How to handle loneliness
Everyone feels lonely at some point in life
Loneliness is about feeling separate from others. It might include a feeling of being abandoned or ignored, or a sense of being alone in the world. As we grow up, we naturally separate from others - from our parents as we become teenagers, perhaps from school friends when we start work or go to college and from different partners throughout our lives. So it’s natural and normal, and everyone feels lonely at some point in life.
What causes loneliness?
Life is full of stresses and changes that can lead to people feeling isolated and lonely. Work might be fast paced and pressured; leaving home, moving to another city/country and going to college are often huge life changes. Living in remote rural areas or in urban areas without a strong sense of community can lead to isolation and suffering an illness can also all lead to feelings of loneliness.
These are just some examples of times in our lives when we might feel lonely. However, it is also very possible to feel lonely even if you have a great social life and lots of friends. If you feel misunderstood and if you feel you can’t share yourself with others around you, you might feel isolated and lonely.
The experience of loneliness
You can be surrounded by people, but still feel lonely. So it can be a strange thing to explain to someone. Loneliness is something that transcends all boundaries, all classes and all people. Even someone with the perfect life, a loving family and loving friends can feel the pangs of loneliness creeping up at them. Most people are happy to spend time alone as well as with other people. However, sometimes a person might feel alone all the time.
If you are lonely, you might
- Feel sad
- Feel that you don’t want to try new things or attempt to change things in life
- Feel that no one understands your situation
- Feel lonely even when you are surrounded by other people
Finding ways to overcome loneliness can include things you do yourself, and finding things to do with other people.
Relaxation techniques such as writing in a journal or diary, listening to music, yoga or meditation can help you learn to relax when alone. Ironically, once you can be alone in comfort with yourself, your relationships with others will probably improve because you will have less of a desperate hunger to be with just ‘anybody’.
Start off small
Start to overcome lonely feelings by making small talk with the people who you interact with every day. That might be a shop assistant, a work colleague or your flatmate.
Get started with topics of conversation that most people are comfortable talking about, such as what’s happening in the news, in your area, or even just commenting on the weather.
Start small talk with a question about the other person, such as asking how they are, and try to keep the conversation going.
Joining clubs or societies
Get involved in clubs, societies or volunteering opportunities that interest you. Not only will you meet new people, you will be more likely to meet people with the same interests and passions as you.
If you want to learn something new you could even take evening classes.
Reach out to friends
Instead of waiting for people to contact you, reach out to friends or people you know and ask if they'd like to do something. Try your best to stay in touch and check in with them regularly.
Talk to someone
If there is something specific happening in your life, which makes you feel lonely, don’t be afraid to seek out help and support for it. See the help section for details of support organisations.
Talk to someone you trust about how you feel – sharing your feelings and worries with others can help lessen the loneliness or feeling of isolation you are going through.
If you find it hard to spend any time alone, think about seeing a counsellor to explore the reasons why you are so uncomfortable spending quality time with yourself.