If you are feeling lonely right now, you might be relieved to find out how many people are going through the same thing. There’s a social stigma around loneliness that sometimes prevents people from talking about their experience openly, which can make them feel even more isolated. But the reality is, loneliness has become a fairly common experience, especially since the pandemic began. About 1 in 10 Canadians report feeling often or always lonely, and 1 in 4 people say they wish they had more friends. There are also misconceptions surrounding loneliness: even if someone has a lot of friends and acquaintances, they can still feel lonely. Someone might struggle with loneliness simply because the relationships in their life aren’t fulfilling enough. The good news is, there are many things you can do to feel more connected and satisfied with your friendships! Here are some tips on how to cope with loneliness in a healthy, productive way.
Get to the Root of Your Loneliness
Taking time to self-reflect and figure out why you’re feeling alone is the first step to addressing it. Maybe you are surrounded by people who are different from you and you feel like an outcast, or you’ve moved to a new town and are having a hard time making friends. Understanding your situation and talking about your feelings with a mental health professional can help you decide what the best next step is. Do you need to reach out to friends and family more often, or spend time with people who you have more in common with? Sometimes, feelings of loneliness can be alleviated by embracing the situation, learning to enjoy your own company, and spending time doing things you enjoy.
Less Comparison, More Appreciation
In this day and age, it’s easy to compare ourselves to others and feel lonely as a consequence. Social media can fool us into thinking that most people have more active social lives than we do, even if that’s not really the case. Taking a break from social media may help you avoid the comparison trap. When you’re feeling lonely, try to refrain from comparing your relationships to others both online and in real life. Instead, take a step back and appreciate the people who are already in your life or things that bring you joy.
There’s no need to beat yourself up for feeling lonely! It’s always important to be kind to yourself and develop a positive inner dialogue, but this is especially true when you’re experiencing loneliness. One way to practice self-compassion is to ask yourself: what would I say to a close friend who was going through this? Chances are, you wouldn’t put them down even further; you’d be supportive and uplifting. You deserve the same treatment! Try to reframe your thoughts and speak to yourself as you would someone you love.
Mindfulness can play a huge role in reducing the self-stigma of loneliness. When we’re mindful, we are not judging ourselves – we’re fully aware and absorbed in the present moment. Tuning into your senses and what’s going on around you can help reduce any negative thoughts you may have about feeling lonely.
Finally, reassure yourself that feeling lonely at times is totally normal and natural! As humans, we are social creatures and have a natural aversion to loneliness. Ironically, many people share the experience of feeling alone. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a trusted friend and/or counsellor to talk out your feelings. Remember to practice gratitude, focus on what you have rather than compare yourself to others, and replace negative self-talk with more positive, compassionate thoughts.