Self-Help: Solutions for Loneliness
Being lonely has been a frequent topic for popular songs and advice columns for years.
Most people enjoy being with others, but may have periods of time where they feel disconnected and lonely. Also, many people may be alone for periods of time without feeling lonely at all.
What Is the Difference in Being Lonely vs. Being Alone?
Lots of relaxation, creative thinking and personal accomplishments are achieved on a solitary basis. If you are accustomed to being in the constant company of others, the appreciation of being alone may take some time and effort to develop.
Once you have told yourself it is okay, experiment with it and see if you can feel fulfilled on your own. Have fun indulging yourself in something you wouldn't do if others were with you.
Some people may find that they don't tolerate time spent alone well. If so, ask yourself "Do I just like being with others more or is there something I am afraid of when I am alone?"
If this is the case, it will help to identify the fear and then make a plan to solve the problem. Some common fears are the fear of being bored and not being able to entertain; fear of feeling sad or depressed; fear of not marrying or having children in the future; and existential fears such as being alone in the universe.
How Much Time Spent Alone is Normal?
There is no correct amount of time to spend with people vs. being alone.
College students often experience many changes in personal contact levels that come with the other changes of being a student; a higher level of independence and choices in daily schedules, different living conditions and expanded opportunities for jobs and extracurricular activities.
With so many choices to make, some students find their days are filled with people. Some may find that without the built-in contact of high school peers and family, their paths rarely cross with others in any meaningful way.
What Can I Do About Loneliness?
- Recognize that loneliness is a common experience that doesn't last forever and can be changed.
- Identify what needs aren't being met in your life (i.e., meaningful friendships, being involved in social activities, feeling secure with being alone at times).
- Discover what might be going on in your life that may be contributing to your loneliness (i.e., living in a new place where you don't know anyone, recent loss or major life transition, not feeling secure with the people you spend time with).
- Avoid things that could perpetuate loneliness such as isolating yourself from others and evaluating yourself in negative terms.
How Can I Develop Friendships?
- Remind yourself that meeting new people and building friendships requires some risk.
- Join clubs or groups in which you have a genuine interest.
- Find a study or exercise partner.
- Smile, make eye contact, be willing to listen, let people know you are available, and be yourself.
- Improve your ability to be genuine and trusting in relationships to bring you closer to others.
- Remember that not everyone has to like you and you don't have to be friends with everyone.
- Don't judge new friendships based on past experiences. Be open to new perspectives.
- Be patient. Remember that it takes time to feel comfortable and develop connections with new people.
- Seek counseling or other help to develop your social skills and deal with social anxiety and shyness that might be affecting your ability to make connections.
- Make efforts to re-connect with past friends (i.e., e-mail or call a friend you haven't spoken to in a while, send someone a card).
It is important to remember that loneliness is a common experience that does not reflect any defect in your personality or character. Most people experience loneliness at some point in their lives whether or not they have social contact with others.
Learn to be comfortable with and even enjoy your time alone. Motivate yourself to take risks to develop new relationships and improve closeness in current relationships.