What to do when feeling lonely? Sadly, it’s a question many have asked themselves. There are many lonely people in the world. It’s a sinking feeling of despondency. It can even border on depression in some cases.
What does it feel like to be lonely?
Loneliness is a feeling of not being connected to anyone or anything. It’s a feeling of not having anything positive in your life. It’s sometimes objectively related to social isolation, of not having meaningful connections with people. Sometimes, you can be surrounded by people and still be feeling lonely.
Is “lonely” only a feeling?
It’s mostly a feeling, as many of us who have felt lonely know. But it’s a sensation that overlaps with other elements. It can be the cause or effect of deteriorating mental health.
People who struggle to cope with loneliness often say they no longer enjoy things they did in the past, they don’t feel they have enough support from friends and/or family, or they struggle to get through the day, sometimes out of fear that they don’t have a close person, pet, or comforting activity to come home to in the evening. They feel like their relationships are empty and loneliness is all that’s left for them. A lot of people will express loneliness in those terms.
What does it mean to be alone?
It would seem that loneliness overlaps with being alone to a great extent based on what we know about it so far. Admittedly, what we know is not a lot. We go to great lengths to avoid being alone. Someone can become a regular at their local bar or club even without being a drinker just to be surrounded by others. However, it is a fact that you can feel lonely without being alone. A lot of the people you see constantly posting on social media actually feel lonely, deeply lonely.
You wouldn’t know it from social media though, because they’re always posting pictures with other people on there, doing things that look like fun. Paradoxically, these media can deepen feelings of loneliness despite their purpose of helping people communicate online. Regular posts and images our friends are sharing on Facebook and Instagram can cause FOMO, or fear of missing out, which is when people feel like their own lives are boring, sad, and devoid of purpose.
To answer the question in the title of this section: being alone is only an issue when it is accompanied by the feeling of loneliness. When is social isolation the cause of loneliness? What does being depressed have to do with it? Let’s discuss social isolation in more depth.
Is social isolation a mental illness?
Social isolation is not a mental illness. Mental illness can cause social isolation though. In every event, loneliness and social isolation do not necessarily coexist. In fact, they don’t even have to be related. You can feel lonely amidst a huge crowd or not feel lonely even if you’re alone on a desert island. This brings us to our first of 11 quotes to remember when you’re feeling lonely.
1. “Sometimes, you just need a break. In a beautiful place. Alone. To figure everything out.”
Loneliness can be a blessing in disguise. It can lead you to rearrange the priorities in your life, change your views, better yourself. The voices of other people can be deafening to us. They can stifle our inner voice, what our intuition is trying to tell us.
2. “Not everyone you lose is a loss.”
On that note, you don’t have to feel bad about losing someone in your life. Not necessarily. I’d take this thought further and say losing someone can be a blessing. Maybe you kept a toxic person in your life to suppress the feeling of loneliness. Getting rid of negative people is always a step in the right direction, although it might not feel that way at first. In fact, lonely people will often make bad decisions about partners and relationships in their lives. Sometimes, you have to accept someone wasn’t right for you and move on.
3. “When you are evolving to your higher self, the road seems lonely. But you’re simply shedding energies that no longer match the frequency of your destiny.”
How very eloquently said, and how deep! That’s the first thing that came to mind when I read this quote. Fate has something different in store for you, and loneliness is part of your trip in that direction.
4. “You can come out bitter or you can come out better. There is purpose in your pain.”
After a long, hard spell of loneliness, pain can be the best word to describe our sensation. It can be so much that people find themselves turning to a professional to cope with their issues. It can be hard to realize, but yes, sometimes pain has a purpose.
5. “A meaningful silence is always better than meaningless words.”
The unknown author of this quote put it very well. It helps to realize that it’s better to embrace the silence than look for something to drown out its deafening sound.
6. “The hardest walk is walking alone, but it’s also the walk that makes you the strongest.”
Sometimes, it feels anything but comfortable to “walk alone.” Yet do it we must because we come out stronger as a result. Again, loneliness is part of the challenge, but it’s a step in the right direction.
7. “Standing alone is better than being around people who don’t value you.”
You are a valuable person who deserves respect. You’re unlikely to get it in a place like a local bar although you’ll be surrounded by people there.
8. “Sometimes you need to take a break from everyone and spend time alone to experience, appreciate, and love yourself.” – Robert Tew
Embrace loneliness. Take a break from online chats. Revel in the experience of self-love and appreciation.
9. “To find peace, sometimes you have to be willing to lose the connection with the people, places, and things that create all the noise in your life.”
It’s quite common to look for a space where you feel like you might overcome what you perceive as negativity in your life. Did you know that your own self can be that space, disconnected from things that are simply making noise? Solitude and quietness in your life could be a sign that you’re finally finding peace.
10. “People know your name, not your story. They’ve heard what you’ve done, but not what you’ve been through. So take their opinions of you with a grain of salt. In the end, it’s not what others think, it’s what you think about yourself that counts. Sometimes you have to do exactly what’s best for you and your life, not what’s best for everyone else.”
This is hard to comprehend, particularly for women, most of whom are still raised to believe they have to be other- rather than self-centered, that they have to live up to their local community’s expectations of them and do what’s best for others, not necessarily what’s best for themselves. People don’t know about your personal experiences, and they can judge based on what they see. This tendency is becoming more pronounced as people make a shift from personal to entirely online contact.
11. “The ones who notice the storms in your eyes, the silence in your voice and the heaviness in your heart are the ones you need to let in.”
We’ll end with the most poignant and meaningful quote we have ever heard. Namely, it’s a very rare thing that someone will look for the true meaning of your words, your pain, your real emotions and even rarer to try to comprehend them. Truth be told, there may not be such a person in your life right now. Solitude is an opportunity to discover your true self as sometimes even you yourself don’t grasp these things. You might not realize your heart is heavy.
Once you do, how do you cope?
Light at the End of the Tunnel?
In a life that can seem devoid of meaning, one can be at a loss as to how to cope. Many find getting a pet helps. A pet like a dog is ideal because you need to walk it and do other things for it that help pass the time. It will never judge you or fill your life with meaningless noise. It will never try to take advantage of you and your vulnerability. It sounds like a cliche, but it really does help.
Another thing people commonly do is search for a local therapist. This can help some, but it’s by no means a panacea. Choose an experienced psychologist who specializes in individually consulting adults. In some cases, there’s more to feeling lonely than meets the eye. These feelings can stem from childhood trauma or some form of abuse you didn’t come to terms with. You’d be surprised at some things you can learn in therapy, especially high-quality therapy.
Therapy is a way to explore issues in a safe way with someone to guide you on your road to recovery and acceptance. You can meet one or more times a week to talk. You can also talk to a friend about how you feel, listen to music, or take up a hobby like writing. It can help to make a list of things that make you happy or your priorities in life and follow it. Don’t put it off – start today. Reading the list every now and then and making changes as you go along is recommended.
Above all, don’t feel bad about not knowing your purpose in life. This is more common than you realize, especially in your 20s. Worrying about not “having it together” can ruin a perfectly idyllic decade. Please know there is always hope.