Loneliness is not the same as being alone – we can be alone without feeling lonely, and on the other hand we can be surrounded by hundreds of people and still feel lonely. If we feel lonely it is probably because we don’t have the kind of close personal relationships that make us feel secure, comforted, and content. If this sounds like you, why not find out more about loneliness and what you can do about it.
Do I have a problem with loneliness
Although other people might have an opinion on the subject, you are the only person who can decide if you are lonely. It is not necessarily about how many friends you have or how much time you spend alone. Loneliness is how you feel about that – are you unhappy about it? If so, then it’s time to do something about it. Overcoming loneliness can be difficult, especially if you are shy, but you can tackle it in small steps.
Why am I lonely?
There are many reasons why we might feel lonely. It might be practical issues – like if you’ve recently lost a loved one (if so, you might want to find out more grief or just moved to a new area and don’t know anyone. It might be because you lack the confidence or the “know-how” to meet new people and form new friendships. It might be a result of other psychological problems. People who suffer from things like depression, anxiety or posttraumatic stress often become withdrawn and isolated, cutting themselves off from others. And the way we think is very important. When we are lonely, we often make it worse by thinking negatively – “there’s something wrong with me”, “I’ll always be alone”, or “no-one else feels like this”.
What can I do about it?
The first step to overcoming loneliness is to think about why you’re feeling like this. Different problems require different solutions.
- Do you have enough social contact in your life?
Do you have people you can talk to, go out with, ask for help from? If not, then building support through building relationships with other people might be your first task.
- Do you worry that you don’t have the “know-how” to develop relationships?
Is it hard for you to get conversations going, to think of things to say? Are you awkward and uncomfortable in social situations? If so, then doing some social skills training may be helpful. Although you can read about it from books and on the internet, the only real way to learn these skills is in person. Enquire at your local community health centre or neighbourhood house – many of them run social skills groups.
- Do you find that negative thoughts get in the way?
Are you always predicting the worst or putting yourself down? Remember that negative thinking is at the heart of loneliness: it is not being alone, it is what we think about being alone. The more we can think positively about ourselves, our lives, other people, and our futures, the more happy and successful we will be. Being pessimistic and expecting the worst runs the risk of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy; expect the worst and the worst will happen. Helpful thinking can change the way you feel. Visit the High Res website or app for useful online tools to assist with helpful thinking.
- Do you have enjoyable activities in your life (especially things you do with others)?
These may be hobbies or interests, sports, or voluntary work. Being with other people while you’re doing an activity together is a great way to build relationships without putting too much pressure on yourself. The Enjoyable and Rewarding Activities tool on the High Res website gives you ideas for things to do that will help you maintain a positive outlook. .
In the meantime, try to look for opportunities to get involved with others and say yes when the opportunity arises (even if it is a bit scary). And when you’re alone, try and enjoy yourself and feel comfortable. If you can enjoy and value your own company, there’s a good chance others will too.
If you’re struggling with loneliness, online communities can be a great source of connection and support:
- The Shed Online is an online social community for men, where you can socialise, network, make friends, and share skills.
- No matter how long you've been having problems, it's never too late to get treatment.