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5 Ways to Overcome Loneliness

December 27, 2022 by Amanda Reill

"It’s important to recognize that loneliness is a subjective state. It’s not about how many people you have around you; it’s about how you feel about the connections that you have in your life." - Vivek H. Murthy

Loneliness is a state of mind, and it can be one of the most painful feelings a human being can endure. What makes it worse is that it can affect us in numerous ways, including exhaustion, moodiness, lack of appetite, and it can even make us sick.

5 Ways to Overcome Loneliness

All people feel it to different degrees at different junctures in life, but for some the condition feels chronic. Whether these feelings are fleeting or ever-present, there is no time like today to examine where these feelings are coming from and how you can find healing.

  1. Take your power back. Loneliness, at times, can be a reactive state. It can point to what we believe about ourselves, and what our inner critic tells us. We worry about being rejected by others, we wait for someone else to call, or feel that we are alone as a result of the doing of others. The reality however, is that you have the ability to take your power back and declare to yourself that you are worthy of loving yourself and worthy of the love of others. From there, time alone doesn’t have to be lonely, it can be beautiful, because you are enough.
  2. Inventory your relationships. Committed partnerships. It is not the presence of a committed partnership that cures loneliness, but a sense of being known. Carol Bruess, a marriage researcher, has found that 40% of married people have experienced loneliness in their relationship. Kate Murphy, the author of You’re Not Listening, describes a study that revealed married people actually listened less closely to instructions given for a simple task than they did to a stranger, because they immediately assumed they knew what their partner was saying. Try listening to your partner or close friends as though they were someone fascinating you just met, and see how it changes your conversation with them. New partnerships. As you survey your relationships, do you feel you have people in your life that are truly kindred? Did you have a passion for Dungeons and Dragons as a teen, but don’t know anyone else in your circles who is into it? In our highly connected world, it’s easier than ever to find people who are like-minded. If there’s something you’ve been holding back that makes you feel more alive, look on social media for local groups that do what you’re interested in. A new friendship could be on the horizon.
  3. Invite a professional partner into the process. If you’re feeling lonely and struggling with where to start remedying that feeling, consider inviting a therapist or life coach into your life. Someone who is trained to help you identify your blind spots, hidden triggers, and negative thinking patterns can be an incredible gift. They can help you identify healthier thinking patterns and provide the courage and accountability you need to step outside your comfort zone and make deeper connections with others.
  4. Be brave. Loneliness can feel like a rut, and trying something new can interrupt these negative patterns. This may be trying a new pattern of communication, such as showing a greater interest or setting stronger boundaries in some of your relationships. It may also apply to being willing to be an old dog who can learn new tricks. You can learn to do almost anything on YouTube — it gives you a safe and passive space to explore a potential new interest. Starting a new hobby paves the way for richer, more enjoyable times in solitude or a pathway to new relationships.
  5. Discover your purpose. Have you ever contemplated what your life’s purpose might be? How is your life currently reflecting that purpose? A sense of purpose and meaning is an important way to combat loneliness. You don’t have to have a specialized skill to extend hope to others. One of the most powerful things you can do in any other person’s life is to listen to them. There is a reason why bartenders, hairdressers, and nail techs hear some of the most intimate pieces of people’s lives — they’re present long enough to listen. Consider where you might be able to offer that service to others.

Kate Murphy said, “The most valuable lesson I’ve learned as a journalist is everybody is interesting if you ask the right questions.” That advice impacts how we listen, but it also impacts how we see ourselves. 

As with most challenges, the best progress can be made incrementally. Combating loneliness doesn’t have to mean starting a new life tomorrow. It might mean attempting a 15-minute phone call with someone you used to like to remind you how much you like them. Time and distance can make things difficult, but the more you connect with another person, the more you’ll know about them, and the easier it will be next time. Store their answers to your questions like treasures, and you may just find a gratitude arising in your heart that heals some of your deepest lonely wounds.

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