Dealing with loneliness – tips & exercises
Loneliness can affect anyone. Feeling alone, even when you are with people, is not a nice feeling. Loneliness can become chronic, be associated with social isolation and have physical and psychological consequences . You can find tips and exercises for dealing with loneliness here.
The most important thing first
First of all, it's important to accept that loneliness is a completely normal feeling and nothing to be ashamed of. Each of us has felt lonely at some point in our lives or will encounter this feeling at some point in our lives. Loneliness is a subjective and individual experience - if you feel lonely, then you are. Contact with other people is a human need, just like hunger, thirst or sleep. Like other feelings, if left unaddressed for a long time, loneliness can become chronic and have a massive impact on other areas of life.
+++ If you haven't been feeling well for a long time, feel acutely lonely, are thinking about suicide or would like to talk to someone, you can use the telephone counseling service . You can reach them free of charge around the clock on 0800 111 0 111 and 0800 111 0 222. You can of course remain anonymous. You can find further offers of help via this link . +++
What you like to do when you feel pain, suffering or sadness is to push it away and suppress it. One hopes that these feelings will go away on their own at some point. But you usually know just as well that this is not the case...
The best, quickest and most lasting way to deal with feelings is to face them . Acceptance of your own emotional world plays a big role. It's important not to immediately judge yourself for how you feel. If possible, you should look at what is going on inside you without judgment. Like a neutral observer from outside. Reflection exercises and conscious introspection can help when dealing with your own loneliness.
Tips + reflection exercises
For this exercise, please take a piece of paper and a pen to hand so that you can write down your thoughts and considerations. This organizes your thoughts, gives you an overview and can return to what you wrote down in later situations if you want.
Awkward social interactions
Think back to one (or more) situations in which you have had contact with other people and after which you felt negative, angry, annoyed or offended. Whether at the checkout in the supermarket, at work, with your relatives, friends or other people you have met.
- Now think about what your focus was in that moment(s). Was your attention on you or on the other person? Did you focus on what the other person did or said? Did you pay attention to how you carried yourself, were you in thought, or were you listening carefully?
- Probably a mix of all of these things. Now ask yourself whether you specifically highlight negative aspects in the situation(s). When you feel lonely, it can happen that you assess other people's behavior more negatively than it actually was (objectively viewed).
- Was the interaction really negative? Or maybe more neutral or even positive? What was it actually about? What did the other person say? Did she really say something bad, negative, or did you ascribe other meanings to her words? If the person reacted negatively, are you sure that reaction had something to do with you? Or are there other possibilities? Maybe the other person's reaction wasn't meant to be negative, but came across as negative because they didn't have time? Perhaps the person was annoyed because they were under personal stress, tired, or already irritated due to another interaction? And not because of you? …
Your thoughts about the world and other people
You can also reflect on how you perceive your environment and what thoughts you have about the world in general.
Do you generally perceive other people as a threat? Do you assume the worst when it comes to other people's intentions? Do you assume that others don't want you around? Have you decided before an upcoming social interaction how it will go? Do you avoid situations with other people because they could potentially hurt you? Do you (unconsciously) withdraw to avoid possible pain?
If so, can you try to approach interactions more neutrally in future situations? Can you give others a leap of faith? Can you accept that others are not automatically against you? Can you try opening up a little?
You can also reflect on your behavior by asking yourself the following questions:
Do you avoid opportunities to spend time with others? Are you looking for excuses to turn down invitations? How do you behave when interacting with others? Do you push other people away to protect yourself? Do you react as if you were attacked? Are you actively looking for new acquaintances? Do you maintain your friendships? Do you personally send messages or make calls to contact others? Do you identify with the role of “the lonely one” and accept your status quo?
Every person and every situation is unique
Because we are all different and everyone is in their own individual situation, with different challenges, feelings and thoughts, it may be that introspection and self-reflection alone are not enough. If this is the case for you and you realize that you can't get any further on your own, then please seek professional help. There is absolutely no shame in it, nor is it a sign of weakness. On the contrary: it shows courage to reach out and ask for help .
Loneliness is an issue that I think needs to get more attention. We humans have built a wonderful world with countless possibilities. But none of what we have created to make our lives easier can replace our biological need for social contacts, relationships and interactions. Most animals get what they need to survive (or survive) from the environment. We humans get what we need from each other. And that's exactly what our modern world should be built on: togetherness, not individualism.
A little homework...
How about we both try something together today: we'll get in touch with someone; initiate an interaction.
Do it, even if you don't feel all that lonely at the moment. You can make someone else's day a little better. Maybe you text a friend that you were just thinking about them. Ask the person how they are doing. Or you can call someone in your family. Of course, you are also welcome to invite a colleague for coffee or take a short walk with him/her. Maybe try something new that you're normally too afraid of or too lazy to do, like exercise or an event.
Whatever fits into your daily routine, whatever suits you.
It may happen that nothing comes of your contact, the person does not respond immediately or already has other plans. But that doesn't matter. If possible, approach the matter without expectations. It’s primarily about strengthening our “social muscles”. Over time, it will become easier for us to open up and approach others. Or we help other people do exactly that. And that’s great too, right?
If you would like to find out more about the topics of mindfulness, healthy eating or sustainability, take a look here .