I will never forget standing in the basement with water seeping up through cracks in the foundation, panicking and feeling completely alone. It was just me. Okay, yes, there were a couple kids around, but I was the only adult around I could see! Boy, did I feel alone. Of course I could call someone and get advice, but in that moment it was up to me to deal with the situation. I felt annoyed that I was alone, too. But I didn’t feel lonely, at least not in that moment. There is a difference.
We all go through periods of feeling alone and feeling lonely. Especially in today’s world where what used to be a physical meetup or social gathering is now just a string of emails or texts. But human interaction and connection is still a huge priority and critical human need for all of us. And when we are alone and wish we weren’t, that’s when the loneliness can creep in.
I will also never forget the times when my kids were at sleepovers and my husband was out of town, and being alone was awesome! Just because you are in the house by yourself, alone, doesn’t have to mean you are lonely. What do you make it mean when you are alone? See, that’s the key, the meaning you give it.
Now, I get it that sometimes we aren’t alone and can still feel lonely. Has this ever happened to you? This is where the meaning comes in.
In spite of the risks we find ourselves facing these days, finding ways to connect is critically important to offset your loneliness if being alone isn’t serving you right now. Connection fulfills us and gives us purpose, and it is our responsibility to find that connection when we crave it. So how are we supposed to deal with feeling alone and lonely?
Learning how to allow yourself to first sit with it to discern the difference is critical to moving forward when faced with either. Are you willing to sit with yourself, alone, to find out? If you do realize you actually are in need of connection, then make it happen!
When was the last time you sat down with a friend—whether it was in person or over the phone—and made a real connection with them that left you feeling whole? We could all use a little more of those interactions, couldn’t we? So why are those conversations so difficult to find? What makes them so elusive? Let’s break down this loneliness that we all so commonly experience.
What Does it Mean to Feel Alone?
Like I said before, we all go through periods where we feel lonely when we are alone, but what do those times really mean for our emotional wellbeing? And are they linked to other things we might be experiencing in our lives, or are they simply an unavoidable part of the human experience? Loneliness doesn’t simply mean to be physically alone, though that can be a big part of it. But, chances are, you know what it’s like to feel alone in a crowded room—we all know what that feels like.
Loneliness can be brought on by all kinds of things—life events such as a divorce, the loss of a loved one, a big move to a new place, a career change, and even something as simple as living by yourself for the first time. So if loneliness is virtually around every corner, how the hell are we supposed to avoid it? There are several ways to combat feeling lonely when we are alone, and we’re going to get into a few of them later. But first, let’s talk about the differences between loneliness brought on by some big life event vs loneliness that just seems to follow you around like a dark cloud no matter what the circumstances.
What Makes You Feel Alone?
What are some of the periods of isolation that you’ve experienced in your lifetime? Think back on them—or if you’re in that moment right now, think on where you currently are. Were you facing a big change in your life? Or were you just sort of stuck in one of life’s in-between stages where you felt alone and lonely? It’s possible that your loneliness and isolation were even rooted in a lack of self confidence or self worth. If you feel that you don’t deserve human connection, you probably won’t go out of your way to seek it out.
So the causes of loneliness can vary widely, but they always come back to the meaning you give being alone. If we aren’t aware of what we make being alone mean, loneliness can even sneak up on you seemingly out of nowhere! But here’s the good news: You can overcome that sense of feeling lonely and all alone no matter what originally brought those feelings on. Loneliness is never an incurable disease—you have the power to move past it!
The thing that makes loneliness difficult, however, is that it often feels like it will last forever—it can even feel like a death sentence at times. But listen to me on this: There are steps you can take to regain your senses of fulfillment and contentment, and move out of your period of feeling lonely and alone. You can do it.
The Key to Breaking Out of Feeling Lonely and Alone
I’m about to hand you the key to your freedom from loneliness. Are you ready? Life is waiting for you just on the other side of that door. If you want to overcome your feelings of isolation and loneliness, it’s time to start focusing on the quality of your relationships rather than the quantity of them. And the most important relationship to begin with is your relationship with yourself!
Did you know you are never alone? You always—and I repeat—always have yourself to rely on. Sure, this may sound like a cop-out, but the least lonely person knows they are the answer to their own prayers. They realize they have the power to step into a new story about being alone either circumstantially or personally. What is your story right now? How willing are you to implement a new approach and new dialogue around being alone in your life? This is the root cause of loneliness. It doesn’t actually have anything to do with friends or no friends, partner or no partner…
But let’s keep it simple for now, and begin with a bandaid approach so you can start realizing you’re more than your connections. Nobody is more lonely than the person surrounded by acquaintances. Did you catch that? Let me say it again. Nobody is more lonely than the person surrounded by acquaintances. It’s not about the fact that you went to dinner with ten people from work last night or had a Zoom cocktail hour with twenty people—it’s about the people you call when you need help repainting your living room, or the person you ask to come over when you’ve had an especially difficult day. Those are the connections that fill you up, and they’re the ones that you need to pour yourself into as well. So what if you only have access to one or two truly close friends? Focus on them to decrease your feelings of loneliness.
I know, I can hear you now. Relationships that are deep and strong are also hard to come by, and they’re not necessarily created overnight. They often happen over years of mutual work, struggle, determination, and love. So what are you supposed to do if you’re lonely and alone right now, and you don’t have any close relationships to fall back on? You can start by sewing those seeds that have the potential to grow into meaningful relationships. Go ahead, look around and find a friend or close family member you admire to call. Try it. You might like it!
And if that doesn’t get you going, don’t worry—there are other, more basic ways to overcome your feelings of loneliness and isolation as well, and they are a little less daunting than crafting long-lasting relationships. So let’s dive into those, and hopefully find a few that stick with you now.
How to Overcome Feeling Alone One Step at a Time
Moving away from your loneliness can be difficult, but there are things you can do in your everyday life to help you start that journey back to fulfillment and happiness, whether you are alone or not. These changes may not seem like much at first glance, but over time, as you take on more and more change into your life, everything will begin to add up. Like they say, if you want a different result, you need a different approach! What do you want to do about it?
Here are 6 of my favorite tips for shifting loneliness to simple aloneness and aloneness to a party of one that you crave on a regular basis:
1) Take inventory of your life. Buy a journal!
Write in a journal, and use that dedicated time to process how you’re feeling about your life, yourself, and others in your life. This may take some time, so be patient with yourself and the intended outcomes. What are the intended outcomes? To find not only yourself as your number one partner in life but also the friends you want to attract into your life! This process is a solution to many issues we all face when it comes to loneliness.
You see, writing out our feelings allows us to observe them, move slowly through them, and process them in a healthier way than what we might be capable of by simply thinking about them. It can be a very cathartic process, and it almost always leaves you feeling better about yourself and the problems you’re trying to work through than before you started.
“Better out than in,” my executive assistant used to remind me when I would find myself crying in the office during a moment of feeling alone. Yep, it is lonely at the top sometimes, and these practices and tactics work for the very successful among us as well! So, step one is to buy a journal that inspires you to write every day or every other day, and try to stick to that routine as long as it takes. How willing are you to try this? Trust me, it works!
2) Focus on self care now!
When I ask my clients how they are doing on their self care practices, they always say they could do better. What does “doing better” look like for you when it comes to meeting your primary needs? Exercise, water intake, healthy eating, sleep, etc. Focusing on your wellbeing may be an action you uncover from your journaling. What do you need more of in your life to feel better about yourself?
Self care is not selfish and is a foundational solution to multiple problems related to stress, anxiety, and even loneliness. If the idea of exercising or eating differently is intimidating to you, you’re not alone! Allow yourself the freedom to start small. Maybe try going for a daily walk around your neighborhood or doing a ten-minute yoga routine before going to bed. You’ll be surprised at how much this helps. Until your primary needs are met, you won’t address aloneness that feels lonely. How willing are you to do something to support your self care? And if you are not sure, why?
I like to watch this commercial, and it reminds me of my why for self care.
3) Lie to yourself, and write a new story.
You heard me. Go look in the mirror right now and tell yourself a bold faced lie! Repeat after me: I am not lonely! The good news here is that you are not your emotions. So, actually, you didn’t lie at all. You are simply feeling lonely, feeling alone. There is a big difference. Say it again. Look into your own eyes and say, “I am not lonely! I am simply feeling alone at this moment. I have the power to change how I feel!” And that, my friend, is where the new story begins.
If you weren’t feeling lonely, how would you like to feel? Go write this down in that journal you got earlier. Write down everything you wish you were feeling, but write it as if it has already happened. Instead of I wish I didn’t feel lonely, change the words to I am alone, but I do not feel lonely! I feel supported and surrounded by love and companionship.
Now go back to the mirror. Say that aloud to yourself! Again. Again. You are your number one companion. And when you make friends with you, I promise that your friends, family, and support systems are attracted like a magnet of love and support! How willing are you to go look in the mirror right now?
4) Focus on someone else. Volunteer your time.
This is a huge step in the right direction, because it not only gives you the perfect opportunity to do something worthwhile and meaningful based on causes you care about, but it also puts you in the path of other people who believe in the same things as you. You see what we’re doing here? Time to attract and meet others in your world who you might want to hang out with or something even better! Who knows!
But what we do know is, for example, volunteering at your local animal shelter can be an incredible way to make a difference and meet people who share your love of animals. Volunteering at your local library can be a great way to meet other bookworms and create connections based on shared interests and experiences.
Find an organization near you that could use a helping hand, and go sign up! Even if it’s a virtual committee or making deliveries for your chosen charity. How willing are you to pause and put all of your lonely energy toward helping and supporting someone else? Pause and ponder.
5) Meet up, join up, sign up!
Just like supporting a charity or non-profit, this is another great way to meet people who share your interests and experiences. If you’re in school, check out what clubs your school has to offer. Chances are, you’ll fit right in with at least one of them! And if you’re not in school, an easy place to start looking for clubs is your local library where they offer clubs centered around tons of different hobbies, from board games to STEM to writing. Or join a chat group online with Discord. How willing are you to seek out a club or online community? What if it turns out to be amazing?
6) Look for positive relationships everywhere.
As a living, breathing human being, you’re probably going to have multiple social interactions every day—even if that simply means the phone call with the bank teller or the quick conversation with the grocery store clerk. I’m not telling you to turn those people into your best friends. I’m simply saying that creating a positive interaction in those smaller moments can add up over time, and they can give you something helpful to focus on as you keep going.
You are the magnet of your thoughts and your attitude, so the key takeaway here is to choose those thoughts and attitude wisely to attract more of what you want. In this case, you’re seeking companionship and feelings of support. You don’t want to feel alone, right? Not only does this approach work with minor daily interactions, it really works when the relationship you seek is first and foremost with yourself. How willing are you to look for the positive in others and yourself? Maybe go back to the mirror and strike up a positive conversation with yourself? Yep. This is so important.
We All Feel Alone Sometimes, But We Don’t Have to Feel Lonely
Remember that feeling alone is as common as breathing for us humans—and we all experience loneliness at different points in our lives. This is so normal!
That day when I was standing in water, holding the mop and crying because no one was there to help me was a completely normal reaction. But I only had time to stand in that loneliness and feeling of aloneness for a short time, because something had to be done, and I was the only one there to do it. So I did!
I took responsibility for how I felt, and then chose to respond by telling myself I could do it. I wasn’t alone—I had me, myself, and I, so I cleaned up the mess. Remember, it’s not that you go to the space of feeling alone or lonely. The question is how long do you stay there? How willing are you to try the above practices to let go of your lonely? I believe in you! You can do it. And know that I’m cheering for you! See, you aren’t alone at all.