The Thing About Loneliness and How to Combat It

Last updated October 9, 2023

In a world that’s constantly buzzing with notifications and likes, it might seem paradoxical that the more connected we become, the more we simultaneously feel lonely. Yet, here we are. Read on to learn a thing or two about loneliness as well as how to combat it. 

You don’t have to be alone to feel lonely. That isolated feeling can spring up when you’re in a crowd, in a couple or even in good company. You also don’t have to feel lonesome to be lonely. 

So, how do you know if you’re experiencing loneliness? We’re here to help you better understand what you might be experiencing when it comes to loneliness and how to combat it.

But first, what is loneliness? To understand it, we have to acknowledge that humans are innately social creatures. We need interactions with other people, like we need food, water and air. 

And when we are deprived of these essentials, our bodies throw out a red flag. We’ve come to instinctively understand when we’re lacking food, water and air a bit better than when we’re lacking social connection. 

The big question then is how do we get better at reading the signs? Furthermore, how do we combat loneliness?

Signs of Loneliness

Sometimes, that lonely feeling is as evident as any other emotion. Other times, you may be lonely without seeing the signs. Here are a few questions to reflect on and some cues to watch out for.

Do you find yourself fighting the urge to reach for your phone *again* after just putting it down? Are your social media apps your immediate go-tos? Have you been “adding to cart” noticeably more than usual lately? How about binge-watching?

Studies show that those who are continuously clicking “next episode” tend to be lonelier and more depressed. Frequent social media engagement and excessive spending are also linked to loneliness.

This last one especially hits home and makes so much sense on a conscious level. Subconsciously, we acquire more material items, essentially filling our space to make up for the void created by a lack of real-life interactions.

More watchouts include weight gain, feeling like you constantly have a cold, frequent fatigue and trouble sleeping through the night, and higher-than-usual stress levels.

If you’re experiencing a few (or a bunch) of these signs of loneliness, it’s okay. Loneliness is a natural human experience that affects about one-in-two adults in America, according to the U.S. Surgeon General. 

But like all emotions we experience, it’s temporary. And you can shorten the half-life of your lonely state by witnessing and working through it. The good news is that you can combat loneliness. 

Dealing With Loneliness

When you realize you’re in it, sometimes the emotions and the heaviness of what you’re experiencing can snowball, but only if you let it. As with most challenges we wish to work through, the first step is acknowledging what you’re going through.

So, you’re lonely. Now what? Of course, the most apparent antidote for loneliness is connectedness. But before we start strengthening connections and initiating new ones, let’s take a moment to look at nurturing the most important relationship of all: your relationship with yourself.

Practicing self-care, learning to enjoy your own company and prioritizing your needs help you rediscover your value while deepening your relationship with yourself.

Meditative practices are effective tools for living a balanced life. If you’re new to meditation, we’re here to tell you that relaxation isn’t the goal (although it can be a pleasant benefit).

Practicing mindfulness and incorporating meditation into your daily life can help you become less identified with your thoughts and, in turn, less distressed by them.

The more you meditate, the more you realize that you are not your thoughts; you are the one who witnesses and watches them fade away.

You are not your loneliness either. You are the one who experiences it and can experience a wide range of other emotions. Radical acceptance is another technique that ties into coping with unwanted thoughts and feelings. Rather than ignoring or distracting from what you feel, you commit to feeling it fully. 

This practice does two powerful things. 1) It teaches you to embrace the present moment without yearning for the past or darting toward the future. 2) It helps you remove your judgments of and attachments to the discomfort you’re experiencing. Because it’s our perception of what we’re experiencing that causes the most distress of all.

Flying Solo

You can love your alone time and still experience loneliness. But for those who aren’t natural-born lone wolves, if you manage to flip the script on loneliness enough to realize you can enjoy your “me” time, let us introduce the wonder of solo travel.

It might sound lonely or even a little intimidating at first, but while exploring on your own, you actually become more open to making connections. When traveling with a companion (or a few), you tend to keep to yourselves. Meeting new people doesn’t always come as naturally when you’re already in good company. 

But when you’re on a solo trip, you’re open to it all—meeting new people, making connections, experiencing what you want when you want. It’s all by your design; it’s liberating; it’s freeing. And it tends to return you to yourself in a way that only being alone in a new place can.

You can expect to make internal connections as well. When you’re out there on your own, you listen to yourself more intently. Without the distraction of tending to a travel companion’s needs and reactions, you become more in tune with your own. You figure things out. You read the signs and connect the dots. Traveling solo can have a very therapeutic effect.

These new experiences and revelations also spark the urge to reconnect with your people back home. Maybe you meet someone who reminds you of your best friend, and you just can’t wait to tell her. Perhaps you end up chatting for hours with someone whose tattoo tribute to your favorite band makes you feel like you’re right where you belong.

Whatever unexpected twists fate brings on your journey, you’re sure to want to share it with those closest to you—or even folks you haven’t connected with in a while. Either way, embarking on a trip alone has a magical way of bringing you closer to yourself and your people.

Loneliness Is Just a Word

Getting back to the clearest cure for loneliness, nothing is more effective than strengthening your connections and forging new ones. We humans are hardwired for social interaction so look to the people in your life as your greatest untapped resource for connection. 

Maintaining meaningful relationships with family and friends is more accessible than ever, thanks to technology. And it’s more important than ever. Spending quality time with people who care about us can help us live longer, happier lives.

Widening your circle can go a long way toward enriching your life as well. Finding new friends can feel like an intimidating process, no matter your age or the season of life you’re in. But with the help of meetup apps and community events, it’s easier (and more comfortable) than ever to make connections.

One meet-up trend that’s been bringing new friends together since 2021 is No More Lonely Friends. Marissa Meizz founded this make-new-friends movement when she realized she needed to evolve past a few friendships no longer serving her.

Marissa organizes gatherings where strangers become friends in cities around the U.S. Everyone is encouraged to come alone or bring a friend and feel confident striking up a conversation with someone new.

And it’s easy and comfortable to do because you don’t have to worry whether the person you’re talking to is interested in making new friends. That’s the whole reason all of the attendees come together at No More Lonely Friends events.

Look for upcoming events through this inspiring initiative and others like it. You’ve got nothing to lose and only new friends to gain.

How to Combat Loneliness

Remember, alone isn’t the same as loneliness. Here’s a quick rundown of six useful ways to combat loneliness. 

  1. Acknowledge that you are feeling lonely. Awareness is the first step.
  2. Do what you want even if it’s without a plus-one. It’s up to you how you want to socialize.
  3. Join a group or volunteer. This is a great way to make friends and hang out with likeminded people on a regular basis.
  4. Get your nature fix. Time spent outdoors is shown to boost well-being.
  5. Take care of you. Don’t overlook the power of exercise, healthy food, proper sleep, sunshine and even meditation.
  6. Get a pet. Yeps, pet owners report feeling less lonely.

Most importantly, know that you are not alone (no pun intended). It is true that everybody feels lonely at some point in their life—and that’s okay.

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