For true happiness in life, we need to be able to have intimate bonds with others…people we can confide in, that make us feel supported, seen, and heard, and those that we can get and give support.
Simply put, we aren’t meant to go through life alone.
Award-winning actress, Anne Hathaway once said, “Loneliness is my least favorite thing about life. The thing that I’m most worried about is just being alone without anybody to care for or someone who will care for me.”
Even though loneliness is a completely normal part of the human experience, many of us will still struggle to cope with feelings of loneliness throughout our lives. Unfortunately, when these feelings are ignored and left unattended, other aspects of our mental and physical health can be negatively impacted.
One of the best ways to prevent this from happening is to be aware of the potential life events and situations that can trigger loneliness. Once we are aware of these vulnerabilities, we can take proactive steps toward making sure feelings of loneliness do not escalate to more extreme mental health difficulties like depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and self-harm.
7 Types of Loneliness & What You Can Do About Them
In an article for Psychology Today, author Gretchen Rubin outlined seven different types of loneliness that we can experience in our lifetimes. Here is a closer look at each type along with practical ways to address them.
New situation loneliness
This type of loneliness involves a new situation (for example a new city, new job, etc.) and you just haven’t found your place in this new big picture yet.
Here are a few tips to combat this type of loneliness:
- Say yes! Even though it can feel exhausting, try to say yes to as many invites from your peers as possible. Whether it’s going to lunch or taking a simple coffee break together, saying yes to these opportunities gives you the chance to connect and build relationships with people at your new job/city/school/place of worship.
- Get comfortable with feeling “uncomfortable”. New beginnings are uncomfortable for everyone. Even the most extroverted people can feel out of place or uneasy when starting something new. Instead of framing this feeling as a negative, try to embrace the uncomfortableness as a feeling of excitement for a new chapter in your life.
- Be kind to yourself. It’s easy to overanalyze, ruminate, and criticize how you’re handling a new situation. However, these negative thoughts are not helpful and can actually make feelings of loneliness and isolation even worse. Instead, try to be patient and remind yourself that it takes time (for everyone, not just you) to adjust and acclimate to new environments.
“I’m different” loneliness
I have struggled with this so much in my lifetime. This type of loneliness involves an environment that isn’t necessarily unfamiliar, but you just lack that ability to connect with others. Maybe you have switched jobs and are looking for those that you may connect with in your new environment, but you still don’t feel like you “fit” in with everyone yet.
Here’s what you can do to combat this feeling of being different and disconnected:
- Listen and ask questions. One of the best ways to get to know those around you is to listen to them and ask them open-ended questions. Most of the time, people enjoy talking about themselves and it gives you the opportunity to better understand their background and point of view. You can build on this rapport over time to develop even stronger relationships.
- Find common ground. Relationships with others are built on common ground. Rather than focusing on how “different” you feel, try to find ways where you and your peers are the same.
Maybe everyone around you is getting engaged and/or most of your friends are married, whereas you are still struggling to find a partner. Or, perhaps your romantic partner has passed away and you are struggling to navigate your new life on your own.
To combat feelings of loneliness related to being single, consider the following tips:
- Embrace your friends and family. Now is the time to strengthen your relationships with your existing friends and family. These people will always be there for you, so make plans to spend some quality time with them.
- Invest in your health, hobbies, and volunteer work. It seems cliché, but focusing on things like exercising, eating well, being creative, and helping others can help to enhance your feelings of happiness and prevent feelings of loneliness.
- Identify and stop negative thinking patterns. Thoughts like “I will never find love” or “I am always alone” are not true or helpful. Be mindful of how negative thoughts like this can creep up and try to stop them in their tracks. Once you’ve dismissed them once, it gets easier to dismiss them over time.
It is normal to miss that if your animal passes or if they have to be rehomed for some reason. I can personally attest to the powerful therapeutic effect that animals have on humans, and I know how difficult it is to cope with the loss of a pet.
Here are a few ways to deal with this type of loneliness:
- Take time to grieve for a lost pet. If you have lost your pet, take time to grieve their presence. You can do this in a number of ways including commemorating their life with an ornament, framing a picture to display in your home, and/or taking an extended break before getting a new pet.
- Volunteer at an animal shelter. Animal shelters and rescues are always looking for volunteers during the week and even on weekends. As a volunteer, you can make a positive impact on the lives of dozens of animals – not to mention, you’ll be emersed in a supportive environment with other animal lovers.
- Offer to petsit for friends and family. If you don’t want the responsibility of having a pet of your own but you still love spending time with animals, offer to petsit on occasion for your friends and family who do have pets. They will appreciate your generosity and their pet will love the extra attention.
Maybe you have a solid friend circle and things are going well at work, but you are just missing the quiet time to recharge. This is also a type of loneliness.
- Prioritize your need for alone time. We all need alone time, and some of us may need more alone time than others. If you find that your schedule is getting too busy, make it a priority to pencil in some time to yourself. It may feel like staying in and watching a film on your own is “doing nothing” – however, setting aside time to recharge is actually doing quite a lot for your mental health.
- Say no to feelings of guilt. It’s easy to think of ourselves as being “selfish” when we spend time alone – but this couldn’t be further from the truth! We need to recharge in order to be the best version of ourselves for others, so try your best to dismiss any guilty thoughts as they arise.
Untrustworthy friends loneliness
Maybe you have a group of friends, but you just aren’t certain how deep the loyalty runs. In my case, I am very aware of those who gossip about others. I will be “friendly” but am mindful of the fact that if that person is so comfortable discussing others with me, they are likely equally comfortable gossiping about me to others.
Here are a few other tips for coping with this type of loneliness:
- Accept that you can have different types of friends. Not every acquaintance in your circle of contacts needs to be considered a “best friend”. It’s okay to have “not so close” friends that you enjoy spending time with, but maybe you don’t share everything with them like you would a close friend.
- Focus on quality over quantity. When making and maintaining friends, choose to exert your energy on developing high-quality relationships that are built on kindness, trust, and mutual respect.
Quiet presence loneliness
If you live alone, you may be yearning for just the peaceful feeling that comes with your partner, family, etc. watching television or reading while you cook. The “together” feeling from living with your people.
- Stick to a routine. Routines are critical – especially if you live alone. Why? Because they ground us, help us feel a sense of purpose, and help to prevent anxiety and depression. Routines don’t have to be super strict, they just need to be relatively consistent and achievable. A good routine will allocate time each day for things like exercise, relaxation, fun, creativity, and personal hygiene.
- Make plans outside of the house. Whether it’s a daily walk or a weekly meetup with friends, it is important to always have regular plans in your schedule to leave the house. This not only gives you something to look forward to, but it also helps to prevent the urge to stay inside for prolonged periods of time.
- Utilize digital media. There are a ton of ways to stay connected with others through digital media. For example, instead of cooking dinner in silence, you may find that listening to the radio or a podcast can help you feel connected to the outside world. There are also a number of social media groups that you can join to connect with others who share your hobbies and interests.
General Advice for Coping With Feelings of Loneliness
Recognize that loneliness is a universal experience
Everyone will feel lonely at points during their lifetime. This is completely normal, and there is no shame in feeling lonely. However, if you find that your loneliness is preventing you from carrying out normal everyday tasks related to your life or work, it might be time to speak with your doctor or a qualified counsellor for further support.
To learn more about finding a counsellor, check out our article Lily-Jo’s Top 5 Tips for Finding a Counsellor.
Seek healthy connections
It is very possible to have a multitude of social connections and still feel lonely. Focus on building and maintaining quality friendships rather than making a ton of connections. Quality friends will be there for you when you need them most, and they will always have your back.
Engage with your hobbies
Take time to participate in hobbies or things you enjoy. In doing so, you’ll feel a sense of joy and purpose. Not only that, but it allows you to connect with others who share your passions.
Further Resources on Loneliness
If you found this article helpful, check out these additional resources on coping with feelings of loneliness.
- Article from The Lily-Jo Project, Loneliness: How to Cope When There’s No One Else at Home
- Article from The Lily-Jo Project, How to Self-Care When Battling Loneliness: Pete’s Story
- Article from The Lily-Jo Project, I’m Alone. Do You Know? 4 Tips for Recognising a Lonely Friend in Need
- Information from loneliness charity, The Marmalade Trust
- Loneliness guide from mental health charity, Mind
Here at The Lily Jo Project, we offer a variety of mental health content on our website (www.thelilyjoproject.com) that can be of assistance. We also offer a public community on Facebook that provides a forum to seek support with the day-to-day questions and concerns that go with raising a family and mental health issues in general.
I moderate the group, and we would love to have you. You can request to join here – looking forward to seeing you there!
About the Author: Brandy Browne
Brandy Browne is a care coordinator for a local mental health agency in the United States, as well as a family coach and blogger for UnStuck (www.unstucks.com) – her family coaching service aimed at helping families develop positive habits and breaking the cycle of generational trauma and poverty.
Her education is in early and elementary education, and she also has a masters degree in parenting and child/adolescent development. Brandy is a wife to her high school sweetheart of fifteen years, and together they share three children, aged ten, seven, and five. In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, writing, and distance running.