by Kahlia Meeuwsen, Lifestyle Columnist
Published in Lifestyle on 21st August, 2018
At times, loneliness can feel absolutely suffocating. Those who experience it feel alone, but at the same time it's a universal experience. Consequently, it's a difficult emotion to maneuver.
Loneliness is also a feeling that can appear in a number of ways for a number of reasons. In some cases, people can feel it even while in a space filled with people. It's an emotion that runs deeper than just being around people, and it signifies a need for a true connection. The good news is, there are ways to understand and cope with the feeling.
Loneliness is the feeling we experience when we're missing a social connection. Over time spent alone, you can begin to feel sad, alone and even trapped. This is a normal feeling that results from many years of evolution, so it serves a purpose.
Many of us know the concept that there is safety in numbers, and it's due to this concept that we begin to experience negative emotions when we spend too much time alone. Whether you're an introvert or extrovert, loneliness can become a problem if you've spent to much time alone.
It's also important to keep in mind that loneliness isn't an illness. It's a perfectly normal feeling, and is your mind and body telling you it needs more of a connection. Overall, humans are social creatures and need some time with others in order to feel whole and happy.
There can be a variety of reasons why we feel lonely. These can include the lack of a romantic relationship, friendships or just social connections as a whole. It can also come around after difficult events like a tragic death, end to a relationship or other situation.
One of the most common forms of loneliness we feel is due to the lack of, or ending of, a romantic relationship. There are few bonds that can grow more close than a romantic one, and it can be difficult to not have that relationship in your life. It's perfectly normal to feel lonely for this reason.
In addition, you may not feel like you have connections with those around you. This can not only leave you feeling lonely, but also alienated from others. This is especially true if the loneliness is paired with issues like anxiety or depression, which can make you not want to reach out.
If you remember nothing else about loneliness, it's extremely important to remember that it's a normal human experience. There's nothing wrong with feeling lonely. It doesn't signify that you're a loser, weak or anything else of that nature. Every human experiences this feeling at some point in their lives.
In the same vein, it's important to remember that you don't have to be lonely just because you're alone. Doing activities by yourself is perfectly acceptable, including things like going out to eat, going to movies or shopping. If you genuinely feel lonely, it's worth addressing. However, we can also have a tendency to convince people that they need to feel lonely every time they don't have someone to engage in certain activities with.
Make sure you take some time to think about why you feel lonely. That way, you can address any problems that need to be resolved, or accept that it's okay to be alone sometimes.
There are a lot of cultural pressures that can play into people becoming lonely. These can include having a lot of friends, getting married and staying with people you may not be entirely happy with to avoid becoming lonely, which can often backfire.
Consequently, it's important to remember that you don't need a certain person in your life in order for it to be full and happy. If a relationship, either romantic, platonic or otherwise, isn't fulfilling then it isn't worth keeping that person around to avoid a feeling that is perfectly natural.
The best possible cure for loneliness is finding real, fulfilling connections. If you remain around people you don't feel that kind of a connection with, you're likely to still feel lonely. The only difference is that it may be easier to hide that deeper loneliness behind the appearance of friends or relationships.
Kindness is something that can go a very long way, both to yourself and others. It can be so easy to get wrapped up in negative emotions and thoughts that come alongside feeling lonely. However, worrying about whether or not you fit in, are worthwhile or whether or not people like you can be very damaging. Consequently, when those thoughts come, it's important to slow down and remind yourself that the feeling of loneliness doesn't mean you don't deserve connections. Don't forget about your self care, taking deep breaths and moving forward as slowly as you need to.
It can be very difficult to reach out when you're feeling lonely. While it may not always make sense, people who are lonely may sometimes worry that they won't be a welcome presence. However, that kind of thinking is often untrue. Whether it's a friend, family member or new group, it's worthwhile to reach out somewhere for a connection that can help. It doesn't have to be anyone in specific, or anywhere in specific. The importance is on just being able to talk to someone.
In times when you're feeling lonely or down, it can help to try to focus on others rather than falling into a pit of self-pity. There are also so many ways to try out this path, including volunteering somewhere, joining a group or club and helping out or just talking to a friend about their day. After some time, you'll find that helping others can do a lot for your own emotional health. This is one of those instances where it's can be good to distract yourself from the negative feelings for a little while.
In some cases, feelings of loneliness can be compounded by negative thoughts. Messages like "I'm not good enough", "I'm a loser", and "No one wants me around" can flourish when you're already not feeling like yourself. When these thoughts pop up, it's important to stop them in their tracks by addressing them head on, and knowing that you are a worthwhile, delightful human being. This isn't an easy thing to accomplish, and you may find that you need to stop and address each negative thought carefully before moving forward.
One way to find some connections is to go out into the world and do something you like. There are groups and associations out there for just about everything, from video games to books to doing crafts. You can volunteer with animals or people or search for a local theater group you can join. Whether you want a big, boisterous group or a smaller, quiet one, there's something out there for everyone. You may even find that you try out a group you didn't think you'd like and actually love it.
Whether it's in a group, at work, in school or wherever else you choose, it's important to have a network. That doesn't mean you need a whole pack of friends to be happy, but a few good ones can be great to have around, especially when you're going through tough times. This also applies if you're in a romantic relationship, as spending all of your time and energy on one person can often do more harm than good. When you have more of a network, you'll have more people you can rely on. What that means is if something happens with one friend, or a significant other, you'll still have others to turn to.
Most importantly, it's important to be patient with yourself. Not everyone is going to have an easy time reaching out to others in order to cure their loneliness. You may find that you need to take baby steps, and that's perfectly okay. It's far better to move slowly and keep going than to try to rush yourself only to pull back and isolate yourself even more. In time, you'll find that it becomes easier to make and keep connections as well as reach out when you're in need.
Overall, remember that loneliness is a very normal feeling. While it can feel very isolating, remember that all humans feel lonely at some point in their lives. It doesn't mean there is anything wrong with you, just that there may be something in your life you need that you aren't getting.
Seeking out connections is a very important part of the human experience, even for the most intense introverts out there. Few of us can live happy lives with absolutely no genuine human connections. The good news is, there are plenty of ways to get out there and make your life more fulfilling.