Loneliness is not a very accommodating or welcoming emotion. It is also not a given. Yet far too many of us experience this powerful and debilitating emotion from time to time. While most people are able to get past it without too much trouble, there are times when loneliness seems to hang around and is difficult to overcome.
While there can be no substitute for professional counseling should feelings of helplessness, despair and hopelessness persist for more than a week or two, these tips should help give loneliness the heave-ho.
1. Find something to do
When you’re lonely, feeling like you’re enveloped in loneliness, you’re likely spending too much time thinking about your situation and not really doing anything. Those who obsess over being lonely are going to be convinced there’s nothing they can do about it. That’s a misconception that should be put to rest.
The first step is to identify something you can do today, and get busy doing it. What that is doesn’t matter much. Doing something, other than thinking, gets you out of your present surroundings and mindset.
Go out in the garden and yank weeds. Sweep the garage. Wash the car. Spend time talking with your neighbor. Call a friend and meet for coffee, lunch or a movie. Go for a walk. Any of these will provide a change of scenery and get you outside your dismal thoughts for a while. When you’re actively engaged in doing something, you’re not suffering from loneliness.
2. Be good to yourself
The tendency to beat up on yourself when you’re blue is not beneficial. Unfortunately, we all do this, even without meaning to. We stumbled and made a mistake at work that was costly, we got into an argument with a significant other or friend and now find ourselves not talking with each other, the bills pile up and we’re not sure how we’ll get out of this mess. Instead of talking about what’s bothering us, we bottle up our emotions. The result: We feel a tremendous sense of loneliness.
When we hurt, we need to take care of ourselves. This self-care likely took a back seat to other pressing problems. Sleep may have suffered, as well as diet, lack of exercise, pushing ourselves past our limits. It’s time to hit the reset button and do something that will help us regain our equilibrium, make us feel physically better (a long soak in the tub works for some), and quashes feelings of loneliness.
3. Be with others
Most people who say they’re lonely spend too much time alone. While you can experience loneliness in a crowd, most people find the interaction and distraction of others takes away the lonely feelings – at least temporarily.
The best antidote to being lonely is to get out and be in the company of others. Friends are an excellent go-to resource, but groups involved in a hobby, recreational activity, educational or leisure pursuit, skills building, community get-togethers, and travel also work.
When you are with others, listen, smile, communicate in a reciprocal fashion and be in the present. Should thoughts of loneliness seek to intrude, remind yourself that you’re taking active measures to counter that negativity. Find someone to talk with and strike up a conversation. It’s hard to think about being lonely when you’re chatting about something you enjoy.
4. Go somewhere new
The discovery process is an almost guaranteed way to get past loneliness. When you activate your curiosity gene and pursue something that intrigues or interests you, the inevitable result is that you follow your enthusiasm as far as you can. There’s no room for feeling lonely when you’re eagerly going after that beckoning beacon.
Take a drive using a different route than you normally do. Or, chart a course for a day trip that allows you to check out a small town, state or national park, wildlife refuge, botanical garden, museum, or a restaurant you’ve long wanted to try. While you’re on the road, anticipate learning something new, meeting people, making memories.
Not only will this help dispel any loneliness you may have felt before starting out, the good feelings will remain with you on your trip home.
5. Help someone
If you’re wrapped up in yourself, feeling sorry that you’re lonely and not able to get past it, another method to employ is to go out and help someone. This doesn’t mean that you walk the street looking for a person who’s down-and-out. There are other more effective ways of helping others that you can use.
Go through your closets and find usable clothing that you no longer wear and donate it. There are many charitable organizations in desperate need of clothing. The still-working small appliances, electronic devices, dishes, furniture items, linens, toys and other items also are much in demand for those less fortunate. When you donate, it’s good for the recipients and it’s good for you.
Perhaps you know of a neighbor who’s elderly, unable to get out, a widow or widower or single parent. Bring a food item, flowers, a board game or just call and ask to come by for a visit. If you experience loneliness, you can imagine how a shut-in must feel. Two people visiting have more of a chance of dispelling loneliness than either one sitting alone ever will.
Remember that you don’t have to suffer loneliness. But it is up to you to do something to get past it.