Do you know that feeling of being alone in a large crowd full of people? Perhaps you sit in your apartment or house, unable to connect with anyone. That inability to connect is the feeling of loneliness.
Who Gets Lonely?
Some people believe only the disabled or the elderly get lonely. Others claim introverts are more isolated than extroverts. The truth of the matter is, though, that anyone and everyone can get lonely.
According to a recent study by Cigna, a renowned mental health insurance company, 46% of Americans sometimes report always feeling alone. They surveyed 20,000 Americans using a UCLA questionnaire of loneliness. The study revealed that a meaningful connection with our peers is the most crucial tool to staving off loneliness.
People Get Lonely for Many Reasons
Have you ever wondered how people get lonely? There are many and various things that can cause loneliness. Below are some significant things that can cause the “crying into your pillow” loneliness.
Technology divides and disconnects people from one another. When you spend hours at a time checking other people’s posts instead of calling a friend or visiting someone, you are hindering yourself from making those meaningful connections that are so important.
That is not to say that technology is bad. There are sites that can help you connect with another person to make plans to meet in person. Sadly, though, most people do not go beyond likes and pokes.
Disability and Illness
When you have an illness or disability, you may feel different from others. You may be hindered from going places and seeing people. Staying at home alone can then lead to loneliness.
How can you guard against loneliness if you are disabled or ill? There are many ways, but you may find it helpful to call friends, send e-mails or cards, or get a pet.
In our world of variety, there are going to be times when you cannot find anyone to share your interests. It might not be as simple as finding a quilting club or gardening group.
If your interests fall more toward the unusual, you might consider going to conventions like the Sideshow Convention or MerFest. There seems to be a convention for everything these days! Going to one for your interest will help you make meaningful connections with others.
Leaving the place you know so well, and all your friends can cause loneliness. You are in a new place with lots of people you have not met. It can be daunting to try to make new friends.
Fortunately, there are many ways to make new friends wherever you go. Host or attend a block party, attend a town meeting, or go to your church or the library. Keep in mind that you can still call and write to your old friends, too.
Missing a lost loved one can certainly cause loneliness. You have a gaping hole where that person was, leaving you unable to catch your balance. Also, unlike what others might say, the feeling does not always “go away.”
It is tough to overcome loneliness after a death. Spending more time with others and remembering the good times are two ways to manage this kind of isolation. Just keep trying, because a delightful day can follow a gloomy one.
Your friend told you they would visit you, but they never come and this time was no different. All the same, you had hoped they would keep their promise this one time. Expecting too much out of your friends and family will lead to bouts of loneliness.
Setting boundaries for your friends and family is one way to overcome loneliness from over expectation. See if your friends and family members are committed to being there for you. If they break that promise, maybe you should consider the reasons why.
Lack of Self-Confidence
When you are not confident in yourself, you are less likely to go out and make friends. This can lead to loneliness as you stay at home alone all day long or go to work and come home again. You can also be insecure about how others feel about you, making it harder to make friends and keep them.
Building up your self-confidence may be as easy as chatting with people online or on the phone to take away the anxiety of face-to-face. Sometimes, this can be done best with strangers because they do not know you and cannot judge you by your reputation. Gradually building your self-confidence to video chat and in-person get-togethers will lessen your loneliness.
Sometimes, the biggest problem causing loneliness is lack of communication. Your family and friends just don’t talk to you in a meaningful way as much.
Calling a family meeting or one-on-one with your friends can help correct communication gaps and thus decrease loneliness. Persistence may be necessary to get the idea through to your family and friends. Work hard at communicating with the people around you, and you will be better off for it.
Break-up or Divorce
A break-up or divorce can be a lot like death. There is a hole in your heart where that person was. The big difference is that person may still be available to you.
Whether the break-up was with a partner or spouse, you can communicate your feelings to them by writing an e-mail or calling them. Do not dig into history; just explain your feelings. Maybe they can share your feelings and help you feel less alone.
The three steps to managing loneliness, says Leslie Becker-Phelps, Ph.D., are awareness, acceptance, and compassion. You need all three to manage your loneliness and perhaps even overcome it.
Being aware of your body and feelings is the first step to managing loneliness. Take note of the hollow feeling in your chest or the anxiety that courses through your veins. A few things that might help with awareness are:
• living your life for yourself and not for others
Many people fear loneliness and try to run away from it. Sometimes, though, you may need to be alone for a little while. Other times, you need to seek help to accept that you have a problem. Here are some things you can do to find acceptance for your loneliness:
• Set goals for yourself and keep them.
• sleep in or stay up late by yourself, but not all the time
• Call a lifeline or hotline
• find a therapist
Treat yourself like you would treat anyone else who is feeling down or lonely, with compassion and an open heart. Do not call yourself names or force yourself to do things you do not want to do. Take things easy with these ideas:
• Go shopping for things that make you happy
• Take a bubble bath
• Keep up with your favorite hobby.
Ten Things to Remember
When you are feeling lonely, try remembering these ten things. They are not problem-solvers but starters from which you can work up.
• When things are at their worse, they can only go up from there. Remember that there could be a fantastic day just around the corner, and you may not be quite so lonely tomorrow.
• Take care of your needs first, then worry about others. You cannot tend to the needs of others if you do not take care of yourself first. This is true whether you are a spouse, a parent, a caretaker of elderly parents, or anyone with family and friends.
• Feeling lonely is a reflection of your inner communication. If you are feeling lonely, it may be that you are not communicating well with yourself. Remember the first step of managing loneliness is awareness and keep a line of communication going between yourself and your body.
• There is always going to be someone with common interests. Sure, you might not be able to find someone who shares your love of jellyfish or desire to dress up like Abraham Lincoln in your area, but someone out there shares at least some of your interests.
• Most people have been lonely at some time in their lives. Do not think you are alone in being lonely. At some point in their life, almost everyone has felt some amount of loneliness. Thus, you should treat yourself with compassion like you would anyone else with the problem.
• Finding yourself requires that you get lost. Think of isolation as a step on the way to finding the perfect balance in your life. It will make things feel so much easier.
•Learn to live for the present. Too many people get bogged down in the past. Forget the past and live for today, just going with the flow of the day.
• Helping others will help you. Volunteering at an animal shelter or soup kitchen is a great way to manage your loneliness. It is hard to feel lonely when dogs and cats are demanding your attention or else people waiting for food.
• Being isolated is a chance to figure out what needs changing. If you are lonely, something needs to change, sit down and jot down some ideas for things you can do to better your life. Then, follow through on some of them.
• You can find meaningful connections with others. Through a combination of self-love and communication with others, you can make those meaningful connections so crucial in managing loneliness.
As you can see from the symptoms listed above, there are many signs of being lonely. Loneliness is not just a state of mind. It is a holistic feeling and it affects our physical body too.
Physical Signs Connected with Loneliness
There are some physical symptoms that loneliness can cause. Looking for these signs will warn you to your state of being so that you can do something about it. Here are some of the physical symptoms that come with loneliness:
If you are feeling the pain, you may have muscle tension caused by the stress of loneliness. Stress is a significant part of loneliness, and emotional distress can quickly become physical pain.
As with Muscle tension, headaches come from the stress related to loneliness. Also, pain tolerance is lessened, making small problems seem like much bigger things than they are.
In addition to stress, loneliness also has a numbing effect, which can cause memory issues. This symptom is often connected to depression and other mental illness, too. For this reason, make sure you talk to someone if you get brain fog.
Loneliness causes sadness, and sad people tend not to sleep properly. You might sleep too little because you cannot stop thinking of how lonely you are. On the other hand, you might lay in bed unable to get up and face the next gloomy day.
Weaker Immune System
Lonely people also tend to find themselves sick more often. There is a strong correlation between loneliness and immune system suppression, and it can cause chronic inflammation, among many immune issues. It should also be noted that vaccines work less effectively in sad or lonely people.
Important! Remember Your Safety
If you are feeling so lonely that you are getting the urge to die, go immediately to the nearest emergency room or mental hospital intake. Suicidal thoughts are a serious matter that should not be left to fester.
Loneliness is a runt that you can get stuck in, but with the right tools and tactics, you can manage and even overcome the feeling. How you get out of the rut, if you get out of it, is your choice entirely. As long as you remain safe, whatever technique you choose will help you become a better, happier you.