How to Deal with Loneliness: A Guide to Overcoming Isolation


Loneliness is a distressing subjective feeling that may jeopardize both mental and physical health. AARP’s research elaborates that about 42.6 million adults aged 45 and older in the US are suffering from loneliness and social isolation. The pandemic has only exacerbated the feeling of separation and loneliness in many people.

While occasional loneliness is a common human experience, chronic isolation demands attention and relief. The good news is there are many constructive solutions to mitigate habitual loneliness, from altering daily habits to forming new social bonds. With some targeted self-reflection and fusillade, it’s possible to overcome stagnant isolation and circumvent associated health decline.

This comprehensive guide covers actionable strategies to ameliorate loneliness, form meaningful connections, tap into inner resilience, and discern when professional counselling may provide additional support. A table summarizing key statistics on loneliness is provided first to frame the issue.

Key Statistics on Loneliness

Number of Americans who report feeling lonely46% of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone2018 Cigna study
Impact of loneliness on mortality riskLoneliness increases early mortality risk by 26%2010 Brigham Young University meta-analysis
Number of Americans aged 45+ affected by loneliness42.6 million2018 AARP study
Loneliness rate among Americans aged 18-2279% sometimes or always feel lonelyAmerican College Health Association
Impact of social isolation and loneliness on the US economy$6.7 billion in additional federal spending annually2020 AARP Public Policy Institute report

Understanding Loneliness

Understanding Loneliness

The first step in addressing chronic isolation is examining contributing factors and gauging your unique situation. The pathology of loneliness is highly individualized based on personality traits, attachment patterns, and life circumstances. Self-reflection questions to consider include:

  • Have you recently experienced major life changes like a relocation, job transition, relationship breakup, or loss of loved ones? Disruptive life events can sever social ties and compound isolation.
  • Do you have a reserved temperament and feel discomfort connecting with new people or groups? Social anxiety278 can deter forming bonds.
  • Do you have interests, hobbies, passions, and opinions to share with others? Lacking strong personal identities or self-confidence makes relationship-building more challenging.
  • Do you perpetually feel like an outsider who doesn’t belong? Insecurities about acceptance can serve as barriers to meaningful connections.
  • Do you make assumptions about others disliking you? This type of negative self-talk further ingrains loneliness.

Examining feelings of emotional isolation along with recent life changes and thought patterns provides context. Chronic loneliness often results from perpetual beliefs and behaviours rooted in childhood or pivotal life phases.

Coping Strategies to Alleviate Loneliness

Coping Strategies to Alleviate Loneliness

Implementing targeted coping strategies to address the unique roots of loneliness increases social engagement and emotional fulfilment in the long term. Experiment with researching the following methods:

Reflect on past relationships – Recall fond memories of rewarding relationships from childhood, school years, early career phases, etc. Reflect on the qualities that made these connections meaningful, which often boils down to feelings of being cared for, understood, respected, and shared interests. Note any themes about when you have felt least lonely in life to employ this relationship template moving forward.

Make self-care a priority – When loneliness becomes pervasive, it’s easy to abandon self-care habits like healthy eating, sufficient sleep, and exercise. However, reflecting inward is vital before determining solutions. Self-care also reinforces self-worth and confidence to connect with others from a place of wholeness vs deficiency.

Establish routine – Loneliness and isolation tend to manifest when there is too much time and space for ruminating thoughts. Developing set routines in areas like extracurriculars, meals, work, exercise, socializing, etc., fosters a sense of order and continuity. Routines also limit overthinking.

Curate stress relief outlets – Determine go-to stress relief outlets like journaling, listening to music, taking baths, playing sports, connecting with pets, or meditating. Having regular emotional release activities manages feelings like anxiety287, sadness, and anger that isolation can amplify.

Set social connection goals – Make concerted efforts to communicate with friends and family regularly through phone calls, texts, video chats, or otherwise. Loneliness correlates strongly with a lack of quality relationships and infrequent positive interactions with loved ones. Set reminders if necessary.

Explore with social media – Online communities via Facebook groups, Discord servers, Reddit forums, or other platforms let you connect with like-minded people worldwide from the comfort of your home. While virtual interactions are no substitute for in-person bonds, building online rapport can ease loneliness.

Learn mindfulness techniques – Mindfulness practices like controlled breathing, body scans, and meditation help calm the mind, lower anxiety288, and promote healthy perspectives. When feeling isolated, it’s easy to fixate on perceived flaws, overgeneralize that no one cares, or catastrophize that loneliness will persist indefinitely – mindfulness mitigates this.

Experiment with these coping mechanisms to determine which alleviates your specific feelings of emotional isolation and which have minimal positive impact. Be patient with yourself throughout this self-discovery process.

Building Social Connections

Building Social Connections

Once you have greater clarity from self-reflection and deploy targeted coping strategies, focus energy on establishing and enriching social connections.

Reach out to existing contacts – The easiest way to spark rewarding conversations is by activating dormant relationships. Scroll through your phone contacts or social media friends and message old coworkers, childhood friends, past classmates, distant relatives, neighbours, etc., to revive lapsed communications without the pressure of new ties.

Research local MeetUp groups – lists regional groups uniting people who share interests and hobbies like photography, hiking289, dancing, board games, dog parents, writing, etc. Browsing groups introduce you to like-minded locals whose events provide guaranteed social interaction around something you enjoy.

Volunteer in your community – Volunteering allows you to support causes important to you while collaborating with other volunteers who share similar values like environmentalism, homelessness advocacy, animal welfare, supporting veterans, etc. Nonprofit groups rely on volunteers to facilitate meaningful relationship initiation in the process.

Enrol in Classes – Community colleges, local rec centres, houses of worship, art centres, and libraries offer diverse classes like cooking, painting, gardening, sports skills, music, and foreign languages – the options abound. Investing yourself in learning new skills pushes you from isolation while sharing classroom camaraderie around similar growth goals.

Download therapist directory apps – Applications like Talkspace, BetterHelp, and Amwell connect you to licensed therapists who provide counselling via text chat, audio calls, or video sessions. While not a holistic fix for isolation, teletherapy apps afford professional mental health support if loneliness fuels anxiety285, depression, etc. Pricing is generally cheaper than traditional in-office therapy.

Consider co-living arrangements – Co-living companies like Common, WeLive, and HubHaus operate shared housing communities that unite solo dwellers craving companionship, often in desirable metro locations. While finding compatible housemates takes effort, built-in community perks combat the isolation many young transplants face upon moving to new cities.

Adopt companion pets – Furry friends provide loyal comfort along with affection and physical closeness humans crave when lonely. Consider adopting a cat or dog from a local shelter or using apps like Rover to hire a dog walker so your pet gets outdoor adventures while you meet fellow animal lovers.

Remember, not every attempted social connection generates rewarding relationships. But by continually introducing yourself to new settings and individuals through classes, MeetUps, volunteering, etc., you increase opportunities to discover things like hearts and minds. Persistence, courage and optimism fuel success.

Seeking Professional Help

Seeking Professional Help

Despite sincere efforts to push past engrained isolation, chronic loneliness can persist for some people or spiral into clinical anxiety286, depression, and associated conditions like substance abuse. There is no shame in seeking professional counselling and community resources if loneliness becomes emotionally or physically hazardous versus a temporary emotion.

Talk to your primary care doctor – Schedule an appointment with your physician to discuss any recent changes to sleeping patterns, eating habits, mental health, and general lifestyle stability since experiencing loneliness. Your doctor can check for underlying conditions impacting health, along with recommending therapists and psychiatrists, if pertinent. They may also adjust medications that improve mood.

Find a therapist specializing in loneliness and social isolation – Search reputable online directories like Psychology Today or GoodTherapy to find licensed mental.

Leave a Comment