While introverts and extroverts seem light years apart in terms of their preference for spending time with people, the truth is, both are equally subject to feeling lonely.
Feeling lonely and being alone are often confused — but are very different, as we emphasize with many of our life coaching clients. Loneliness occurs as the result of feeling disconnected from others, which can happen even when you are surrounded by people, whether at work, school, or in social situations.
Many people think that “finding the one” will cure their loneliness, but that’s not always the case. Profound loneliness can occur within the context of our closest relationships, waving a red flag worthy of our attention.
How to Deal with Loneliness: 7 Life Coaching Strategies
Certainly, some life events — the loss of a family member, a breakup or a cross-country move, for example — can trigger loneliness, but people can experience feelings of isolation at any time, particularly when they feel their interactions lack authenticity or emotional depth.
What can you do when loneliness strikes? Our life coaches recommend the following strategies:
- Reflect — If you can’t pinpoint an obvious reason for your feelings, you might need to dig a little deeper to find the source of your loneliness. Explore your emotions and what they might be telling you. Many of our life coaching clients find that certain periods of life bring transitions; is it time to expand your social circle, consider different career options or think about making other changes to enhance your life?
- Learn to enjoy alone time — Sometimes people who are used to being surrounded by others don’t know how to handle time by themselves. Growing up with siblings, going straight to a dorm or other shared living quarters, some people find it unsettling to have large chunks of time to fill, and interpret that anxiety as loneliness. If you can relate, instead of trying to find people to fill your time, why not try finding activities that you enjoy: reading an engaging book, watching a movie of your own choosing, working on a challenging puzzle or taking a relaxing bubble bath.
- Take a social media break — Seeing pictures of other people whooping it up on “girls’ night out” or enjoying beachy vacations with the extended (seemingly perfect) family is a surefire way to make yourself feel like you’re the only one without an exciting, photo-worthy life. While it might look that way on Instagram, it’s simply not the truth. Life ebbs and flows; there are good times and not-so-good times. Think about it: When was the last time you scrolled through your Facebook news feed and saw a picture of someone arguing with their partner, sitting at a sick parent’s bedside or struggling to pay bills? Keep in mind that, for the most part, social media is a place for people to showcase what they want the world to see.
- Volunteer — While lending a hand to an organization or another person in need is an act of altruism, it is also a way to combat loneliness. Research has proven that volunteering helps boost feelings of social connectedness, with both mental and physical benefits. Not only do you benefit from the interaction with others, but you remove the mental focus from yourself.
- Be proactive — While it’s easy to get caught in the “nobody cares about me” mode, sometimes you have to remind yourself that interactions work both ways. People get busy. It doesn’t mean they don’t care. Give yourself a little nudge to send a text, pick up the phone or initiate an email to a friend.
- Nurture your relationships — Give your relationships the time and attention they deserve. It’s so easy to get distracted, caught up in work, errands and social commitments that the seemingly urgent things in life get higher priority than those that really matter most in the big picture. Deep emotional connection, fostered by open and effective communication, is the true antidote to loneliness.
- Know that storms pass — It’s hard to envision a sunny sky on the other side of a violent thunderstorm, but eventually, it emerges. Likewise, take solace in the fact that the emotional cloud of loneliness will clear, even if it doesn’t feel like it in the moment.
Loneliness can be painful, and if it goes on for too long, has the potential to negatively impact your physiological well-being. If feelings of isolation persist, a life coach can help you explore different aspects of your life to help you uncover the source of your loneliness — and what you can do to enhance your interactions with others.
What strategies have helped you cope with loneliness?