Thanks to the internet and social media, the world has never been so connected. You can keep up with friends around the world regularly, and talk to your loved ones from different ends of the earth within minutes.

Ironically, reports of loneliness and feelings of isolation have been higher than ever in recent years.

In 2018, a survey showed that 22 percent of adults in America have recurring feelings of loneliness and isolation.

In this modern world, social media has brought everyone together, but is it the cause of the high loneliness rates?

Many experts think so.

They say that unhealthy social media habits are directly linked to the decline in mental health because of the unrealistic standards they set for people.

It also lets people get away without physical contact, which is unhealthy because, as humans, we need good relationships to function well.

Fig 1: The loneliness epidemic. Source: Campaign to End Loneliness

HOW TO RECOGNIZE LONELINESS

First of all, you need to identify the difference between loneliness and feelings of isolation. If you feel isolated, you can fix it by reaching out to people and surrounding yourself with them.

But, you can still feel lonely when surrounded by people. Loneliness is more of an emotional feeling that can lead to depression.

Here are some signs that you may be lonely:

  • You feel tired and reluctant to get up from bed in the morning
  • You’re easily irritated by the smallest things
  • You start getting ill easily
  • You use food, alcohol, or other coping mechanisms to distract yourself

EFFECTS OF LONELINESS ON THE BODY

The thing about loneliness is that it is primarily a mental and emotional feeling, but it can also show in your physical health.

You may notice that you have less energy or motivation to get up and go out, or it can manifest in the form of physical illness; some of them are

  • Low immunity
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased inflammation
  • Heart disease
  • Insomnia

Fig 2: Effects of loneliness on your body. Source: The Madisonian

WHAT TO DO WHEN YOU FEEL LONELY

1. Admit it. It won’t hurt.

Accepting that you’re lonely is hard. Really hard. It’s even harder to admit it to other people. But, the first step towards solving a problem is acknowledging that you have one.

The stigma that comes with loneliness stems from the idea that lonely people are losers and failures at life.

That isn’t true, because some people living enviable lives and surrounded by friends also experience loneliness. If you keep denying your loneliness, you don’t give yourself enough time to recover and help yourself.

Rather, you allow yourself to wallow in your loneliness, which is not a healthy habit.

2. Count your already existing blessings.

It’s hard to look on the bright side when you’re under a dark cloud of sadness and loneliness, but it is vital because it opens your eyes to what you already have and might be missing out on.

Yes, you may feel lonely and friendless, but what about your family and other people, you know?

You may not see them the same way you see your friends, but they are still people whose company you can enjoy.

You can count anybody you come in contact with, from the bus driver to your neighbor who says good morning every day.

Every connection is important, and you should be grateful for that.

3. Know that you’re not alone.

When you feel lonely, you may feel like the only person going through it. But, according to research, almost half of adults in America report feelings of loneliness or being misunderstood.

It got so bad that the Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, called it an epidemic. Some experts blame the rising number of lonely people on the increase in social media use and technology.

Apparently, with more people using them, we have less human contact, which is important for our health. Knowing that you’re not alone in the struggle should be a motivator for you to get up and look for ways out.

4. Take time for yourself and motivate yourself.

At the end of the day, when everyone goes their separate ways, you are left with yourself, so why not be your cheerleader?

The love you show yourself cannot compare to what you receive from other people. When you depend on others for validation, they control how you see yourself and how you feel.

So, ensure that you take the time to know yourself better and be your biggest motivation.

The time you spend with yourself can be spent meditating, or on some solo activities that don’t require anyone else.

When you spend time in your own company, you find yourself less dependent on the presence of other people for happiness and contentment.

5. Put some love into the world.

The law of attraction says we attract what we put out into the universe.

In this case, showing random acts of kindness to strangers and even family and friends can change the way you see the world.

Something as simple as smiling at the barista that serves you your morning coffee, or giving a homeless person some change can trigger a release of endorphins and oxytocin in your brain.

Other ways of giving back are joining a local charity or volunteering in retirement homes or shelters. The feeling of doing good deeds for others will help you appreciate things more, and you’ll end up noticing when others show you kindness too.

6. Find an extracurricular activity.

Many times, all you need to combat the feeling of loneliness is something to keep you busy. Extracurricular activities like hiking, swimming, running, or even fishing, give you a sense of purpose.

You can venture on your new journey alone, or you can join a group of people and make friends while you’re at it. Participating in groups can be a fun way to spend your free time, and you can learn a new thing at the same time.

If you’re not interested in doing anything tasking, you can easily join a movie club or book club and talk about your favorite movies and books. If you’re wary of joining a group activity, you can try out any of the here and have fun.

7. Show yourself some love.

Many people don’t recognize love when they see it, so they tend to live in a bubble without realizing the signs of love from the people around them.

Most times, these people don’t understand what it means to be loved.

The best and most important love has to come from within, and if you don’t love yourself correctly, you won’t recognize it when someone else shows it to you.

Take yourself out on dates. Splurge on yourself once in a while. You can repeat positive affirmations daily if that’s something you like.

Do everything in your power to love yourself, and you will notice an improvement in how you feel.

Fig 3: Loneliness amongst senior citizens. Source: Welbi

8. Get creative.

One of the best ways to occupy yourself when you feel lonely is to create something, anything at all.

It can be a drawing, a clay pot, or a joke script. Dr. Jeremy Nobel says that engaging your creative side can help you out of your negative thoughts and also make you feel more connected to people. He personally enjoys writing, and this is something anybody can do.

You can start a journal, documenting everything in your day can give you some sort of fulfillment and something to look forward to every day.

You don’t have to take this seriously; you can keep it private or share it with some people.

9. Get a furry friend.

Pets are a lot more than the cute, furry animals that keep you company.

A study revealed that having a pet around releases oxytocin in the brain, which makes you feel better and experience less pain.

So many people require therapy animals, especially dogs, to function appropriately in society.

So, getting a cute dog to keep you company will do wonders for your health while also helping you feel less lonely. If you can’t keep a permanent pet, you can volunteer at a pet shelter a few days a week.

10. Improve your lifestyle and cut down on bad habits.

One particular bad habit that many people have is a phone or social media addiction.

You may not notice it, but if you find yourself spending all your free time on your phone, or you find it hard to keep it aside when you have something important to do, chances are you have a phone addiction.

According to experts, too much social media makes it easier to ignore physical human interactions, and this can lead to loneliness and, sometimes, depression.

Learn to put your social media aside for some time every day, and go in search of physical interactions.

You will also feel better if you improve your day to day schedule and incorporate a lot more exercise, healthy eating, and other healthy habits.

At most, you will have something to distract you from how lonely you feel.

Fig 4: Social media’s effects on loneliness. Source: EurekAlert

11. Most importantly, get some professional help.

Therapy cannot be overemphasized when it comes to your health and well-being. Loneliness affects you more than you think, and sometimes you can only overcome the effects with the help of mental health professionals.

If you feel like you’ve tried your best, but you still feel lonely, counseling may be the best choice for you.

There is some stigma attached to therapy, as some people see it as a sign of weakness.

But, in your opinion, who’s the braver one, someone who admits that they have a problem and seeks help or someone who denies it and hides from the truth?

The sooner you engage the help of a mental health professional, the sooner you can get to the root of your loneliness.

5 TIPS ON HOW TO MAKE FRIENDS

Leave your house

You can’t make friends if all you do is sit at home. Once in a while, you need to go out into the real world and meet people face to face.

Okay, you can always make friends online, but making friends around your neighborhood or workplace is more effective at solving your loneliness.

You need people you can meet up with easily when you feel lonely, and who can be there to help in times of need.

Talk to strangers everywhere

Many people are afraid of talking to strangers, and this is something you were probably taught as a child.

But, if you want to make friends, you need to let go of your stranger danger instincts and be open to more options.

Make it a habit to approach at least one stranger in any event or gathering you find yourself in and make a connection. Who knows, maybe you’ll find a few people who have things in common with you.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to old acquaintances

Yes, this can be incredibly difficult to do, especially if you’re not used to it.

But, most times, you will find it easier to reconnect with someone you already have a history with than finding a new person.

You don’t have to reach out to everyone; just make a list of your old friends and pick a few you had a good relationship with.

You can send a message to them on a holiday if you’re worried about what to send. A simple ‘Happy holidays’ can rekindle a friendship you thought you’d lost.

Create a social media profile

You can’t ignore the fact that we’re in a digital world now, and most interactions happen online.

Why would you deprive yourself of a presence in the biggest community?

With a social media profile, you get access to people from around the world that you definitely wouldn’t meet in your city.

Social media opens you up to the world and vice versa, and you have a larger pool to work with. Make sure you’re actually active, and you interact with people.

Meet people with similar passions

You’re more likely to connect with people who think like you and like the same things as you.

So, take your time and identify what you like, then go out to places where people with similar passions are likely to be. Hilary Jacobs Hendel, a clinical social worker, says you should search out these groups and work to be a member of the groups.

For example, if you find that you enjoy art, you’re more likely to bond with fellow art lovers at a museum or art shows.

TIPS ON HOW TO AVOID LONELINESS IN THE LONG RUN

Fig 5: Staying connected amidst loneliness. Source: National Institute on Aging

Regularly take social media breaks

Social media is a great way to connect with people, especially in this age where everyone and their grandmother has a social media profile. But, like all things good, social media has its negative effects.

According to a study published in the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology, social media use harms many people, especially by forcing unrealistic expectations on them.

As a result, young people now suffer from poor mental health and more depression and loneliness.

We’re not saying you should quit social media entirely; just reduce your usage and control your feed.

Avoid unsympathetic people

Listen, you don’t have to hang out with everyone because you want to make friends. Some people are not good for your mental health, and you should know how to identify them and remove them from your life. Unsympathetic people are at the top of the list.

These people never want to understand you and how you feel, and they usually don’t care about other people. You don’t need anyone who doesn’t respect you, so the best option is to stay away from them and find better people.

Avoid taking on too much work

Sometimes, you bring loneliness upon yourself by overloading yourself with work and barely leaving time for yourself.

If you make a friend, how do you plan to spend time with them if you’re always busy?

Learn to manage yourself and your time better, so you have enough leisure time. You will definitely feel better and a lot less lonely.

Learn how to maintain conversations

One of the bigger problems of this generation is that people don’t know how to communicate properly. It may sound old-fashioned, but the secret to building relationships is good conversation.

You can find a lot of tips online on how to initiate and maintain conversations to help you develop better friendships.

Reach out to acquaintances regularly – make sure to have face to face conversations

You can complain about not having friends all day, but you have to put effort into maintaining the connections you’ve already made first.

Even if you haven’t spoken in a while, old acquaintances are easier to talk to than new people because you already have history.

If you’re unsure about how to break the ice, you can reach out on a special day, like their birthday, and let the conversation flow from there.

CONCLUSION

It’s not easy to live life feeling isolated and unloved, but you don’t have to sit there and take.

Applying the tips and advice in this article will help you get back on your feet and fight against the feelings of loneliness and isolation you may feel.

Also, they will help you make better friends and maintain the friendships you already have. These things take work, so get ready to work hard to improve your life and mental health.

What to Do When You Have No Friends and Feel Lonely

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