How to Recover in a Season of Loneliness
There is increasing attention on loneliness as an epidemic. Recent reports show that people (especially Millennials) are experiencing more sadness, unfulfillment, and FOMO-- and their physical and social health is suffering because of it.
While admitting to feeling lonely is still heavily stigmatized, there is more conversation surrounding why it happens and who it's happening to. Here, you'll find a few actionable things you can do to combat loneliness to help you keep perspective and connect with other around you.
1. Hold up the Target Line.
One misconception about loneliness is that the solution is to make more friends. But that’s not necessarily true.
Loneliness isn’t about a lack of friends—it’s about a lack of connection.
If you’re an introvert and the idea of attending events to make friends sends an anxious thrill up your spine, then consider engaging the everyday people around you. I challenge women to start small by sustaining the conversation with their barista, bank teller, or Target cashier by just one more minute. Simply making eye contact with your neighbor and then introducing yourself can instantly make you feel less lonely. Try to resist the temptation to hide behind your phone, and instead, maximize your interactions with the everyday people you meet.
2. Don’t quit on yoga.
The most common suggestion for combating loneliness is “Join a club! Take a class!” and this is still the best way to meet people. But there is one point that people fail to make: The trick is not in going to yoga class; the key is to keep going.
One key ingredient in the formation of new friendships is repeated exposure.
Too often, we’ll try something new in an effort to meet new people, and we set strict expectations: “If I don’t make friends when I go tonight, I’m not going anymore.” But when our initial class doesn’t immediately result in instant-friendships, we grow discouraged and resolve to stay home next time. But I encourage you to 1. Keep attending the class and 2. Engage once you’re there. Introduce yourself to people around you before your yoga class. Find a girl in spin and before you walk in, ask her if she’s done it before. Then make a joke about how nervous you are and suggest she sit next to you to help you figure it out. Whatever you do, don’t stop going. Give new friendship a chance by showing up each and every week.
3. Put your phone away.
Decrease your time on social media. Seriously. While social media has become the scapegoat for many of our current emotional ails, it’s not without reason. Several studies now link sadness, anxiety, and overall dissatisfaction for one’s life to her use of social media.
This doesn’t have to be an extreme adjustment. But where you’d normally take a 30-minute scroll before bed, opt to read a book instead, or reorganize your jewelry. Really. One of the worst time to be active on social media is before bed. It increases anxiety and depression, and sends you to sleep with thoughts that are sadder than you’d have if you’d abstained.
4. Keep perspective.
It’s critical to remember that loneliness is a feeling, something that will pass with time. If you hold fast to the truth that loneliness is a part of the human experience, that will help you to gain perspective. The most dangerous thing you can do is to begin to think you’re only person who’s feeling the way you do, or to confuse your loneliness with your self-worth. Instead of thinking “I feel lonely, but I know that things will change soon,” many begin to think “Why am I lonely? Is it because I’m not interesting or likable? What’s wrong with me? Why don’t I have more friends?”
Keep heart. Seasons of loneliness can spur you to necessary introspection. But it’s not a mark of who you are, just where you are for a period of time.
When you’re lonely, it’s nice to know that you’re not alone in feeling that way.
Look for ways to stay connected to the world around you, and you’ll slowly feel more attached, more seen, and more in union with the people all around you. The goal is to feel more comfortable in our "aloneness" and to have the skills to remain connected along the way.