We’ve all heard of the saying “No man is an island”, but why do we often feel like an island, despite all our Facebook friends and frequent contact with other people? In particular, as we go through a major life transition or relationship breakdown, we find ourselves plagued by a profound sense of loneliness and isolation. Here are the top 6 ways ways to overcome loneliness that I have found to be really helpful:
1. Have the right mindset
It’s tempting in our modern, hyper-connected world to think that you never have to be alone. However, technology – in particular social media – gives us a false sense of connection. How many of your Facebook friends can you reach out to when you really need help? On the other hand, just because you are alone doesn’t mean that you have to feel lonely, or that you will be lonely for the rest of your life. Know the difference between solitude and loneliness and learn to appreciate and enjoy solitude for the opportunity to connect with yourself, while at the same time take steps to connect with other people.
2. Weed out toxic people
This is like getting rid of weeds before you plant your garden. Create space in your life for relationships that lift you up rather than pull you down, as toxic people make you feel even more disconnected and lonely. You are allowed to fire your friends or even your family members! Sometimes we stay in unsatisfying relationships because we think we don’t deserve to be in healthy relationships with loving individuals, and we imagine that if we were to tell people we are lonely, it would scare them away. So we suffer in silence behind a mask of normalcy and we wonder why we feel so lonely.
3. Be proactive
Loneliness feeds on itself. Our feelings of unworthiness – I’m not interesting/ funny/ pretty enough, or I’m too old/ fat/ independent – keep us isolated, then we take our lack of friends or partner as evidence that there is something wrong with us and it deepens our feelings of unworthiness. As a result, we become even more withdrawn and isolated. We need to break this cycle by taking action. Don’t wait for an invitation. Be proactive and invite people to share in your life, whether it’s for a coffee, a movie or a gathering in your home. What’s the worst that can happen? Yes they might say no, but then you’ll just end up where you were before. However, they might say yes. You have at least a 50% success rate.
We often overestimate the risk of taking action and underestimate the risk of inaction. What’s the cost of your isolation and loneliness, say, 3 years or 5 years from now? If you can’t bear to think about the answer, it’s a sign that you need to be proactive. NOW. Check out Part 2 of the 2-part series on the top 6 ways to overcome loneliness.