What to do when you feel lonely?

Feeling lonely can feel like you are the only one feeling like that. You’re not. 40 percent of all people experience (temporary) feelings of loneliness at some point in their lives. About 20 percent of people often feel lonely. And 1 in 10 people feel seriously lonely permanently. Let that sink in for a moment. Of every ten people you know, on average one feels seriously lonely all the time…

How do you deal with loneliness? Where do you start? The Lonely Corner is here to help. Before moving to the things you can do to establish new social contacts and work on meaningful connections, there are five important steps to get there (plus one extra if you need it):

Admit that you feel lonely. Dealing with loneliness starts with acknowledging that you feel lonely. For some people this is kind of a step and sometimes it takes a while before you fully realize what’s the matter. It may trigger emotions. That’s OK. But please don’t feel ashamed to admit that you feel lonely. There is nothing shameful about it. Feeling lonely just means you are human. It means there is a mismatch between your personal need for connection and the degree to which that need is fulfilled. Admitting you feel lonely is the first step towards a solution.

Change how you think about feeling lonely. Maybe you’re the kind of person who thinks: “It’s stupid, I shouldn’t feel lonely.” Don’t blame yourself. It’s OK to feel lonely sometimes. Well, not really OK, of course, it sucks and you want to get rid of it. Just realize there is nothing wrong with you. Many people struggle with loneliness at some point in their lives. It’s nobody’s fault. It doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you or that you are weak.

Challenge your thoughts. When you are alone with your thoughts, you may feel rejected and think nobody cares. But maybe this isn’t true. Maybe somebody did actually think about you but maybe they were too busy to contact you. Maybe if you would call them, it would turn out they do care. Be critical about the thoughts you are having: are they really true? Do they make you feel better or worse?

Reflect on what kind of connection you seek. Interacting with people is not the same as connecting with people. You can socialize all you want, but reaching out or trying to connect will probably not lead to the desired result if you don’t know what kind of connections you long for. So before you start, ask yourself what kind of connection you seek. Do you want to talk to people about mutual interests or hobbies? Do you want to talk on a more personal level? Do you want to just hang out and have a drink? Before reaching out, know what you are looking for.

If you’ve gone through these first four steps, you’ve already made considerable progressin how you think about your own loneliness. Now try these practical tips to break the vicious cycle and battle loneliness:

Talk to a mental health professional. If you feel like you can’t cope and you need help, please reach out to a mental health professional. A mental health professional cannot solve your loneliness – only you can do that – but they may be able to help. They also might discover other issues that play a role in how you feel and function as an unvisible barrier to connect with people, like depression, anxiety or stress. There’s nothing shameful or weak about reaching out to a mental health professional. They might be able to help you.

And remember: many people struggle with this. You are not alone!