What To Do If You’re Feeling Lonely (According to a Psychologist)

20 Oct ‘22
5 min
Lisanne van Marrewijk
Reviewed by psychologist Emma White
lonely
Despite the fact that it isn’t the nicest feeling in the world, it’s completely normal to feel lonely sometimes. Just as how you get tired when you’ve exerted too much energy, feelings of loneliness creep in when you’re by yourself, don’t feel connected to others or don’t know what you want from life.

 

It doesn’t matter what caused these feelings – more than anything, feelings are a navigational device. What matters is how you handle them. Because the important thing is that you can overcome feelings of loneliness. Psychologist Emma White explains.

 

Why do I feel lonely?

 

The word “lonely” tends to bring up a range of ideas and feelings. But what does it mean exactly? If you look it up in a dictionary, loneliness is often described as a ‘lack of companionship’. “But that’s not exactly what loneliness means and why somebody might feel lonely,” explains Emma.

 

“Loneliness is about not feeling connected to other people. That means that you can also feel lonely when there are loads of people around, but you don’t feel a click or connection,” explains the psychologist. “Someone who feels lonely is longing for an emotional bond with other people.”

 

Along with this emotional loneliness, you can also feel lonely because you’re lacking social contact in your life. This is called social loneliness. We also recognize existential loneliness: the feeling of not quite knowing where you belong or what the meaning of life is.

 

Have you ever wondered what loneliness means to you and how that feels?

 

Whichever form of loneliness we’re talking about, know that everybody experiences it sometimes. There’s nothing wrong with that; ultimately, you can’t have the closest relationships with everyone all the time. Often this feeling fades away again after a while.

Loneliness is more common than people think. A study found that between December 2021 and February 2022, 3.3 million people living in Britain were chronically lonely (or felt lonely all the time).

 

Know that you’re not the only one who feels the way you do. This fact alone can be quite comforting.

What if you continue to feel lonely?

 

It’s sometimes the case that feelings of loneliness persist and have an impact on your thoughts, mood and ability to function. But that doesn’t mean that you need to put up with these feelings.

 

Since loneliness feels different for everybody and has different causes, there are also different ways for each person to overcome these feelings. Emma has a few tips you can try.

 

Talk about it

 

Talking about your feelings is one of the most powerful steps you can take. It helps you release some of the tension you’d otherwise be holding on to and it makes it easier to deal with your thoughts, emotions and worries.

 

Do you feel lonely? Then talk about it with someone you trust. This might be a family member, a colleague you get on with well, someone in your neighbourhood or a psychologist.

 

Not sure there’s anyone you can talk to about this right now? It also helps to make a voice memo on your own phone, for example in a WhatsApp chat with yourself.

 

It’s a relief to talk about how you’re feeling in an unrestrained way. And afterwards, you can simply delete the message. We’d definitely recommend discussing it with somebody when you get the chance.

 

Write down your thoughts and feelings

 

As well as talking about it to other people, it also helps to write down your thoughts and feelings just for yourself. Writing is a way of processing your emotions and getting your thoughts straight.

It’s handy too: if you’re struggling to open up to others, it helps to write down your thoughts before sharing them with somebody else. By getting your thoughts straight, you’ll understand them better and this will make sharing them easier.

 

Reflect on what connection means to you

 

It helps to reflect on what connection means to you. How does it feel? When do you feel connected to the people around you? What sort of situations are these, who are you with and what causes it?

 

Consider what you can take away from these situations in terms of actively seeking connection again. Whether this means creating a good connection with yourself or others, doesn’t matter.

 

By reflecting on what connection means to you, you’ll gain insight into what you need to feel less lonely. Do you want to have more contact with people or simply be more open and deepen the relationships you have?

 

Be active

 

Exercising isn’t just good for your physical and mental health, it’s also the perfect way to meet new people with similar interests. Seek out a (new) sport that looks fun to you and book a trial lesson.

 

You can also use this as an opportunity to connect more deeply with somebody you already know. Ask another person if they fancy attending an exercise class with you or going on a weekly walk. By doing this, you won’t just encourage each other to exercise, you’ll also create a better bond.

 

Say “yes”

 

When you’re feeling lonely, you might (unconsciously) start saying no to things because they don’t seem like your thing or you’re not feeling up to it. Don’t sabotage yourself in this way – try saying “yes” more often. Saying yes means that you’ll be doing more things and you’ll be around people more often.

 

Embrace being alone

 

It helps to accept the feelings that you’re having and to embrace them. Learn how to have fun by yourself. See yourself as your own best friend and take yourself on dates.

 

Whether you sit and read a book in a coffee shop or take a trip to the cinema or a museum, do something fun. You don’t always have to be with someone else to have a good time. Chances are that you’ll find it more fun to be by yourself than you might have thought.

 

When you’re alone, ask yourself: how can I give myself what other people give me to create that sense of connection?

 

Focus on the things you can change

 

Fortunately, there are a lot of things you can change when it comes to loneliness, as the tips above show. Learn to admit when you’re lonely and take action by seeking out people, taking part in activities, and being open.

 

However, try to avoid focusing on the things that you can’t change. For example, it doesn’t help to compare yourself to other people. Focus on yourself and what you need right now.

 

Feeling alone is human

 

Loneliness is human and not necessarily a bad thing. “If a feeling of loneliness sweeps over you, then see it as a reminder to reach back out to your social contacts, meet new people or deepen your connections with family and friends,” says Emma.

 

Your feelings are there to tell you what you need. What are your feelings trying to tell you when you feel lonely?

 

Of course, you can also always discuss this with a professional. A psychologist will help you to discover where your feelings stem from and how you can overcome your loneliness. You really don’t have to go it alone.

 

Oh, and try this: Morning Meditation to Fill Yourself Up with Positive Energy (10 min)