What is Loneliness and How Can You Rise Above It?

Loneliness is simply the feeling of being alone and feeling sad about it. It is a completely normal feeling that we all experience from time to time, but feeling trapped in our loneliness is what can become a problem. It can lead to isolation and depression or poor choices about how to feel better.

Why do we get lonely?

Loneliness can stem from missing loved ones who have died, are far away or whom we are no longer connected with because of a break-up, divorce, etc. It’s a significant factor in the process of grieving the loss.

Loneliness can also result from feeling fearful, unworthy or awkward around others. This is why you can feel lonely in a room full of people. These feelings and perceptions can make you want to withdraw and strongly influence isolation.

Sometimes, loneliness can be related to not being in love or having a romantic relationship. It’s only natural to miss feeling wanted, cared for and nurtured and to be disappointed by the absence of intimate companionship. The sense of being important in another person’s life is a deep human need for every one of us. The greatest risk with this cause of loneliness is the temptation to enter into unhealthy or unwise relationships too quickly.

If we feel lonely long enough we can become enveloped in the painful emotion and conclude that we can’t do anything about it and therefore remain passive and isolated. This is a type of loneliness that can lead to a sense of helplessness, despair and even precipitate depression.

How can you rise above loneliness?

  1. Recognize your lonely feelings and express them. Admitting we are lonely can be difficult, but it is often the beginning of breaking free from our pain. When we begin expressing our feelings of loneliness it’s possible that we will also become more aware of other emotions such as anger, hurt, fear and bitterness.
  2. Tell someone that you are lonely. There is something freeing about verbally expressing your feelings, and you may find that there is another person who would be glad to meet you for coffee. Many of us are reluctant to admit our loneliness (which can also include boredom) and if you’re willing to share how you feel, you may be helping another person.
  3. Acknowledge the truth about your worth and value and recognize and approach your fears. This is especially important if you’re feeling lonely among other people and assuming they don’t like you. In order to break through the isolation, you need to muster your courage and start a conversation with someone. This can feel frightening as you worry that you may be rejected. While there is no guarantee that you won’t every experience rejection, you may also find a great friend because of your willingness to step out of your comfort zone.
  4. Become more active. When we move from being passive to active we become aware of the fact that we aren’t helpless and the activity and interaction with others begins to drive the loneliness away. The simple act of taking walks around your neighborhood can open up opportunities to meet neighbors. Better yet, make a commitment to join a group. Committing to participate in regularly scheduled activities like a bible study, volunteer position or hiking club can help to create a schedule and routine and motivate us to stay more active and connected to others.
  5. If you are unable to leave your home, use the internet wisely to connect with people on blogs, forums, etc. Be sure to research them thoroughly to be sure it’s a legitimate organization, and don’t share any personal or financial information unless you are well-informed. Or you can do things “old school” and find a pen pal and begin writing notes and letters of encouragement to a prisoner, shut-in, a soldier or even a relative who lives far away.
  6. Make your home a place of comfort and tranquility – family pictures, soothing music, and orderliness. The right physical environment can often be a source of comfort and security, and the opposite is also true: if your home environment is chaotic, you are less likely to welcome a visitor. As you home becomes ready for company, your attitude is more likely to follow.
  7. Reach out to other lonely people – ask your pastor about new people or shut-ins who have not been able to connect with others and reach out to them. Lonely people can easily empathize with loneliness. There is no greater cure for loneliness than being a friend.
  8. Seek help through your church, counselor or medical doctor. Your loneliness may be a symptom of depression. As I mentioned, we all experience seasons of loneliness at times, but it’s important not to let it become the norm in your life. If you aren’t able to get past it on your own, be sure to get support and help.

 
Live, work and relate well!

Dr. Todd

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