“The eternal quest of the individual human being is to shatter his loneliness.” ~Norman Cousins
Loneliness … sigh.
It hurts on the inside and feels pathetic on the outside, doesn’t it?
You’re physically and mentally isolated from everyone.
And if something unforeseen were to happen to you such as falling down stairs and being knocked unconscious (God forbid), would anyone really notice? Admit it, a predicament like that has probably gone through your mind at least once in your life.
At least in my mind it has.
Years ago, I was single and moved out of the city for a new job.
Though my new place was only an hour’s drive away from friends and family, I felt like I was living on Pluto.
How Loneliness Can Make You Feel Starved
Living away from everyone I knew and loved, I became lonely and depressed. I felt as if I weren’t part of this world any longer—like I was absolutely worthless. No feeling of importance … nothing.
In hindsight, I realized my family and friends were my invisible support structures. Without them, I’d soon find out I had nothing holding me together.
Sure, I was independent, but that was getting food or taking care of myself. Things like that. But something was still missing. Something I couldn’t give myself even if my life depended on it.
Some kind of connection.
A feeling like I mattered … to someone, anyone.
People close to you are like mirrors. Reflecting their reactions, thoughts, and feelings at you. If you’re deprived of that, you’re starving yourself of what it means to be human.
Low Points in Life Are Meant to Help You See the Light
How can you pull yourself out of the abyss if no one is there to give you a hand?
My co-workers were new and still strangers. Admittedly, I was an introvert and didn’t have the desire to speak to fresh faces. Yeah, I’d call my family once and awhile, but I still felt empty.
How can you feel your worth if no one is physically there to share it with?
I didn’t have an outlet for stress besides beer and cigarettes. This beast called loneliness was destroying me from the inside out.
Why bother helping myself when I felt that nobody gave a damn about me in the first place?
Months dragged on, I could barely take it any longer, and then it hit me.
I realized I was guilty of causing my current reality. No one else or no outside force was causing me to feel this way.
I was the one who decided to move to a different location, feel sorry for myself, and prevent myself from getting better. No one did this to me but me.
You Can Control Loneliness; Loneliness Doesn’t Have To Control You
When loneliness strikes us, we struggle to open our eyes, stop letting loneliness hurt us, and do something about it. Thankfully, there are a few essential steps that can help us succeed:
1. Stop building your own obstacles.
Constantly working overtime at your job, ignoring invitations, or being a homebody are self-built walls that separate you from the outside world.
To have some sort of connection with others, you’ve got to figure out how to stop shooting yourself in the foot even if you’re not doing it intentionally.
Take a good look at your lifestyle, and figure out what’s closing you off from others. Is it you (your personality traits, quirks, likes and dislikes) or your predicament (your job or living situation)?
Stop working overtime for once, and spend time with friends who you’ve put off for a while. Or stop binge-watching your favorite shows, and just get out of the house.
You’ve got to find out how to free yourself before you can help yourself.
2. Don’t substitute a computer for the real thing.
Technology can never replace human touch. From the moment you’re born and held as a baby, the touch you felt helped promote healthy psychological and physical development inside you.
Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean that lack of contact still won’t affect you.
Connecting with someone through social media, Skype, or phone calls is nice (nothing wrong with that), but physically being next to family or friends is a million times better and much more effective. Why?
Because you can’t digitize a hug or a handshake.
3. Find the root of your loneliness.
The following things can cause loneliness: being an introvert, lacking social skills, suffering from depression, or being negative.
Whatever it may be, you’ll need to acknowledge it. Then focus on developing your self-esteem and your social adeptness to tackle those causes.
Loneliness at its very core begins with the relationship one has with one’s self. Don’t berate yourself or dwell on bad experiences every day. Learn to love yourself.
A lonely person needs to reconnect with the self first. Otherwise, all other relationships will be unhappy and uncertain.
4. Reach out when necessary.
Social interaction is like food. In fact, evidence suggests that if we are starved of this basic staple, we may fall apart mentally and physically.
Don’t wait until it’s too late to ask for help. Repercussions can range from minuscule to severe. You may brush it off as nothing or do something to harm yourself (drugs, alcohol, or self-inflicted pain). Please don’t let that happen.
As bad as something may seem, people do care about you. Even people who don’t even know you yet can care about you.
Schedule a meeting with a counselor or therapist if you have more complex issues.
5. Consciously create new friendships (even if you’re an introvert).
Introduce yourself to that unknown co-worker you’ve seen countless times walking in your direction at work, or strike up a conversation with new neighbors that just moved in your area.
It’s amazing how we can choose who to let in our door and who we can shut out. You are your own gatekeeper.
Spend your day deliberately creating new friendships when the opportunity arises. The number of new faces you can introduce into your life at any given time is up to you.
6. Help others.
Helping or volunteering is a natural instinct that fulfills our internal needs. Not only will you be lifting the other person’s spirits, but you’ll also be lifting yours as well.
When you’re helping others even if it’s a tiny act of kindness, you’re not only making a huge difference for them, you’re also gaining a stronger sense of purpose.
But most importantly, you’re creating a special bond with another human being. Being united with one person or a group of people is the key to eliminating loneliness.
7. Adopt a dog from a pet shelter.
Companionship doesn’t necessarily have to come from other Homo sapiens. Dogs can give us unconditional companionship as well.
Imagine how happy and anxious they’ll be when you get home—they’re always loyal and by your side.
Research has shown that people with pets feel less lonely because pets can provide a sense of social support.
8. Join a group based on your interests.
Got an interest in painting? There’s a group for that. How about bowling? There’s a club for that. Whatever it may be, tons of groups are out there that can pique your interest.
What better way to develop a new skill or polish an old one right now and do it with like-minded people who share your enthusiasm.
Do your research, and join a club, class, or social group. Sharing similar interests with others is a great way to forge new friendships.
You Are Your Only Hope
You’re the only one who can keep your loneliness in check. If you don’t, it’ll sneak up on you and suffocate your social life. It will then trickle into your mental and physical health and do its damage there.
No one knows you better than you, and no one can read your mind. Remember, before someone can help you, you have to address the problem and help yourself first.
No one can connect with you if you’re locked away at work or cooped up at home either.
Make the time and effort, and get in communication with others. Make that date, that appointment for counseling, or that get-together. Make sure you actively put yourself out there.
An amazing human being is suppressed inside of you anxiously waiting to connect with another human being.
All you have to do is free yourself, be fearless, and take that first step.
Lonely man image via Shutterstock