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Loneliness

6 Ways to Cope with Feelings of Loneliness

How to approach this feeling with curiosity and self-compassion.

Key points

  • Loneliness is common and part of the human experience, and many singles struggle with it.
  • Loneliness becomes more manageable when approached with self-compassion.
  • Strategies that involve cultivating connections, practicing gratitude, and seeking out joy can help mitigate loneliness.
Diego Cervo/Shutterstock
Source: Diego Cervo/Shutterstock

Single? Lonely? That is 100 percent normal and 100 percent OK. But we don’t tend to talk about or acknowledge loneliness—let alone tolerate it very well. There are some feelings that we have become completely averse to, and from both personal experiences and the work that I do as a therapist, I strongly believe that loneliness is one of them.

For the modern single person, acknowledging loneliness is taboo. Many singles want to appear strong, independent, and capable, and being “lonely” is often assumed to convey the opposite. As someone who has been single for a good part of my life, I have also struggled with this and experienced shame in acknowledging or admitting to feelings of loneliness. I have worried about the judgment from friends and family and also shamelessly judged myself.

But you can be strong, independent, and capable and experience loneliness. These things can co-exist.

**It should also be noted that you can be in a relationship and feel lonely. You can live in a busy household or be part of a large family and feel lonely. You can be “successful” and “have it all” and feel lonely. And you can feel grateful and fulfilled by many aspects of your life and also, at the same time, feel lonely.

The point is, loneliness is like any other feeling state—it comes and goes. And just like all other feeling states, it is valid and part of being human. So instead of trying to fight or suppress loneliness, approach it with more curiosity and self-compassion.

Here are six ways to help you work through and cope with loneliness.

I have troubleshot all of them myself and am confident that they will be helpful tools for you as well.

1. Feel your feelings.

Before anything else, acknowledge the loneliness. Call it what it is. You can say it out loud, journal it, talk it out in therapy, or confide in a friend.

While avoidance might be appealing, it is the least productive and helpful response. The more you avoid the feeling, the more power you give it. Avoidance is only going to fuel shame and cause more distress.

So acknowledge it. Sit with it. And if you need to cry, take a mental health day or cancel plans—that is also OK. Sometimes you just need to let yourself “be” and ride the wave.

2. Recognize your shared humanity.

With loneliness often come feelings of disconnection and the irrational assumption that this feeling is unique to you—which (like avoidance) can also fuel shame. While it may feel counterintuitive, try to acknowledge that loneliness is a shared human experience and that there are others who are also experiencing similar pain. By acknowledging this shared humanity, you will be able to approach loneliness with more self-compassion.

3. Cultivate connection.

Reach out to friends or family—people you feel seen and loved by. Text, call, or FaceTime. Invite one of your people to come over and just hang out or watch a movie. Or venture out into the world—go to a park, coffee shop, or take a walk outside in your neighborhood. Smile at others, strike up a conversation. Sometimes just being around other people physically can help mitigate those feelings of loneliness and foster human connection.

4. Do something that brings you joy.

It can be the simplest thing. Whether it’s physical activity, listening to your favorite music, trying a new recipe, watching your favorite series, or reading a good book—be intentional with your time and do things that make you feel good. It seems simple enough, but sometimes we forget to nurture ourselves and do things that reinforce our self-worth.

5. Create or seek community.

This can be anything from connecting with a spiritual community to joining a group fitness gym or recreational league, doing volunteer work, or connecting with online groups and communities based on shared interests, hobbies, or values. Community is important because it provides us with a sense of purpose and fulfillment by being part of something that is bigger than ourselves.

6. Practice gratitude.

Gratitude is incredibly helpful in countering feelings of loneliness. While loneliness can feel completely overwhelming, gratitude can ground you and help you connect with some of the “good” things you have in your life. Remind yourself of the positive and supportive relationships and people you already have in your life (even if the friendship or relationship is long-distance). And try to notice and appreciate those small but meaningful moments that bring you joy and make you feel connected to others ( a joke made between you and a friend, a fellow driver letting you into their lane during rush hour, a pleasant exchange with the barista at your coffee shop).

Facebook image: Diego Cervo/Shutterstock

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