At some point or another, most of us will have had or have experiences of feeling lonely.
Being alone can be difficult as it may trigger feelings of sadness.
So what does loneliness feel like?
Many describe it as a feeling of emptiness and a yearning for contact and conversation. It can be a deep sadness for many people, of all ages and social backgrounds.
Loneliness can affect our confidence and our self-belief. If you’re on your own for long periods of time it can be very difficult to engage in conversation.
When we dwell on feeling lonely we can feel even worse.
Sometimes it is just the feeling of needing someone to be there. Studies carried out on human nature show us that we are much happier and healthier when we have good connections with other people.
When someone is feeling lonely they’re encouraged to explore their own needs, to ask themselves what is missing in their life, how did this happen and what is stopping their needs being met.
Here are some tips for recognising loneliness:
1. Loneliness is a feeling, not a fact.
When we are feeling lonely, a previous memory of being lonely is triggered.
The brain is wired to pay attention to pain and danger and that includes painful memories. Therefore loneliness gets our attention.
Then we try to make sense of this feeling, usually through negative and irrational beliefs and tell ourselves no-one likes me, I am a loser, etc.
Theories about why you are feeling this way can become mangled up and confused with actual facts. Therefore the problem becomes bigger and we end up reacting, creating more negative feelings.
So maybe the next time you are aware of feeling lonely, try accepting that I am feeling lonely and not over-react, as this will lower further negative feelings.
2. Reach out
Loneliness is painful and it can trick you into thinking and believing that you are no good, worthless and feeling depressed.
This may cause you to react by withdrawing into yourself, making up excuses not to meet friends/family and saying ‘no’ more often than ‘yes’ to social invitations.
When you were a child and felt lonely your response of crying evoked a comforting response from others, therefore as adults when we feel lonely one of the healthiest things to do is to reach out and tell your close friends, partner or family how you’re feeling. Or perhaps talk to your doctor or a counsellor.
3. Make a plan to fight loneliness
Loneliness can be an emotional habit, so by interacting with friends or making a plan to meet like-minded people will help break that habit.
This may be scary as you are stepping outside your comfort zone, but it can be done bit by bit.
Simply by researching local groups, classes or meet ups will show you that there are possibilities and you do not need to feel lonely.
If this is too hard to do perhaps speaking with a professional will help you to develop and strengthen your self-confidence and learn new coping techniques.
Even if you are surrounded by others, it can still feel lonely.
If you’re feeling lonely, sad, depressed or anxious there is help and support available.
There is no need to suffer in silence.
Take care, Sarah.