I spend a great deal of time talking with people about unhappiness. And in many cases, loneliness is the culprit. At our core, we are wired to be in relationship and community with others, and when we’re not, we naturally feel sad and alone. In America, a society obsessed with happiness, loneliness has become somewhat of an epidemic. In fact, a recent study revealed that nearly half of all Americans are lonely.
If you’re struggling with loneliness, take heart. Here are a few tips to help identify and overcome your hopelessness, while finding joy and meaning in your life.
- Feel it: The first step to overcoming loneliness is to feel it and understand it. When you’re aware of your true feelings, both physical and emotional, you’re better equipped to deal with them. Instead of ignoring that pit in your stomach or continually fighting back tears, allow yourself to experience it and release it.
- Face it: Along with feeling your loneliness, you’ll need to start facing it. As with all difficult things, the instinct is to run away or find distractions. The problem with trying to run from loneliness is that it always catches up with you. Instead of numbing your pain with unhealthy habits or exhausting yourself trying to stay busy, begin the hard work of tackling it.
- Share it: It’s impossible to receive help when you don’t ask for it. If you’ve allowed yourself to feel and face the loneliness, it’s time to admit it out loud. Talk with a friend, tell a loved one, or find a counselor. Do not try to overcome your loneliness in a vacuum.
- Accept it: The silver lining to loneliness is compassion – for you and for others. When you experience hardships, you are better able to empathize and care for those around you. Once you accept your situation – knowing that it’s just a feeling and not who you actually are – you can find other people in the same boat and help each other.
- Attack it: Overcoming loneliness is tough. If you want to create meaningful relationships with other people, you’ll need to show up and work hard. Stop waiting for the phone to ring; instead, take the initiative to reach out to others. Join a club, volunteer, invite a new friend to dinner, adopt a hobby and be willing to put yourself out there.
Loneliness, like many other emotional struggles, can teach us a lot of important lessons. Try to remember that this is just a season in your life. It does not define you, and help is available for those who are willing to receive it.
David Lowenstein, Ph.D. is a psychologist and the clinical director of Lowenstein & Associates, Inc. in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to providing therapeutic services to individuals and families, he offers training and consultation to numerous associations, schools and agencies around the country. Additionally, he is a frequent radio and TV guest and a resource and contributing writer for numerous newspapers and magazines nationwide. Contact Dr. David Lowenstein at 691 South Fifth Street, Columbus, Ohio, 43206, or call 614.443.6155 or 614.444.0432.