5 ways to beat loneliness

Loneliness can affect us all at different times, in different ways. Whether it's a fleeting feeling or a constant state of disconnection, here are five ways to beat loneliness

5 ways to beat loneliness

Source: Web exclusive, June 2010

From time to time, we all experience the odd bout of loneliness. Sometimes it can creep up on us during periods of change (like a move or the end of a relationship, for example), and leave us feeling physically or emotionally distanced from other people. Loneliness doesn’t just strike when we’re by ourselves, either. It can be just as easy to feel lonely in a throng of people when you’re feeling disconnected.

For some people, however, loneliness is more than a fleeting feeling. It can be a near steady state with long-term consequences. “I’d say it was a persistent sense of marginalization and exclusion, and a lack of intimacy,’ says Emily White, who experienced a four-year period of loneliness in her early thirties while working as an environmental lawyer in Toronto. ‘I felt a persistent sense of insufficiency’of not having enough people close to me, and that in turn led to a feeling of anxious aloneness.’

White, who recently described her experience in a book called Lonely: Learning to Live with Solitude, says the prolonged loneliness eventually began to have physical effects, disrupting her sleep and her health. ‘I started daydreaming a lot,’ she recalls, ‘and I wasn’t as sharp cognitively. Loneliness started to have an effect on me that was real and observable. It took me some time to figure out how deeply it was affecting me.’

According to White, roughly 10 percent of North Americans struggle with chronic loneliness‘a condition more prevalent than depression (and, it’s important to note, different from depression), though harder to understand and less frequently talked about.

‘It’s a common problem,’ agrees Toronto-based counsellor and psychotherapist, Lesli Musicar, who says that many people don’t admit they suffer from loneliness. ‘A lot of people who feel lonely, you’d never suspect in a million years,’ she says. ‘They might go out a lot, or be highly social, but their interactions stay mainly on the surface. So even though they may give the impression of being popular, those people may be feeling very lonely underneath it all because they aren’t letting people get close to them.’

While some people may be more predisposed to chronic loneliness than others, it can be overcome. Keep loneliness at bay with these tips:

1. Don’t isolate

When you’re feeling lonely already, it can be hard to think about trying to engage with other people, but keeping your own company may only make the problem worse. ‘Loneliness comes from people not feeling comfortable letting other people close to them,’ says Musicar, explaining that if you have a negative self-image, you may be afraid to let others get to know you for fear they might not like what they find. ‘If you can’t let people close to you, however, you are going to feel alone.’ The problem, she explains, is that when you isolate, there’s nobody around to challenge your negative self-image. ‘You have no reality checks’you only have your own view of yourself.’

2. Keep busy

Though it may be the last thing you want to do if you’re feeling isolated, Musicar suggests joining an group‘a book club, a sports team, choir or a gardening group, for example’where you can meet people who share you own interests. ‘If you join a group where the activity is meaningful for you, and you enjoy it, chances are it will bring out the best in you. And if you feel good while you’re engaged in that activity, it will help you feel more connected to the people around you because you have this one thing in common.’

3. Be kind to yourself

If you’re chronically lonely, you may be fearful of letting people get close. First, learn to love yourself! Fixing a negative view of yourself takes a lot of gentle self-care and nurturing. ‘The first relationship you need to work on is your relationship with yourself,’ says Musicar’and that may mean gently corrected ways of thinking you learned as a child. ‘If you were neglected or criticized,’ she explains, ‘you need to turn that around. You need to start treating yourself differently. The biggest challenge is to treat yourself well when you aren’t feeling good about yourself.’ Being happier with yourself will make it easier to reach out to others.

4. Get educated

Emily White started writing her book on loneliness because she was curious to know more about her condition. Her research actually helped her to feel less lonely by making it less mysterious, which made it easier to deal with. ‘The more you learn about loneliness and how common it is, the less alone you feel,’ she explains. ‘It’s hard to be lonely, but it’s harder when you don’t understand it or you feel alone in your loneliness.’

5. Find someone to reach out to

Whether it’s a friend, a family member or a therapist, finding someone to talk to about your situation can make a huge difference. ‘It’s the biggest challenge,’ says Musicar, ‘but it’s the most healing thing you can do for yourself. Our cultural stigma around loneliness makes the condition hard to talk about, but keeping your feelings hidden may leave you feeling worse. ‘When you feel bad about yourself,’ says Musicar, ‘that’s when you need to hear a different message about yourself. You need to hear from someone else that you matter and that you are worthy.’

Related:
How to meet new friends
7 ways work friends are good for you
How friends can help you lose weight

Don’t miss out! Sign up for our free weekly newsletters and get nutritious recipes, healthy weight-loss tips, easy ways to stay in shape and all the health news you need, delivered straight to your inbox.

 

Secrets to Staying Healthy & Happy

smoking_1

Event: Butt out for National Non-Smoking Week

We're half way through January and many of us are struggling to hold on to those New Year's resolutions. If your goal this year is to quit smoking, National Non-Smoking Week (NNSW) may be just what you need to get on track.Hosted by the Canadian … [Read More...]

money-healthcare

5 surprising ways being fit saves you money

Improve your fitness to improve your financesBeing is shape can benefit your health in many ways—reduced risk of disease, more energy and a longer life, just to name a few. But enjoying a healthy lifestyle and keeping fit could also lead to a … [Read More...]

insomnia_19

Natural home remedies: Insomnia

Source: 1,801 Home Remedies; Reader's DigestBefore-bed bites' Have a slice of turkey or chicken, or a banana before heading to bed. These foods contain tryptophan, an amino acid that's used to make serotonin. And serotonin is a brain chemical that … [Read More...]

polish

Are nail polish removers bad for your health?

Source: Best Health Magazine, September 2009; Photo courtesy JupiterImagesWhen you twist the lid off a bottle of nail polish remover, a sharp-smelling odour fills the air. It makes you wonder: Should I really be using this stuff? Is it dangerous? … [Read More...]

AUHODC-040-11610_Chili-SpicedSquashSoup

Chili-spiced squash soup

Ingredients2 slices whole wheat bread90 grams (3 oz) pepperoni sausage, diced1 large onion, chopped1 butternut squash or small pumpkin, peeled, deseeded and chopped1 green apple, peeled, cored and chopped1 garlic clove, crushed1 sprig of fresh thyme … [Read More...]