Being alone is different from loneliness.
One can be surrounded by people, connected with hundreds of friends on technology, or live with a large family and still feel lonely.
Loneliness comes from the anxiety of lacking genuine connection with others. Or, even if someone does have a genuine connection with others, feeling like no one cares. If left unchecked, it can develop into feelings of low self-esteem or even self-loathing which can have devastating impacts on life.
On average, about 35% of people feel lonely or say they do not have meaningful interactions with people daily. What’s more interesting is despite the rampant use of technology and being around people their age often in school or college, 40% of younger people report feeling lonely.
If you are feeling lonely, you are not alone in your loneliness. Chat right now with someone who cares.
What’s more, over time, loneliness can be both physically and psychologically harmful. Some even claim loneliness shortens a lifespan the same as smoking 15 cigarettes a day because it can raise the risk of anxiety, depression, heart disease, diabetes, substance use, higher blood pressure, and a weaker immune system.
Five main characteristics of feeling lonely can include
- Unable to connect with people beyond the surface level.
- Feeling like no one “gets you”.
- Overwhelming feeling of isolation no matter if you are around people or not.
- Negative feelings that occur from feeling less than enough. This is why social media can be very harmful as people compare themselves to what seems to be picture-perfect people.
- Exhaustion when trying to engage socially.
If you feel like you can relate to several of these characteristics, here are some proactive steps you can take to combat loneliness:
Share good moments
When something good happens, use it to direct positive thoughts. Sharing happy moments in life with co-workers, friends, or even a journal will create positive connections with people or strengthen that mentality within your brain.
Focus on real-life connections
Texting, sharing Tic-Tok videos or funny posts on Instagram can seem a lot easier than actually talking with someone face-to-face.
It might be time to log out from social media and login into a genuine connection. Whether that’s putting the phones away when you are eating dinner with your family or being proactive with your friends, you can decrease feelings of loneliness if you build stronger in-person connections.
Making eye contact, listening more and speaking less, and being caring can help you accomplish this.
These can become social moments that do so much more for your health and wellness than binging Netflix, scrolling through your media feeds, or oversleeping.
Engage in the real-world
Get out of your comfort zone! Talk to the cashier checking you out at the store, to the person next to you on the airplane, to the person waiting in line with you… Get out of your bubble!
Also, creating community in your life can be very helpful in the fight against loneliness. This could be joining a Bible study group, taking fitness classes with the same people, joining a club, etc. Find what you like to do and share that experience with others.
Invest in positive experiences
Have you used your vacation days? It might be time to go do something fun! Whether you are an outdoorsy person and would love to go canoeing, hiking, skiing beaching or wine tasting is more your speed, having new experiences can be amazing for your self-esteem and mental health.
Share these experiences with loved ones or use them as an opportunity to build deeper connections with your friends and family. Even if you do not have vacation days or money saved up, you can come up with something special to do on the weekend like a game night or going out to the movies.
You are not alone. You are loved. You are cared for. Here are some encouraging verses to keep close to your heart when negative feelings of loneliness disparage you:
“I am with you and will keep you wherever you go… For I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.”(Genesis 28:15)
“Lord, you have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I stand up; you understand my thoughts from far away. You observe my travels and my rest; you are aware of all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue, you know all about it, Lord. You have encircled me; you have placed your hand on me. This wondrous knowledge is beyond me. It is lofty; I am unable to reach it. Where can I go to escape your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I make my bed in the darkest pit, you are there. If I fly on the wings of the dawn and settle down on the western horizon, even there your hand will lead me; your right hand will hold on to me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me, and the light around me will be night”— even the darkness is not dark to you. The night shines like the day; darkness and light are alike to you. For it was you who created my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I will praise you because I have been remarkably and wondrously made. Your works are wondrous, and I know this very well. My bones were not hidden from you when I was made in secret, when I was formed in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me when I was formless; all my days were written in your book and planned before a single one of them began.” (Psalm 139:1-16)