7 Therapists on What to Do When You Feel Lonely - Deepstash

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7 Therapists on What to Do When You Feel Lonely

https://www.thecut.com/2018/05/advice-from-therapists-on-what-to-do-when-you-feel-lonely.html

thecut.com

7 Therapists on What to Do When You Feel Lonely
We live in lonely times. The elderly are lonely. The teens are lonely. People are lonely in cities and in rural areas, so much so that it's now considered a public-health issue (one with real, physical health effects).

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The epidemic of loneliness

The elderly are lonely. Teens are lonely. People in cities and rural areas are lonely to such an extent that it is considered a public health issue.

One report found that nearly half of respondents said they sometimes or always felt alone. But there are steps you can take when you're feeling especially lonely.

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Practice small talk

Talk to people you encounter throughout your day. When you enter a coffee shop, make a simple comment about the weather to make impersonal interactions a bit more friendly.

If you practice this small talk in a variety of situations, it's easier to start a conversation with people you want to get to know better.

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Get comfortable

Many people desire any company because they don't like the discomfort when they are alone.

Learn to enjoy your own company. Start by reading, watching TED Talks that will make you think, or start a gratitude journal.

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Friends are made

Friends are not found - they are made over time. Making friends is an incremental process; It takes between 6 - 8 conversations before someone considers us a friend.

Proximity and repetition are key. Put yourself in situations where you will see the same faces again and again.

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Work on yourself

Work on connecting in meaningful ways with other people and connecting with the lonely part inside of you.
  • The outside world. If you like sports, join a local sports team. If you like writing, join a writing group.
  • Internal work. Get curious about the meaning of loneliness for you. Try to understand why you feel lonely.

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How to cope with loneliness

  • If you find it challenging to move beyond small-talk, you can ask a more personal question like, "What's one thing that I don't know about you?" or "If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?"
  • Use info from social media as a conversation starter the next time you get together.
  • Spend time with a pet. It can help combat feelings of loneliness.

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Families are a resource

Immediate and extended family are a wonderful resource to lonely people. When people start writing letters to a grandparent or setting up a weekly phone call with a sibling, it can have a good impact on their overall mood.

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Embrace who you are

Introverts often see their social style as negative when they compare themselves to extroverts. Introverts don't need a large group of friends. Be true to yourself.

Also, find other personal interests. Taking continuing education classes or becoming a volunteer can put you in touch with like-minded people.

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Loneliness

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Make small talk

Have quick, non-threatening conversations throughout the day: make small talk with your barista, the cashier at the grocery store, anyone you encounter who seems receptive.

Think of them as stretching a muscle: not the same as a full workout, but beneficial nonetheless. When you’re lonely, you go inward, and just stretching that little bit can kick-start a process that helps you feel better.

Find a state of flow

Do something you find totally engaging, to the point you lose track of time.

That activity doesn’t have to be mentally engaging or intellectually rigorous. Maybe it’s reading, running, or cleaning. If you’re truly immersed in what you’re doing, no matter what it is, you won’t have the mental space to be consumed by loneliness.

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Detecting Loneliness

Detecting Loneliness
  • Scientific literature has linked loneliness to depression, anxiety, alcoholism, and drug abuse.
  • Loneliness makes you more likely to fall ill by suppressing healthy immune function....

Loneliness is subjective

It's possible to be completely isolated and feel invigorated.

It is also possible to be surrounded by a crowd or be accompanied by close friends and feel lonely.

Research on loneliness findings

  • Research showed that after social isolation, subjects' brain scans showed more activity in the midbrain when shown pictures of social cues.
  • When subjects were hungry but had not been socially isolated, they showed a similar reaction to food cues, but not social ones. This shows that the drive for social contact and for things like food seems to be represented in a similar way.

Loneliness before quarantine

We crave intimacy. And yet, long before the present pandemic, with its forced isolation and social distancing, humans had begun building their own separate cells. 

Before modern times...

Loneliness is a form of grief

It is an umbrella term we use to cover for all sorts of things most people would rather not name and have no idea how to fix.
Plenty of people like to be alone. But solitude and seclusion are different from loneliness. Loneliness is a state of profound distress.

The evolutionary theory of loneliness

Primates need to belong to an intimate social group in order to survive; this is especially true for humans.
Separation from your group (either finding yourself alone or finding yourself among a group of people who do not know and understand you) triggers a fight-or-flight response.