If you're feeling lonely, I've got some good news for you. Even though it sucks to feel alone, research shows that it's FEELING alone, and not BEING alone, that sets you up for health risks later in life.
"So because I feel lonely, I'm more at risk for health problems? Thanks a lot, @AlloBaber. Real great news." But wait!! That's not what I meant! What I'm trying to say is this – being alone isn't the problem. It turns out that loneliness is just an emotion. And emotions, although they feel very real in the moment, are actually totally subjective – they're, for lack of a better term, all in your head!
That doesn't mean that feeling lonely is an easy problem, or that you should just pretend you don't feel that way. But it DOES mean that you shouldn't feel hopeless or give up just because you're feeling a little lonely, because there are TONS of way to change your mood – and change your life!
Here are a few tips for how to deal when you're struggling with feelings of loneliness. :)
1. Try to pinpoint the cause of your feelings of loneliness.
Are you bored? Tired? Missing that one special person? Have you been cooped up in your room playing video games all day? It's natural to start to feel a little lonely in these situations. Think about it a little deeper – are you actually lonely, or is there a more concrete problem you can try fix?
If you're tired, get some rest. If you're bored, get out of the house. If you're missing someone, write them a letter (whether you send it or not). Before you despair of loneliness, check to see if being lonely is really the problem!
2. Know the difference between loneliness and being alone.
Just because you're on your own doesn't mean you're lonely. It takes practice for some of us, but it really is possible – and healthy – to love spending some time alone every now and then.
You might be doing your own thing, but that's okay! Remember there are people who love you, even if they're not sitting right next to you.
3. Escape into a fictional world.
Why do I love ensemble comedies? Because they make me feel like I'm hanging out and having a great time with my friends! When I feel a little lonely at night, I love to put on New Girl, Friends, The League, Arrested Development, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, 30 Rock – the list is pretty endless. Just something with great characters who make me laugh!
Another way to combat loneliness? Delve into your favorite fictional novel! Re-read Harry Potter and hang with the Hogwarts gang. Pick up one of those dystopian YA novels everyone's been talking about lately. Read a manga or a comic book.
Remember, there's nothing wrong with a little escapism now and then! It helps take your mind off your emotions and lower your stress levels.
4. Take some time to love yourself.
Whenever I'm feeling any sort of negative emotion, I love to take a scalding hot shower or bath. Not great for my skin, I know, but it really does comfort me. It's like literally washing my stresses away.
Everybody's got their own little luxury they enjoy. Get a massage, take yourself out for a nice meal, even write yourself an encouraging letter. Everybody needs love, and sometimes we feel lonely when we feel as though we're not getting enough of it. But love isn't something that only comes from the outside – in fact, the most important love comes from within us.
Give yourself the love you need by taking good care of yourself. Observe your needs and fulfill them, especially if you've been putting off rest and relaxation for a long time. We all need to recharge now and then.
5. Get out of the house for a little while.
Are you lonely, or have you just been locked in your apartment a little too long? Get outside and smell the fresh air. Distract yourself with a new environment. Walk around and just be near other human beings. Even if you don't talk to anyone, this can make a world of difference.
Go grab a cup of coffee or some hot tea. Wander around some interesting shops. Take a walk around your neighborhood. Enjoy the change of pace!
6. Go on an adventure for one.
Who says you can't have fun alone? There's a big, wide world out there, and there's no better time to explore it than now. Whether it's just checking out a nearby nature spot, going into the nearest big city for the day, or even traveling to a new destination all by yourself, adventures are all around – and yes, you can have them by yourself. Bring a camera and a journal, and document all the amazing things you see!
7. Reconnect with a someone you haven't talked to for a while.
Feeling like you don't have any friends? Maybe you just haven't talked to them in a while. Call your grandparents or an old friend. Look up that teacher you haven't thought about for years. See if they'd be interested in going out for coffee, chatting on the phone, or even Skyping.
There are so many people in our lives who care about us, but we forget about them from time to time. Out of sight, out of mind, you know? But those people are still there. Reach out and rekindle those relationships.
8. List things you're grateful for, and things you're looking forward to.
One of my personal mentors has always encouraged me to keep a list in my journal of things I'm looking forward to. It's an interesting exercise – even at times in my life when I've thought, "I don't have anything to look forward to," once you start writing, you suddenly think up more and more things you're excited for.
Sometimes they're events, like a cool concert or my birthday. Sometimes they're closer to goals, like learning Italian or finding an awesome new Meetup to join. But there are so many reasons to be excited for the future, and focusing on them can help you get through a difficult present.
9. Try something new. Do a project. Create.
Have you ever checked out Meetup? It's an app and site that highlights local groups and gatherings you can join. It's an indispensable tool for meeting new people around you, or finding others who share your interests. Seriously, it's way better than Tinder for trying to meet cool new people. Check it out and get out there, whether it's for a language meetup, a hike, a book club, or a mixer centering on pretty much any subject you can imagine!
And if that sounds like a little much (you know, if groups of strangers aren't exactly your thing), then delve into a new hobby. Teach yourself something or develop a skill you already have. Create art. Write a story. Do a cool DIY. It's guaranteed to brighten up your day and chase those feelings of loneliness away.
10. Care for someone else.
Showing love and care to someone else is the sneakiest, most effective way to feel loved yourself! Have you ever volunteered in an old folks' home or at an animal shelter? Do you like to look after kids or help the less fortunate? I really encourage you to give it a try. Seriously, when you reach out to others and give them love, you'll be surprised how much love you get in return.
Even within your own life, try to be there for the friends and family members who need it. Give of yourself instead of focusing on your own problems. You'll feel great after lending a hand, and realize your loneliness slipped from your mind long ago.
Don't let loneliness trap you. Be strong enough to change something small – step outside, try something new, reach out. Even the smallest difference can change your whole world.
Of course, if all else fails, know that professional help really does help. Loneliness and feeling completely disconnected from everyone around you can be a sign of something much more serious. If that's the case, talk to someone about it. I know that talking to a psychologist has been incredibly valuable in turning around the lives of family members and friends.
Loneliness is something we all go through.
Don't be ashamed or worried if you feel this way! :) And also, remember that your fellow Vinglers are here to help! We're a very kind group (seriously, I'm pretty sure you guys are the nicest people on the internet), so don't be afraid to write a card about your feelings and see what people have to offer.
Thanks for reading. If you have any other thoughts on how to combat loneliness, I'd love to hear them.