i’ve been through the mental health system and all doctors can do is give pills. There are no friendship groups. When i’ve been to group therapy there is alway the wrong type of people there who have nothing in common with me. I have been to asperger groups but have not got anything from it like friends. There are usually about 6 males to one female if she turns up and she’s away in a relationship. I take my dog for a walk occasionally and go to a gym but am very isolated. Unfortunately I am not a religious person. I hear that young people in America often meet their future partners at church. In the UK women especially those younger than me are after material wealth, careers and status which is more important than a genuine loving relationship.

    • Paul, I’m so sorry that you’ve had an experience with women which has led you to believe that we’re ‘after material wealth, careers and status which is more important than a genuine loving relationship’. I’ve certainly never been like that, and don’t know any women like that. Most of the women I know feel it’s incredibly important for them to have their own source of income and for them NOT to be dependent on a partner.

      If you’d still like to meet someone…I was on a dating site called okcupid for a long time (no, I don’t work for them and am not affiliated with them in any way). While it has issues like any other site, it does have the advantage of including literally 100s of (optional) questions in the way it sets up matches. There are several around attitudes to money and working, and you can see at a glance in which areas you and a potential match are compatible (or not). I’ve also come across a number of men on there who have Aspergers, autism, depression or who have been physically ill for a while – it needn’t hold you back from dating. Best of luck.

  8. It never hurts to remind people that loneliness is actually paart of the human condition -unavoidable – yet you can do something to reduce it’s negative impacts. I do like the way Emily White summed up her desire – it feels like my own.

    ““What I wanted,” she writes, “was the quiet presence of another person.” She longed to have someone else just hanging around the house with her.”

    And a reminder, tho’ when you do have someone around the house, it isn’t always as comforting as you expect: the inability to have an emotionally intimate, supportive relationship with someone you expect that from – your husband, partner — can leave you more acutely lonely than being alone.

    I have thought about the prospects of aging in a single suburban family house and realize that it is notonly costly but isolating. My SO is a lot older and resistant to some changes, but I am hoping to come up with a home sharing idea, or find, perhaps, a cohousing group, so that there is a broader community in addition to personal friendships.

    Sleep is a major issue – definitely when I am not rested, every problem looks like a mountain. And I am cranky!

    I agree completely about the need to express yourself in nurturing others. I have volunteered in different ways – the most rewarding for me was to read to children – and give them books of their own – which was unbelievably rewarding in a very personal way. I don’t have grandchildren, and I simply explain that these ones are graciously loaned to me. You cannot get bitter when you are engaged this way. And you are totally in the moment !

  9. I left my husband that I spent half of my life with 3 yrs ago, and have dated since then, but don’t believe I’ll ever find true love again!!! I’m 38 yrs old, told that I’m an attractive woman, therefore I haven’t had a problem meeting people. I just can’t ever seem to find someone that I have as much in common with as I did my husband. Have dated 10 yrs younger than me, also ten years older, but still can’t seem to find common interests or enough to make a long commitment. If I’m lucky enough to find someone I have enough in common with then there’s usually no sexual attraction. Or will be great sexual attraction but nothing in common!!!! How do you get over losing the love of your life? I just don’t believe I’ll ever find love again, if there is such a thing!!!!!

  10. I just wanted to thank the author of this original blog (and the linked blogs on this site on loneliness). I now realize I have been feeling lonely for years but have never quite been able to pin down the problem before – I have wondered if I’m depressed, but what I read and understood about depression didn’t feel quite right. Still not sure how I will solve it, but I feel a lot better for having identified the problem.

    It sounds stupid not to have been able to do so before. I think the reason is that I do have close family and a good number of friends, so it’s not an obvious answer. The problem is that years of traveling combined with working too hard have left me feeling disconnected from old friends – I’m not there for them if they need me – while not yet connected with newer ones. I have had significant relationships in the past, but not for the last few years. In addition to the books you cite, I am reading another called “Freedom from Loneliness” by Jennifer Page – certainly Jennifer and I are quite different people (I do enjoy parties, for example…) but so much of what she says rings absolutely true.

    Now the question is what to do about it. My first answer – I’ll call it a new year’s resolution – is to make a deliberate effort and prioritize maintaining the connections in life that are important to me. Then hopefully I can build on that with new ones. Starting by connecting to those on this blog by saying thank you for sharing and good luck with finding your own answers.

  11. Just found this article through googling Emily White. I’m 39 years old and don’t believe I’ll ever have a relationship (or children) and have stopped looking. Sadly, I’m also lacking a network of close friends, and that IS making me feel lonely. Have any of you (especially Paul) tried to meet people with whom you have things in common? There ARE friendship groups – and if there aren’t, it’s very easy to set a group up.

  12. Imagine you are single, disabled and housebound and so severely fatigued you cannot volunteer or make social plans…then add to that no family, lost friendhips, very rare visits from one loyal friend….it seems the only solution is holding onto faith in an afterlife that will be wonderful….no more tears, lonliness or sorrow…until then trying to cheer oneself up as best as possible….endure when it is intense….this is the life of someone severely ill with ME/CFS…those fortunate to live with spouses and supportive friends still feel left behind. If you know someone lonely in this way be a kind friend and don’t write them off because you can’t hike, go out for the evening or whatever you previously did….just be there.

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