Feeling lonely is painful. Often people who feel lonely exacerbate the situation by blaming themselves. Why am I lonely? Because other people don’t like me. Why don’t they like me? Because I’m a loser. It’s not hard to imagine how this internal conversation can go downhill very quickly and make you completely miserable.
When you’re feeling lonely, it can be a monumental task to reach out to others in an effort to alleviate your isolation. But that’s the time when it’s most crucial. Ideally, you can make a plan to alleviate loneliness before it hits you, so you’ll be ready with well-reasoned steps to take. It’s hard to be well-reasoned when you are in despair.
So plan now to battle the mental and emotional pain of loneliness. Here are some suggestions:
1) Practice reaching out when you’re feeling fine. That way, you’ll have experience with success. Ask a friend to lunch. Join the tennis group. Volunteer at the local food pantry. Maybe you’ll stave off loneliness just by doing this. Maybe you won’t. If not, remember how good it feels to have company. When you’re lonely, recall that it’s worth the effort to reach out.
2) Notice your self-defeating thoughts. Recognize them for what they are. They are not representative of your normal self. If you are determined to be miserable, you will wallow in these thoughts. You can always find reasons to be unhappy. Instead, realize that you can own your loneliness, accept it for what it is, and then move on.
3) Stop thinking about yourself. Make an effort to seek out others, start a conversation, ask how they’re doing. Try to take the focus off yourself and shift it onto others. When you’re helping other people with their problems, often yours seem minimal by comparison. Remind yourself that you’ve got plenty to feel grateful about.
4) Show up—it’s half the battle. Sitting on the couch in a state of inertia is always easier than going to the meeting, taking the yoga class, walking with friends. But once you get up off your duff you may wonder why you resisted so much. A little human contact may be just the pick-me-up you needed. And you’ll feel much better after some physical exercise, too.
5) Keep on trying. Our emotions do not go on a linear path. Sometimes you make progress, and sometimes you lose a little ground. Persistence is key. If the yoga class is not your style, seek out another and another until you find the right one. If your friendships are not fulfilling to you, invite someone new to coffee. Sooner or later you’ll find a kindred spirit. When you do, nourish your friendship with all the attention it deserves.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: http://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact-us.