The Effect of Loneliness

Constant chatter fills our world. Everywhere we look, there’s something new being written, shared, or voiced. Unfortunately, most of the conversations are online. People migrate to social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to share their stories and express their thoughts and opinions on everything. The online world is filled with people but lacks what we need: human contact.

We need to look at what loneliness is before discovering how to socialize without gathering in groups. Loneliness is real; feeling lonely comes from mental and emotional survival instincts. In the past, human beings needed to be in groups to survive, and the need to be a part of a group still exists in our DNA.

Loneliness is activated when we feel abandoned. We know what it feels like to be abandoned, even if it was for a short period. Can you recall a time you felt left out? The feeling of being left out or not a part of something kicks in our sense of being lonely. COVID-19 is a catalyst for feelings of abandonment and loneliness. We no longer feel like we are part of anything. 

We experience isolation because of social distancing. Activities that consist of large groups are either canceled or restricted from meeting. The urge to crawl into a place of solitude and loneliness increases as we remain in quarantine. We can learn to cope with loneliness by becoming more involved in social activities. A problem with events, though, is many rely on groups of people socializing. The need to be creative while in quarantine is essential. Instead of the usual tips to get you out and socializing, we will explore alternative ways to socialize and remain socially distant.

Reach Out

Despite social distancing and quarantine, we can reach out and make meaningful contact with others. Here are a few ways:

· Join online groups that share the same interests as you. The key to joining a group with similar or the same interests as you is to participate in the group. Give advice, support another, and chat. When you become active in the group, you will feel a sense of community. Use the feeling of belonging to something to help you combat loneliness.

· Sometimes, we don’t feel a connection in a group; try another group. Keep trying until you find the right fit.

· Get out of your head. The more we focus on being lonely, the more we will feel lonely. Instead of focusing on yourself and your feelings, take the time to focus on others. Pay attention to what they say, do, and feel. Spending time thinking about others is time spent expanding our view on the world.

· Find a new interest. Social distancing and quarantine is a great time to try something new. There are online forums and classes you can join and learn about something you have wanted to try or are curious about. As you learn, you can talk with others.

· Talk to others. Talking with others can seem impossible if you are social distancing. However, figuring out how to communicate with others is possible. The urge to share with others is natural if you think outside of the box. We go on social media sites and show pictures of food, places, or achievements. Instead of focusing on those things, you can take the time to look at other people’s posts and interact with them.

· Social media isn’t the only way to connect. Pick up the phone and talk with others. Share your stories and feelings with someone. Listen to what they share with you and be an active participant in the conversation. Be mindful by paying attention to the discussion and not being distracted.  

· Get out of the house. Social interaction can be challenging right now, but get out of the house. Go to a park, the mountains, lake, ocean, or anyplace in nature near you. Walk around, breathe in the air, and pay attention to your surroundings. Watch the birds, squirrels, and other wildlife. Enjoy being in the present.

· Practice self-kindness. Be gentle with yourself. Forgive yourself for feelings of self-doubt, loneliness, and negative thoughts. Being lonely is hard.

· Start living differently. What does this mean? Too often, we lose ourselves in things that we do. We go to work, create lists of stuff to start or finish, come home, turn on the tv, and chill. We are alone. Break these patterns and change how you go about your day. We can’t stop going to work, but we can talk more to people. We can push ourselves to go out within small social groups instead of curling up at home on the couch. Going to a yoga studio or gym is another way to live differently. Many gyms and studios have adjusted their practices or classes to maintain social distancing.

· If going out is still scary or uncomfortable for you, that’s okay. You can socialize with others online by joining groups that play video games, volunteer, or hold video calls.

· We were taught not to talk to strangers, but go ahead and start a conversation with the cashier, salesperson, or person in line. Even a small discussion can decrease the feeling of being alone.

We can work on our feelings of being alone when we make small changes in our lives. However, there are times when even a tiny change may not be the answer to your loneliness. Be kind to yourself and listen to what your mind is saying. You need to address feeling alone.

Feeling lonely can be addressed when you change how you think about social interactions. People, places, and activities can get you involved in the world around you. The first step is up to you and your comfort level. Instead of passively interacting on social media, be a part of it by giving something of yourself. Take the time to call someone, get out, and join a small group that practices social distancing. Most of all are kind, be gentle, and forgive yourself when you feel negative about yourself. If you think you need advice or help with learning how to become involved with people, SokyaHealth can help you. Call us at 866-932-1767 to find out more about our group programs.

More than 50% of Americans struggle with mental health.

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