Loneliness is On the Rise
If you are feeling lonely, you are not alone. Kind of ironic, but true. The world is full of lonely people. In fact, loneliness is on the rise. Research shows that the rate of loneliness in the U.S. has doubled over the past thirty years. Today about 40% of Americans (60 million) report being lonely. In the 1980s, it was only 20%. (General Social Survey).
For some reason in this world full of people, we are struggling to find friends and make relationships that last.
Being lonely is a sad and unhealthy way to live. To be happy we need intimate bonds with others. We need to have people we can confide in. We need people who will support us and people whom we can support in return. We are created to live in community.
If you are finding yourself struggling with feelings of loneliness, let me encourage you that this does not have to be a permanent issue, and there are things you can do to fight against it.
What is Situational Loneliness?
Seasons of mild loneliness are totally normal. There are situations in everyone’s life that leave us feeling lonely. These seasons can be caused by a number of situations.
- A move to a new city
- A loved one died
- A change of school or job
- A new social network with people that are very different than you…you don’t have a common bond of faith or culture or interests, etc
- You have no romantic interest at the time
Situational loneliness is temporary, because situations change over time.
What is Chronic Loneliness?
Chronic loneliness on the other hand is a continual state of feeling lonely with no end in sight. You have a void of real emotional bonds with anyone that you can trust and confide in.
Let me warn you, it can be easy to wallow in a state of situational loneliness to the point that you let it turn into chronic loneliness. It is important to take steps to fight against the feelings of loneliness before it becomes a chronic problem for both mental and physical health reasons.
When you start to feel lonely you can also start to feel ashamed, and then you can start to think of yourself as a loser. If you allow yourself to believe that you may become reluctant to meet new people and before you know it you are stuck in a lonely state.
Licensed psychologist, author and speaker, Guy Winch, PhD, says, “Loneliness creates a deep psychological wound that distorts our perceptions and scrambles our thinking. It makes us think that those around us care much less than they actually do. It also makes us afraid to reach out because we don’t want to set ourselves up for rejection and heartache when our heart is already aching.”
Feeling lonely, what can you do?
To begin with let’s acknowledge that loneliness is a FEELING not a fact. You can have all kinds of people in your life and still FEEL lonely. So here are 10 tips to help you move past this feeling.
10 Tips to End Loneliness
1. Realize you are not unusual - As the statistics show, you are not alone in feeling lonely. 40% of people are just like you. This doesn’t make the feeling any easier, but it may help to know you are normal and not unusual.
2. Let loneliness remind you of the value of connecting with others. Don’t give up on the importance of connecting with others. Let this feeling motivate you to seek relationships.
3. Identify your lonely thoughts. Write down some of the negative thoughts that you have when you are lonely. Do you think things like: “I will always be alone”, “If I am alone, I have to feel lonely and unhappy.”, “I must be a loser, because I am alone.” “No one must like me. Something must be wrong with me.” If so, try to come up with rational responses to those thoughts:
- Are you really always going to be alone or might you be interacting with people soon…at work, school, church, waiting in line, or participating in an activity. You are not on a deserted island.
- Do you have to feel sad because you are alone? Being alone doesn’t mean you have to be sad.
- Are you really a "loser" because you are alone? Everyone is alone at some time or another. Being alone is a situation — and situations change.
4. Use Alone Time Wisely – If you find yourself alone, you can choose to dwell in your loneliness or attempt to use your alone time to do a solo activity that you enjoy and become good at it. Maybe it’s reading, cooking, baking, golfing, fishing, etc.. Then use your new skill as a way to connect with others. Find a group with similar interests or use it as a conversation starter when you meet new people.
5. Get Off-Line - The internet can make us feel lonely because we attempt to substitute real relationships with online relationships. Though we temporarily feel better when we engage others virtually, these connections tend to be superficial and ultimately dissatisfying. Yet lonely people can exert so much energy to feel connected on-line that they don’t put forth effort to build off-line, fulfilling relationships. Additionally, the internet can get in the way when you are actually with someone in person, but you are both constantly on your phones. Meaningful conversation still won’t occur if you are both on-line.
6. Don’t miss positive social cues - Lonely people can be so wrapped up in their feelings of loneliness that they are less able to pick up on positive social cues, like others’ attention and or signals from others that they are willing to commit to a friendship. Without picking up on these cues, lonely people withdraw prematurely. Open your eyes and look for what others may be communicating to you.
7. Fight the emotional habit of loneliness - Realize you are dealing with an emotional habit and be willing to do the hard work of combating it. Invite someone out or initiate a conversation. It will be worth it. The emotion of loneliness can pass, depending on what you're thinking and what you're doing.
8. Focus on the needs and feelings of others. Shifting your focus from how bad you’ve got it to how you can bless others will go a long way in combating loneliness.
9. Develop realistic expectations – If you are expecting a new friend to call you constantly or spend time together daily, or share every detail of their life, you may be disappointed. Your friendship is not diminished if your time together is limited. People have busy lives and are balancing many relationships and work or school. Don’t give up on a relationship just because they aren’t able to give as much as you expect.
10. Remember you are never truly alone - it is important for us to know that we are never truly alone. God promises to never abandon us and to always be with us and strengthen and help us and uphold us. If you are facing a season of feeling isolated, turn to God. Learn to trust Him through prayer and reading the Bible. Welcome His presence into your life.
You can do this! Put yourself out there, make new friends or renew old friendships. You will be so happy you did!