“Man is by nature, a social animal.” We attribute this notion to Aristotle, who taught that humans crave social interaction. It’s a tricky idea to wrap the mind around, and it has surfaced many debates throughout the years. This leads to our discussion around overcoming loneliness amidst social distancing.
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I was reading an article entitled Coronavirus Will Also Cause a Loneliness Epidemic by Ezra Klein where he stated that…
We need to take both social distancing and the “social recession” it will cause seriously. This article discusses the effects of social distancing on people 60 and over in our society but it applies to all ages, I believe.
Do humans innately feel lonely when they lack human interaction? More importantly, is loneliness something we can combat?
In a recent article entitled The History of Loneliness in The New Yorker, author Jill Lepore states,
Before modern times, very few human beings lived alone. Slowly, beginning not much more than a century ago, that changed. In the United States, more than one in four people now lives alone; in some parts of the country, especially big cities, that percentage is much higher. You can live alone without being lonely, and you can be lonely without living alone, but the two are closely tied together, which makes lockdowns, sheltering in place, that much harder to bear. Loneliness, it seems unnecessary to say, is terrible for your health.
The answer, like most answers in the field of psychology, isn’t so simple. Most humans feel loneliness at some point, but for some reason, we feel like we’re the only ones experiencing it. It’s possible to disrupt the stigma of loneliness and begin overcoming loneliness, which can be done by adjusting your mindset.
You can train your mind to counter the negative effects of loneliness with the positives by embracing alone time as a period of self-actualization and independence. Let’s dive into 15 practical ways to begin overcoming loneliness so that you can flip your situation into one that benefits you in the long run.
- Understand that Your Feeling is Normal
The first step is to understand that you are not the only one who experiences this feeling. In fact, research shows that more than 40% of people experience loneliness at some point in life. When you believe that you are the only one who is feeling lonely, it becomes a vicious cycle. Break that cycle and remind yourself that you are not alone in this; you are simply experiencing a human emotion. It’s part of the human experience.
- Reignite Existing Relationships
Here’s the paradox of loneliness: The times that we feel most alone are often when we’ve pulled away from friends, family, and support groups. It is understandable that you may want to deal with things on your own, and it’s important to take times like this to really understand yourself. However, you shouldn’t completely shut yourself away from everyone. Try to reach out to others. Something as simple as a walk along the beach or a meet-up at a coffee shop can have a positive impact on your disposition.
- Be Positive in Your Self-talk
To avoid the “Eeyore syndrome,” it’s encouraged that you speak positively to yourself and about yourself. In the face of loneliness, you may be inclined to revert to self-deprecation, but it is critical that you aren’t hard on yourself. It takes time to build up your self-esteem —and it takes energy to maintain it. Throughout the process, try to remember what you love most about yourself. Perhaps you want to post words of encouragement on your bathroom mirror. Another way to give your self-talk a boost is by reading self-help books that encourage positive thinking. Anything you can do to rally feelings of optimism is helpful in this situation.
- Pick Up a New Hobby
Flip your situation around. Rather than feel isolated, seize this life phase as an opportunity to explore who you are and who you want to be. As humans, we’re in a constant state of change, which means we always have an opportunity to improve who we are. The next time you begin to feel alone, pick up a hobby. Whether you try out a sport or focus your energy on a creative outlet, a hobby will give you a sense of purpose.
- Start Volunteering
One tried-and-true way of combating the feeling of isolation is to put yourself out there. Try getting involved in your community through a volunteer position. The benefit is two-fold: You’ll meet new people with similar interests, and you’ll be making an impact in your community. There is always a need for volunteer work, so it’s a great way for you to get your mind away from the negative thoughts. I did this when I first started my online business during 2006. It changed my life…and helped me to grow my business!
- Practice Self-kindness
While you’re boosting the positive self-talk, take some time to show yourself some compassion. There are many ways to practice self-kindness, and it depends on who you are as a person and what your interests entail. For some, it may be a yoga class or meditation center to bring calm to the mind. For others, it could mean treating yourself to a day of pampering at the spa. Whatever it is that makes you happy is a healthy, positive way to boost the mind. Treat yourself regularly —you deserve it!
- Enjoy the Present Moment
When you are going through a rough patch, your mood changes from day to day, moment by moment. You may be inclined to zoom out and look at your situation through a negative lens. Instead of doing that, you should capitalize on all the good moments. If you’re having a great day, revel in that feeling of happiness. You can take time to journal your feelings or call a friend and tell them how excited you are at that moment. It’s important to be present and savor the good moments.
- Spend Your Free Time Wisely
In today’s world, it’s easy to get sucked into the vortex of social media, phone time, and Netflix binging. If you are already feeling lonely, you probably know that these time wasters tend to be the biggest vices. Whenever you catch yourself spending time on something that doesn’t give you energy and happiness, think about doing something else—whether that be a hobby, meeting up with a friend, or working on a passion project.
- Inspire a Sense of Awe
When was the last time you were completely in awe of something? It’s not a feeling we experience every day because it’s special and unique. While you’re spending more time with yourself, try to seek out those awe-inspiring moments. It could be as simple as going to see a funny movie or going on a long hike up a beautiful mountain. These moments are meant to inspire a “Wow” or two, followed by a broad smile that reminds you that you’re meant to be happy in this big world.
- Invest in Experiences (Not More Stuff)
Marie Condo and her life-changing magic of “tidying up” has inspired people to rid their houses of excessive material objects, and her tried-and-true ways have brought happiness to many. The practice of minimalism goes beyond cleaning your closet. In fact, it’s advisable to integrate this habit into your daily life. Once we stop spending so much money on unnecessary objects, there’s more to be spent on experiences. You can use this money for travel, entertainment, art, or hobbies. These experiences satisfy the need for fulfillment more than most material objects, which takes you away from your feeling of loneliness.
- Focus on the Things that Matter
You feel the first pang of loneliness, and after that, a cycle begins. It becomes the only thing you’re paying attention to, and that lonely feeling is completely exacerbated. Try to put a stop to this cycle by paying attention to things that matter more—finding purpose, making an impact, reaching out to others, and improving yourself, just to name a few. As soon as you’ve sorted out what really matters to you, you can fully immerse yourself in those experiences, which will take your mind off feeling isolated.
- Consider Pet Adoption
Studies support the idea that getting a pet is a good thing. From reduced cholesterol to increased outdoor time, furry friends are a bonus in life. One study found that petting a dog or cat for just ten minutes leads to lower levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone.” Not only do animals alleviate stress, but they also give you something to rely on and trust—just as that animal will depend on you. Plus, it’s a great distraction. It takes a lot of work and effort to train a pet, so you’ll have your hands full if you decide to adopt a little critter.
- Be a Good Samaritan
Loneliness comes in many forms. One of those is when you don’t feel like you are adding value to the lives of others. As a human, you’re naturally wired to seek connection and meaning in life, so go make those connections! Lend a helping hand to someone else and see where it takes you. It could blossom into a friendship, or you could learn a token of wisdom from them. Regardless of the outcome, helping others is a feel-good act that will bring you happiness while enriching the lives of those around you.
- Avoid Toxic Relationships
One coping mechanism that will never help is engaging in toxic relationships. You’ll need to use your judgment to decide what types of people you’d like to be around. Positive, uplifting friends? Absolutely. Negative people, who gossip and talk down to you? Not so much. If you notice a pattern of feeling extra lonely every time you see a certain person or group of people, you may want to consider distancing yourself from those people. Remember: You’re not obligated to be around people who bring you down. Overcoming loneliness begins with replacing the type of people you’ve been spending your precious time with. You owe yourself a happy life filled with rewarding friendships, so if you’re with people who don’t sympathize with what you are going through, it may be time to find new friends.
- Speak to a Medical Professional
If your feeling of loneliness gets more serious or doesn’t seem to improve, your next step may be to seek medical help. Loneliness can lead to depression, so it’s important that you’re in tune with your feelings to make sure you are not developing depression or serious anxiety. Every case is different, and there is no shame in seeing a doctor or medical professional who can help you sort through your feelings. It doesn’t mean you’re weak or that you can’t handle the problem alone. Seeking help takes a tremendous amount of bravery.
It’s important to remember that loneliness is different from being alone. You could be huddled around a fire pit, roasting marshmallows with all your friends and still feel lonely. It’s an internal feeling that creeps into your mind, often when you are lacking fulfillment, joy, or rewarding and genuine friendships. When you are trying to conquer a daunting feeling like this, do not lose sight of your journey. There will be setbacks and periods of trial and error. At the end of the day, though, you’re here to overcome something, and you should be incredibly proud of yourself for setting the goal of overcoming loneliness.
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I’m bestselling author, marketing strategist, and entrepreneur Connie Ragen Green and I would love to connect further with you to help you to achieve your goals. If you are interested in learning how to optimize the syndication of your content, please take a look at my popular Syndication Optimization training course and consider coming aboard to increase your visibility, credibility, and profitability.