Loneliness can be overwhelming, and most have experienced it at some time in our lives. But there is hope. Try these tips to deal with and overcome loneliness.
Loneliness can be overwhelming, and most of us have experienced it at some time in our lives. But there is hope. The tips below will not only improve your well-being, but they’ll also help you avoid the risks associated with feeling lonely.
“Loneliness is a greater risk for morbidity or mortality than cigarette smoking,” says Nicholas Epley, assistant professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago. Research shows that loneliness can accelerate aging, increase blood pressure, and create anxiety.
Meet the Threefaces of Lonely
Life coach and author Martha Beck describes three types of loneliness: 1) Separation loneliness, which results from being physically distant from family and friends; 2) absolute loneliness, resulting from the belief that nobody understands–nor do they want to; and 3) existential loneliness, “a bedrock fact of the human condition: the hollowness we feel when we realize no one can help us face the moments when we are most bereft.”
Make the Right Introductions
For instance, basic human contact–such as chatting with the barista in a coffee shop can help with separation loneliness. Connecting with kindred spirits or close friends could ease absolute loneliness. Gardening, music, or any type of artistic connection may reduce existential loneliness. Different types of lonely require different salves.
Anthropomorphize It Away
Research shows that giving human traits to pets or things (such as plants) offers powerful psychological and physical benefits. Dr. Epley found that the objects don’t even have to be yours to increase feelings of connectedness. This explains why Tom Hanks’ character in Cast Away lived for four years on an island with only a volleyball called Wilson for company. Without Wilson, he probably wouldn’t have survived with his mental and physical health intact.
Pet a Robotic Doggy
Though Aibo is a three-dimensional robotic dog, he wags his tail and responds when people call. William Banks, professor of geriatric medicine at Saint Louis University, monitored Aibo and a live dog called Sparky in seniors’ nursing homes, and then assessed feelings of loneliness and companionship.
“The most surprising thing is that they [Sparky] worked almost equally well in terms of alleviating loneliness and causing residents to form attachments,” said Banks. Anything that creates a connection can ease loneliness.
Pick a Project
“Almost everyone has a list of things they’ve always wanted to do, but they never have the time. Organize your CDs, go through old photos and put them in albums, clean out your closet, plant some flowers,” says Diane, a writer in Kentucky (writers know loneliness). “Projects may not end your loneliness, but they can change your mood and stop you from feeling sorry for yourself.” A sense of purpose and achievement can alleviate feelings of low self-worth, which sometimes accompany loneliness.
Stretch Beyond Your Zone
The adventures in your city probably range from open-microphone poetry nights and wine tastings, to bingo fundraisers and laughter yoga. There may be volunteer opportunities for special events, museum or art gallery lectures, or even Teasersize dance classes (a fun blend of burlesque-style moves and fitness training). It’s better if you participate in these activities alone because you’re more approachable and open to conversations with new people.
Decide If You’re an Innie or an Outie
Introverts enjoy solitude and socializing with just one or two others (crowds drain them), while extroverts are energized by people (the more the merrier). If you’re an innie struggling with existential loneliness, going to a boisterous Teasersize class may increase your discomfort. If you’re an outie wrestling with separation loneliness, gardening alone may not be effective. Consider your personality when you choose your remedy.
Tell Someone They Have a Cool Hat
“The best method to break out of solitary confinement is to seek to understand others, and help them understand you,” says Martha Beck. To connect with a new person, compliment them sincerely and ask a question, such as, “Cool hat. Where’d you get it?” Share information about yourself, such as your reluctance to wear hats because they don’t suit you.
Start a Lonely-Hearts Club
You don’t have to call it that, but if you enjoy walking, baking, or writing, spread the word. “A friend and I started a book club because we felt isolated, and we knew people who felt the same. Now we meet regularly at someone’s home, keeping it casual and inexpensive,” says Donna, a freelance writer in Australia. Starting a group gives you a focus and connects you with like-minded people.
Just Be Lonely
Not all uncomfortable feelings need to be overcome, expressed, or fixed. Sometimes you’re lonely or sad–and that’s a healthy part of being human. Simply sitting with negative emotions for predetermined amounts of time can be the healthiest thing to do. After awhile, you shake the loneliness away and move on.