How To Deal With Loneliness – A Doctor Talks

    Loneliness is a common and timeless feeling. In fact, the loneliness epidemic started in the 1980’s, and with the rise of social media, this problem has only worsened. Paradoxically, in a world that claims to be well connected we feel more alone than ever. Many people have no idea how to deal with loneliness.

    Loneliness happens to everyone, all of us have felt alone at least once in our lives. The problem begins when we feel alone the majority of the time. Loneliness can happen even if you are surrounded by people or have many friends or are in a relationship. The phrase “feeling alone in a crowded room” is real. For others, loneliness is more literal – not having any friends, family or any kind of connection. But in the end, it all comes down to not feeling like you’re meaningfully connected. 

    Humans are social creatures and we need some level of human interaction to thrive and survive. In fact, being lonely is a risk factor to developing cardiovascular disease, and Alzheimers. Loneliness increases the risk of having a heart attack by 39%, and it doubles the chances of dementia. These numbers are comparable with other well-known risk factors like cigarettes. Feeling loneliness affects mental health, and it is one of the leading causes of depression. Yet, there are not enough campaigns and awareness to help fight loneliness.

    People who are dealing with loneliness share these characteristics traits:

    1.      Trouble connecting with others

    2.      Afraid of intimacy

    3.      Going through big changes in their lives, like new job, career or city

    4.      Codependency

    5.      Lost touch with yourself

    6.      Feeling misunderstood

    7.      Feelings of worthlessness

    All of these often lead to spending time with the wrong people, and blaming themselves for everything, which ultimately perpetuates the feeling of loneliness. The cycle is vicious.

    Studies and psychologists have suggested many ways to deal with loneliness, and the truth is that is not an easy task. In order to stop feeling alone, we need to change the way we interact with the world; this means changing the way that we inherently act. I can say from personal experience, that fighting loneliness is hard, but not impossible. Situations in my life have led me to feel lonely throughout my life, and changing my perspective and interactions with the world have helped me get over those feelings. Studies show that the following changes can help fight loneliness. I can tell you that I personally agree with all of them:

    6 Tips To Deal With Loneliness

    1.      Self-care

    The first person you need to reconcile with is yourself. Loneliness often comes from a place of discontent within ourselves. Learning how to love and understand our own selves will help us never feel lonely again. Something extremely powerful is to learn that we are not to blame for everything. That sometimes circumstances and even other people are to blame. And that comes from self-love and acceptance of who we are. Review five positive things about yourself every morning. Use affirmations and repeat to yourself that you are unique and that the trades that you see as “negatives” are the ones that make you unique. Reconcile with yourself and become your friend, instead of your enemy. Self-love can be very difficult, especially if you are dealing with other factors like body dysmorphia or mental illness. Seek for counsel if you need to. In my opinion this is the most powerful change to make to fight loneliness and if often overlooked. Stop trying to get from others the validation that you need from yourself.

    2.      Provide support for others

    At first, the self-love journey is hard. Learning how to care for others is a step in the right direction, because if you are experiencing loneliness it is very possible that you also feel less than, misunderstood, and afraid of intimacy. Helping others can help you fulfill those feelings. Start with something small, like giving a compliment to people or adopting a pet, and move to  more things like volunteering for a charity. Support can be as simple as being there for someone that you know is struggling, even if you do not know them. Doing good deeds for others will make you feel better about yourself.

    3.      Find something you are passionate about

    Loneliness can also come from a place of not loving what you do, this can cause you to feel isolated and bring about feeling hopeless in your workplace. Finding something you love will help you reconnect with yourself, and in the process you will meet people that think and see the world more similarly to you making it easier to find new friends.

    4.     Build meaningful relationships

    You can have a million friends, and still deal with feelings of loneliness. Is meaningful relationships the ones we need, and surprisingly this comes from the most unexpected places. Open your social circle and interact with people you normally would not talk to. Sometimes these relationships come from people you already know, but that you never gave the chance or effort to build with. 

    5.      Talk to people

    This is probably the most obvious, but probably the most difficult one of them all. Talking to people can be very hard. When you deal with feelings of loneliness, worthlessness and emptiness make you believe that people are judging you and that you are not enough to have meaningful interactions; quieting those thoughts is the hardest part, but the only way to do it is to put yourself out there. If you want to be social, you need to practice. Start with small talk with random people that you come across everyday. Move up to asking more personal questions and move on from there. Attend classes or events that involve something that you are passionate about, since the people there are more likely to be more similar to you.

    6.      Reduce the amount of time spent on social media

    Even though social media can have great benefits, it will make you compare yourself to the “picture perfect” lives of others. You might see people posting with tons of friends and looking happy, increasing your belief that it is your fault that you feel alone or that there is something wrong with you. Remember that people only post the good things on social media, but everyone is struggling. Social media is fake.  

    Loneliness is hard, but is not permanent; it can be overcome and does require some changes. Seek for counseling to understand better why you feel lonely, maybe also try group therapy. Put yourself out there and reassure yourself everyday that you are worth it of love and happiness, despite how empty you feel inside – these steps do work! The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different outcome. Therefore, If you want to feel change, you need to change what’s happening inside you first.

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