Statistics Canada issued a report in 2021 stating that 1 in 10 Canadians are always or often lonely. Loneliness can be debilitating, making you feel isolated and disconnected from the world. It’s a familiar feeling that all of us will experience at some point — and it’s not something you can simply ‘get over’. Whether your loneliness is due to changes in your life, a move to a new city, or the loss of a loved one, loneliness can be difficult to cope with. Loneliness is best dealt with by rediscovering connections with others or speaking to a knowledgeable counsellor.
Ways to deal with loneliness
One of the first steps in overcoming loneliness is acknowledging and accepting your feelings. It’s essential to recognize that feeling lonely is a natural part of the human experience, and it’s okay to feel this way occasionally. Once you’ve accepted your emotions, you can start taking steps to address them. The best way to combat loneliness is to build meaningful connections with others. This can be challenging, especially if you’re shy, introverted, or not entirely sure how to approach people. If you’re looking to become more extroverted, here are some techniques to practice.
- Practice active listening: A key aspect of connection is the ability to engage in conversations with others. This involves active listening, which is the process of paying close attention to what another person is saying, and seeking the meaning behind their words.
- Take small steps: If you’re not extroverted, it’s helpful to take small steps toward being more social in your day-to-day life. This can look like starting small talk with strangers or initiating conversations with coworkers or classmates.
- Join groups or clubs: Joining groups or clubs that align with your interests is a great way to meet new people. You’ll unlock a group of people who you already share a common interest with, making it easier to connect.
- Practice assertiveness: Being assertive is a vital part of being extroverted. Practice being more assertive by expressing your opinions and ideas in group settings and one-on-one conversations.
- Set goals: Set goals for yourself that involve social interaction. For example, plan to attend a networking event or make one new friend this month.
- Be yourself: Most importantly, remember to be yourself. Being extroverted doesn’t mean you have to be someone you’re not. Instead, focus on being authentic and genuine in your interactions with others.
Explore connection in different ways
Becoming more extroverted is a process that takes time and practice. It’s okay to start small and work your way up to bigger challenges. With consistent effort and practice, you’ll become more comfortable in social situations and develop rich connections. If you struggle to connect with others in person, consider joining online communities. Many online forums, social media groups, and chat rooms are dedicated to virtually every interest and hobby. These can be great places to meet like-minded people and build connections from the comfort of your own home.
What causes loneliness?
What is the root of loneliness? Loneliness is caused by various factors, affecting people of all ages and backgrounds. Some common causes of loneliness include:
- Social isolation: Social isolation occurs when a person is physically separated from others, or feels emotionally disconnected from those in their immediate circle. This can be due to a lack of social opportunities, such as living far from friends or a lack of access to transportation to get to social events.
- Life changes: Major changes such as moving to a new city, divorce, or losing a loved one can contribute to loneliness. These changes can disrupt established social connections and leave a person feeling isolated and disconnected.
- Mental health conditions: Conditions such as depression and anxiety can contribute to feelings of loneliness. People with these conditions may struggle to connect with others or feel anxious in social situations, leading to isolation.
- Lack of meaningful relationships: A lack of close, meaningful relationships can also contribute to loneliness. This can occur when a person has many acquaintances but few close friends that they trust, or when a person lacks a strong support system.
- Technology and social media: While technology can help people feel connected from afar, it can also contribute to feelings of loneliness — particularly when social media use leads to comparison.
Loneliness is a complex issue characterized by multiple factors. Understanding the underlying causes of loneliness can help you develop strategies to build meaningful connections.
The effects of loneliness on the brain
One of the most common effects of loneliness on mental health is depression. Being lonely for too long can lead to symptoms of depression, including hopelessness and despair. Additionally, loneliness can cause a lack of motivation and energy, which can exacerbate depression type symptoms. Studies have shown that lonely people are more likely to develop depression than those with strong social connections.
Loneliness can also lead to anxiety, characterized by excessive worry and fear. When individuals feel isolated and unsupported, they may worry about their future and have a fear of being rejected by others. This can lead to social phobia and panic disorder and research has shown that loneliness is a risk factor for anxiety disorders. Another effect of loneliness is increased stress levels, due to a lack of emotional support. Stress can lead to physical health problems, such as headaches, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Finally, loneliness can lead to substance abuse as individuals may turn to drugs or alcohol to cope with their feelings of isolation. Substance abuse can lead to further mental health problems, including addiction and depression.
Coping with loneliness long-term
Loneliness is a complex emotion to deal with, but there are steps you can take to overcome it.
- Take care of yourself: It’s vital to take care of yourself when you’re feeling lonely by ensuring you’re getting enough sleep, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly. Physical and mental health are interconnected, with each affecting the other. Poor physical health can contribute to mental health problems, while mental health issues can impact physical health outcomes. That’s why taking care of your physical health can help improve your mental health, which in turn, will make it easier to form connections.
- Reach out to others: Don’t hesitate to contact friends, family, or acquaintances for support. You could start by simply sending a message or making a phone call. A short conversation with someone who understands how you feel can make a significant impact.
- Try a new hobby: A new hobby can give you something to focus on and enjoy, while also providing a chance to meet like-minded people.
- Seek professional help: If you consistently struggle with loneliness, a counsellor can provide support, guidance, and concrete tips to help you work through your feelings.
Learn how to deal with loneliness
Dealing with loneliness is a common experience that can be difficult to overcome, but it’s not impossible. By acknowledging your feelings, building connections with others, taking care of yourself, and seeking professional help, you can combat loneliness and build a fulfilling life surrounded by people who care about you. Remember, it’s okay to feel lonely from time to time, but it’s essential to take steps to address those feelings and connect with others. Loneliness affects us all. Find comfort and company with our loneliness online counsellors.