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7 Therapists on What to Do When You Feel Lonely

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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7 Therapists on What to Do When You Feel Lonely

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

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Key Ideas

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

It isn’t defined by the number of people in your life; instead, it’s the distance between what you want out of your relationships and what you’re getting.

So it’s absolutely possible t...

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.

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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.

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Loneliness is a perception issue
Loneliness is a perception issue

Loneliness has more to do with our perceptions than how much company we have: it is just as possible to feel very lonely surrounded by people as it is to be content with little social contact.

Olivia Laing
Olivia Laing

“Loneliness, longing, does not mean one has failed but simply that one is alive.”

Dealing with loneliness through creativity

One way people have always dealt with loneliness is through creativity. By metamorphosing their reality into art, lonely people throughout history have managed to interchange the sense of community relationships could foster with their creative outputs.

The artist Edward Hopper (1882–1967) is known for his paintings of American cityscapes inhabited by closed-off figures who seem to embody a vision of modern loneliness.

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Recognize the impact of loneliness

According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, loneliness can be a...

Work out exactly why you are lonely
The mental health charity Mind cites two main factors that can cause loneliness: 
  • someone either not having enough basic social contact or, 
  • despite being surrounded by people, not feeling understood, listened to or cared for. 
Working out which profile fits you best could give you a better idea of how to work through your feelings of loneliness.
Speak to someone
  • Talk to friends and family.
  • Join a club or socialize through hobbies or interests. It is a good way to meet new people and increase social interactions. 
  • Do voluntary work. It forges connections as well as makes you feel worthwhile.

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Becoming less lonely

Ventilen, or “friend to one” in Danish, is an organization that helps 15-to-25-year-olds get together twice a week with two or three volunteers. Together, the people in the group play games, make ...

The prevalence of loneliness

Loneliness is becoming an "epidemic" and is associated with illnesses like heart disease, dementia, depression, anxiety, and longevity.

  • One study revealed that 22% of Americans, 23% of Brits, and 9% of Japanese adults said they felt lonely all the time.
  • 40% of people aged 16 - 24 said they were often lonely, according to the BBC.
Coming together

Back in 1999, a support group called Bright Point was formed to fill the need of friends. But when people came together, no one talked. It was only after games were introduced as a catalyst that friendships started forming. Later, making meals and exercising was added successfully.

The program is not without challenges. Many lonely people may feel intimidated and won't attend. But designating a space for gathering and activities is a good step toward tackling loneliness. 

'Single' Positivity

A new breed of 'single-positive' personalities reject the notion that you need a partner to be happy and have a fulfilling life.

These 'self-partnering' individuals are seeing that bei...

You Are Enough

Many single women are starting to realize that they are not losing much by being single, but are gaining a lot of freedom and time to do self-care and pursue things that matter to them.

Do Stuff, Alone

The stigma of being spotted doing something alone by others is now diminishing. 

People are traveling, eating, catching a movie, visiting the local pub, all alone and positively enjoying it.

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1. You Spend Significant Time Together

Outside of normal working hours and with all the things you could be doing in a day, there usually isn’t much time left over to spare.

The fact that you and your significant other ...

2. You Include Each Other In Your Regular Purchases

Such acts of thoughtfulness may go from small and seemingly insignificant to as extravagant as buying matching jewelry. Keeping each other in mind to the point where you’re considering them in your regular purchases, you’re probably in a committed relationship.

3. You Get a Key

It’s a big demonstration of trust if one or both of you have keys to the other’s house.

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6. You Vacation Together

We don’t usually choose to spend several uninterrupted days or weeks of a vacation with people we don’t like a lot. You’re also making memories that last for a lifetime.

7. You Talk About Bodily Functions

Those conversations are usually reserved for medical appointments and the occasional funny story.

If you can speak with your lover about intimate bodily functions, you’re probably more than casual friends; especially if you find that typically private and personal conversations become commonplace between the two of you.

8. You Plan For The Future Together

In a committed relationship, however, it matters what the other person wants to do and where they see themselves in the future. So if you and your partner are making plans together, there’s a good likelihood that your relationship is in for the long haul.

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