Anyone who has experienced feelings of loneliness knows how terrible it is. In today’s world, many experience loneliness. It is a shared human experience; it affects people of all ages, races, social strata and creed. At some point in our lives, we all feel lonely. So in this article, I’ll share helpful tips on how to cope with loneliness.
Loneliness is a powerful feeling, and it can be very painful. It is a state of mind, a perception of being alone and an inability to find meaning in one’s life. It is an undesired and hurtful emotion that can affect both our physical and mental health. In this article, I’ll address how to cope with Loneliness.
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Loneliness has largely been ignored as a condition of concern in mental health. Feeling lonely is not in itself a mental health problem. Lonely people may show up as less healthy because loneliness has robbed them of the motivation to look after their health; or having a mental health problem could cause a person to become lonely, which stops them from socializing.
Meaning of Loneliness
Loneliness to some may be a passing emotion, but to others, it comes far too often. Studies have found that being lonely is a lot more worry than obesity. Loneliness tears away at our emotional well-being. It makes us sad and deprived. People who are lonely often feel like everyone is doing well enough while they are not. A lonely person often feels low, helpless, separated or discriminated. They often fear rejection and keep themselves at a distance, this even feeds the loneliness. A lonely person finds difficulty during interactions; they often feel like they are disliked, abandoned, and alone.
Loneliness vs being alone
Feeling lonely is not the same as being alone. You can feel lonely in a crowd, just as you are perfectly happy to spend some time alone. It is not a question of numbers, but of emotions. Some people seek marriage as a solution; but these days, even being married, one can be threatened by feelings of loneliness. It could come as a feeling of disconnection, a sense that no one around you really understands you. A person can be alone for long periods of time, enjoying the things he or she does, without feeling lonely.
Solitude and loneliness should not be explained in similar ways. Solitude is enjoyed by people, and it leads to self-realization and creativity. People who have been under family or work pressure sometimes seeks solitude to unwind, and uses this as an approach for developing one’s own individual space.
If being single/alone makes you lonely, like those people who cannot stand being lonely, you can try turning that into an opportunity to use to your own advantage.
Spending time alone
Learn to enjoy your own company. Experiment with ways of having a good time alone. You may be surprised by how much better you feel. You could do things like reading novels, exercising, doing a crossword puzzle, strolling in the park or even dancing by yourself. Sometimes, watching movies by yourself when you are lonely may not be a good idea, but if you should, always go for comedy. It is hard to feel lonely when you are laughing. Laughter is good for your health – mental, physical, emotional, and even spiritual.
Loneliness hurts, but it should not be seen as entirely negative. It can be a good signal to look for new friends or improving our relationships. Sometimes being lonely might make you try something new to get over the loneliness. Despite the negative effects of loneliness, it is a most normal feeling, except in the cases of chronic/deep loneliness.
For people with chronic loneliness, this feeling never goes away. It is a long-term feeling of loneliness. The cure for deep loneliness rests in stopping the cycle of deep thinking that causes it in the first place. It is only in quiet moments of self-reflection that we can really address such problems.
Self-reflections are careful thoughts about our feelings and behaviors, and the reasons that may lie behind them. Negative thoughts make you find the worst in everything and everyone.
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Some of these negative thoughts include:
Am I lonely because nobody loves me?
I’m a loser and that’s why I am alone?
I am lonely because I’m fat and/or ugly?
These negative thoughts make us judge ourselves as unworthy, unlovable, or blame others for our problems. It makes us lonelier than were original. We make stuff up and believe it. The technique is to stop dwelling on negative thoughts and refocus our minds on something positive. Taking the focus of ourselves is a step ahead and instead, we should ask questions like:
Do I shy away from others?
Maybe I isolate myself from everyone, don’t I?
Is negative thinking my problem?
Do I criticize myself often?
In knowing the answers to the above questions, you can move a step away from loneliness. Self-acceptance makes it easier for lonely people to relate to others and connect on such a level that loneliness, if not eradicated, becomes less of a threat to our being.
CAUSES OF LONELINESS
Loneliness can be caused by a lot of factors. Some individuals may be biologically vulnerable to feeling lonely. Evidence from twin studies found that loneliness may be partly heritable. Understanding what causes loneliness can lead to success in coping with the issue. In other to make changes that will truly help you, you need to figure out why you are feeling lonely. Loneliness being a common human emotion is however, a unique experience to each individual.
It has no common cause. Some of the reasons include:
Change of environment/living among strangers
Loss of a loved one
Rejected by peers because of religion, race or appearance
Not fitting in
Being the caregiver/looking after a parent, guardian or sibling
Low self esteem
Feeling of guilt or worthlessness
Divorce, separation, or unwanted singleness
Old age, and youthful inexperience
Poor coping strategies with situations
EFFECTS OF LONELINESS
1) Loneliness has been linked with depression. When this happens, you may notice that you care less about personal maintenance, feel worthless, lack of concentration, struggle with anxiety and/or no longer feel excited by previous passions. Depression, thus, is a risk factor for suicide.
2) Loneliness is the core feeling that gives rise to emotions of anger, sadness, worthlessness, emptiness, vulnerability, resentment and pessimism.
3) Loneliness has become a social evil that can contribute to alcoholism, overeating, drug abuse, and promiscuous sexual behavior
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Other known effects of loneliness:
❖ It has a negative impact on learning and memory
❖ Increase in incidence of high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity
❖ Leads to pain, loss, grief, fatigue and exhaustion
❖ Hostile and delinquent behavior which is self-destructive behavior
❖ Affects the quality of our sleep, thus, have diminished restorative processes and inability to function in everyday life.
HOW TO COPE WITH LONELINESS
There are no quick fixes for loneliness, no single way to fight loneliness. If there was, everybody would be using it. Coping with loneliness is not easy. Powerful emotions are involved. Since loneliness has no single cause, so the prevention and treatment for this damaging state of mind differs considerably. There are tools that can help you cope with loneliness, and overtime, hopefully diminish its frequency.
1) The first step is to acknowledge that you feel lonely, to recognize that what you are feeling is loneliness, as so many people are in denial.
2) Always express yourself, otherwise no one would understand you. Talk to people about how you feel, the lonely often suffer in silence. When you make the first move to opening up, you will find that there is so many people out there who are feeling the same as you.
3) Be brave and reach out to someone. Learn to talk to others and to be a good listener. Focus on other people and their interests. Show empathy. Stop thinking so much about yourself. How can you help others and get them notice and like you if you are always thinking about yourself. Feeling needed by others is an antidote to loneliness.
4) Value your friends. Seek friends who share your values, including mature friends and work toward developing a good circle of friends. “Read more on making good friends”
5) Develop good habits in eating and exercise, and get adequate sleep. “Read more on how to improve your health”
1) Don’t let yourself fall into the trap that loneliness is forever. It is not a permanent situation. Loneliness doesn’t define who you are, accept you are feeling lonely, and then focus on moving forward.
2) If you think about sadness and loneliness all the time, you will be sadder and lonelier.
3) The toughest challenges of being single/alone come from within. Being alone does not essentially make a person lonely, but the perception of being alone that does.
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4) Do not be unreasonably demanding of yourself. Feel content about yourself in general. Avoid pride, forgive those who hurt you and make amends.
5) Try affirmations as a daily routine to boost mood and self-confidence e.g. I am superior to negative thoughts and feelings; everything that is happening now is happening for my ultimate good; I am in charge of how I feel and today I choose happiness, only I am responsible for my happiness etc.
We can all agree, therefore, that being lonely, with negative thoughts, is a mindset we can change; and to this, we need a change of outlook.
On this note, it is therefore safe to quote a famous philosopher, Mahatma Gandhi –“A man is but the product of His thoughts. What he thinks, He becomes”.
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