How to Deal With Loneliness When Single and Living Alone
As technology continues to advance and we find more ways to stay "connected” without physically meeting, it’s only natural for those of us who are single or living alone to feel more lonely. These feelings of loneliness can worsen when we get older to find ourselves still living alone while our friends pair up one after another to settle down in happily married bliss.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with being alone. Being alone and lonely are two very different things. Many of us have no problem living alone, staying single, and doing things by ourselves. But if we feel isolated, disconnected, or depressed when alone, that’s when we need to do something about it.
Feeling connected to people is crucial to our mental and physical well-being. Loneliness has been recognized by doctors (as addressed in this study) and the UK government as a significant social health concern that needs to be officially addressed.
The first step to dealing with feelings of loneliness is to recognize that even though you’re single and living alone, you’re never as isolated as you feel.
Poll: Feeling Lonely
How often do you feel lonely?
7 Things to Do to Cope With Loneliness
Spending time alone and enjoying quality “me” time is also important, but if you’re feeling sick of being alone, down, and particularly isolated from others, here are seven things you can do to help you deal with loneliness and feel more connected with the people around you.
1. Invite Friends Over For No Reason
Just because you’re living alone and your apartment may be a little cramped doesn’t mean you can’t invite people over. Don’t assume that no one wants to come over to spend time with you. You’d be surprised by how many people also feel lonely and may jump at the invitation. Even if there isn’t a special occasion, offer to host a girl’s Netflix binge night, play some video games together, a spa night, or even a girly sleepover (you’re never too old to have sleepovers). Even throw a party for no reason at all.
Don’t feel equipped to host get-togethers? Buy more chairs and tableware so you’ll feel more motivated and prepared to have friends over.
2. Say Yes More Often
Just as it’s a great idea to invite friends over to your place, it’s also helpful for you to say yes to more invitations. It can become a habit for you to shut down and stay in, but make sure to stick your neck out and say yes to an invitation even if you’re not sure you’ll enjoy yourself. Did an acquaintance invite you over for a birthday party, baby shower, wedding, or an after-work dinner? Say yes even though you may not know anyone else there. Take it as an opportunity to make new connections. Who knows what kind of people you may meet?
The more often you socialize, the easier it’ll get, just as the more you stay shut in by yourself, the harder it’ll get to break out of that bubble of isolation.
3. Social Media Will Not Help
Scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat or any other social media posts can make you feel connected to your social media friends, but that’s very temporary relief. Social media is not enough to help you cope with loneliness and can make you feel even more isolated after logging off, which can cause an unhealthy dependence on social media or your mobile devices.
Remember that the key to curing isolation and loneliness is to make real connections. Yes, real connections are harder to make and maintain, but they can never be replaced. There’s nothing better than to laugh, hug, and spend quality time with someone you care about.
4. Connect in Person
It’s fine to text, Facetime, or Skype when you’re busy, but don’t forget to make time to physically meet up at every opportunity. If most of your friends live in different parts of the world, make an effort to find new friends who live in the same city or get to know your colleagues better after work. And just because you’ve moved out of the family home doesn’t mean you can’t rely on your family anymore. Take this opportunity to strengthen or rebuild your relationships with family members.
Reaching out to others who may need a shoulder to lean on can also help you overcome loneliness. Helping others will allow you to turn the focus away from yourself and onto somebody else. The fulfillment and subsequent connection you’ll create with the person you’re helping will ground you and bring you out of your shell.
5. Yes, You Can Eat Out Alone
It can feel awkward the first few times you go out to eat by yourself, but staying in every day just because you don’t have anyone to eat with should never be an excuse. Found a new restaurant you’re dying to try out? Do it. Have a favorite place you love eating at but haven’t been able to find anyone to go with lately? Go anyway.
Bring a book with you if you feel awkward eating alone in a public place, but don’t forget that it’s perfectly okay to make eye contact and small talk. Especially if you keep going back to your favorite coffee shop, the staff may start to recognize you, and you may also recognize some familiar faces. Soon enough, that familiarity may grow into new connections and even friendships.
6. Get Out of the House
Chronic loneliness can often come hand in hand with depression and can sap your motivation to do anything other than binge watch Netflix all day. There’s nothing wrong with binge-watching Netflix, but spending too much time alone in your apartment is unhealthy and will do nothing but make your loneliness worse. Get out. Take a stroll around the neighborhood. Visit your local coffee shop. Just being around other people, even if you don’t get to talk to them, will help you feel better and less isolated.
Poll: Living Alone
How long have you been living alone?
7. Don’t Be Afraid to Get Professional Help
Sometimes, loneliness may not be something that’s easily solved by a night out with friends. There may be deeper issues that could be causing your deep feelings of isolation and disconnection. Perhaps you may be struggling with social anxiety or some other issue that’s preventing you from reaching out to others. So if you feel like you can’t deal with your loneliness by yourself, don’t be afraid to seek professional help.
Therapists can help talk you through your fear and anxiety and can help you manage your expectations when you begin to take steps out of your comfort zone. There is no shame in getting professional help. You have the right to do everything in your power to get healthier, feel happier, and to live the life you want - single or not.
Questions & Answers
I'm very depressed and lonely all the time with no partner. What can or should I be doing?
Sounds like you're looking for a connection. If that's the case, any of the steps listed in this article will help you start to build a social support network that is crucial for your mental wellbeing. Even though it's hard to get to know people especially if you're living in a large city, an easy first step is to join an interest group. Just spending time with a group of people with one similar interest will make it much easier to make new friends.
Please keep in mind that any advice given here should not be taken as an alternative to getting professional help. If your depression or emotional distress is too much for you to handle, please don't hesitate to seek professional counseling or help.
© 2018 KV Lo