Feeling lonely sucks. The sense of being disconnected and unseen can pull us down as certainly as a lead weight affixed to our ankles. Loneliness isn’t always apparent to others. The person who lives and works alone may feel perfectly fulfilled while the married mother of three may be struggling with feelings of isolation.
That’s because loneliness is often more about what is happening in your head than what is happening in your life. And it’s SO easy to fall into decisions and actions (or often inactions) that feed the loneliness. If you’re feeling lonely, what you’re doing isn’t working. So, why not try one (or more!) of these ideas instead?
Some are big, some are small. Some can be done with no planning and no money, others take a larger investment. Some are geared towards extroverts, whereas others will appeal to the more introverted among us. Some appeal to the athletic and others will speak to the artistic. Regardless of the specifics, these are all designed to encourage out of your comfort zone (which is really more about habit than comfort, isn’t it?) and help you create a sense of connection and belonging.
Look through and pick what you think may work for you. And then put it into action. After all, you never know unless you try.
1 – Snuggle with a pet. Their unconditional love and unending acceptance is always a wonderful reminder of the connection you have with other living creatures. Furthermore, if your confidence is currently low, you can find comfort in the lack of judgment of animals. If you don’t have a pet, consider volunteering (or even just visiting) a shelter. I just learned about this unbelievable amazing one near me.
2 – Get into nature. It’s strange, sitting alone on your small sofa can feel more isolating than being alone on an extensive trail. Something about the magnitude and ever-changing beauty of nature makes us feel small and yet makes that diminutive stature matter less. Additionally, loneliness is compounded within our own heads. When we get outside, our minds often follow.
3 – Go somewhere where there are other people. Make a connection, even if it’s just a shared smile or a “good evening.” Build a small collection of places – coffee shops, bookstores, arcades, salons, batting cages, etc. – where you enjoy the atmosphere and the activity. When you’re feeling alone, let those become your “Cheers.”
4 – Engage your creativity. Part of loneliness is feeling like you don’t matter. When you create something, you are tapping into and releasing your inner self, bringing something new into the world. If you don’t already have a preferred creative medium, experiment. We may not all be accomplished painters, but we all can find a way to express ourselves.
5 – Limit your social media time. It’s easy to get sucked in, thinking that you’re nurturing with connections with others, yet studies show that watching the highlight reel of other’s lives from afar actually leaves you feeling more isolated and left out. Also pay attention to what platforms make you feel worse and which ones leave you feeling lifted. Each app has its own flavor and it’s important to find the ones that work best for you.
6 – Break a sweat. When you’re idle, you are providing plenty of space for loneliness to climb up on your lap and settle in. So brush it off and get moving. Go for a walk around the block. Sign up for a yoga class or finally commit to trying that new kick-boxing gym down the street. Even something as simple as a few push ups and body weight squats in the privacy of your own home will shake off the weight of lethargy.
7 – Call or write your grandmother or a grandmother-like figure in your life. Their world-wisdom and low tolerance for inane platitudes can be refreshing and they may even contour up some feel-good memories from childhood. If your grandmother is no longer living, consider visiting a senior living facility nearby and spending time with the residents that don’t have visiting family.
8 – Join something with a shared goal. It doesn’t matter if its the local chapter of your Toastmaster’s club, supporting somebody running for office, or the local running group. Sign up (and commit!) to an activity where everybody in the group is working towards a similar objective. Even if you never reach friendship status with any of the others, you will gain a sense of belonging.
9 – Pick up a work of fiction. When you’re struggling in your current world, sometimes a temporary escape to a fictional one can be just the respite you need. Find a book (or even better, a series of books) that excite you and envelope you. In addition to the brief evasion of reality, studies have demonstrated that reading fiction helps to develop emotional intelligence. And that may just give you the tools you need to address your loneliness in long term.
10 – Change your labels. If you consistently tell yourself that you’re lonely or isolated or unloved, you’ll start to believe it. Instead of those negative labels, try assigning more positive versions: independent, solo, autonomous, self-reliant. It’s amazing how much the perspective about a situation can change with a turn of phrase and it’s amazing how much the emotion associated with a situation changes with perspective. Go get ’em, maverick!
11 – Go to church. Churches are ready-made communities that are usually ready to welcome newcomers with open arms. It may take a little trial and error to find the congregation that resonates you and you may get a better feel for the culture from a smaller group gathering rather than the primary service. If you’re not particularly religious, consider a non-denominational congregation, a Unitarian church or even some of the more secular-focused groups of a traditional place of worship.
12 – Join Nextdoor. This app is limited to people in your immediate area. It is a paired-down social media site that tends towards the wayward dogs and the garage sales. Despite its limited content, in an era when we often don’t know our next door neighbor’s name, this app gives you a way to get to know and communicate with your local neighbors. You can also use it to see if anyone in your area is interested in starting a walking group, a gardening club or a beautification committee.
13 – Invite an acquaintance for coffee. It’s challenging to initiate and grow new friendships in adulthood. In childhood, friendships simply seem to happen simply through proximity. As we grow, building relationships takes a more concerted effort. So take that first step and invite someone in the periphery of your life out for a cup of coffee. At the least, you have a companion for an hour. At most, you have the beginning of a new friendship.
14 – Volunteer. This is one of those activities that gives amazing dividends on the energy invested. When you offer your services to help others, you often benefit as much as the recipients. Not only does it feel good to help, but it also helps to provide perspective, cultivate gratitude and assists in getting you out of your own head and current situation. With the myriad options available, you can find an opportunity that finds your time and temperament.
15 – Start a blog. Unlike the rapid-scroll and click bate realm of many social media sites, blogging communities have a greater tendency to be, well…communities. Especially if you blog about some niche interest or experience, you very well might find yourself some online companionship. One caveat with blogging – you will encounter some jerks. Remember that what they write says more about them than you. Don’t take it personally, block them from further commentary, and enjoy those that know how to play nicely.
16 – Spend time in your front yard every evening. It’s so easy to go to work, pull into your garage and spend the remainder of the evening in your home. And if you live alone (or live with others who make you feel as though you’re alone), you are literally walling yourself off from human contact. Instead, commit to spending a set amount of time on your front porch (or apartment balcony) each evening when others in the community are active. Bring something to keep you occupied, but make sure that it is something that is interruptible. When neighbors walk by, smile and say “hello.” In time, conversations may happen and relationships may form. Yet even if they don’t, the fresh air and the brief connection with others can go a long way.
17 – Go to a restaurant and eat at the bar. It can feel strange and awkward for some people to dine solo (or with someone that makes you feel alone), especially when the establishment is full of seemingly engaged couples and groups. Consider sitting at the bar. It’s less uncomfortable than occupying one chair at a table and you will often have other solo diners around you. Furthermore, the layout makes it relatively easy to join in on banter between other customers or with the staff.
18 – Be honest with people. Be careful about uttering the knee-jerk response of, “I’m fine.” Because people will often take you at your word and if you’re not fine, you’ll end up suffering in silence. Most people want to be helpful, but they can’t help if they don’t know. Asking for help isn’t weakness; it’s a sign of immense courage.
19 – Check out MeetUp.com. Do you want to learn how to make homemade pasta? Are you looking for a rollerblade group in town? Do you want to find a book club that only discusses dystopian fiction? You’ve come to the right place. If you’re in a decent-sized city, MeetUp has every possible activity and every potential type of group. It’s a great option when you want to meet people but you’re not interested in dating or the trepidation of making the first move of a new potential friendship. If you’re nervous, take heart that many of the participants are also in your shoes.
20 – Go shopping. But not for you. On it’s own, shopping can actually increase feelings of depression and loneliness. However, if you are engaged in the hunt of finding treasures for somebody else, it actually improves your well-being beyond the time in the store. If you’re at a loss of who to shop for, contact a local women’s shelter, school, or community center and ask them for ideas.
21 – Get a part-time job. If your day job doesn’t provide you with much contact with others (or if your day job involves running around after toddlers), evaluate the idea of taking on a part-time job. This one is less about the money than about the connections, so think about what would give you the contact you want. If you prefer to see the same people at regular intervals, consider a front desk position at a small gym or salon. If you’re more fast-paced and into one-and-done connections, think about a shift at a restaurant or as a checker. When you look into your options, also pay attention to your potential coworkers and strive to find a culture that you can integrate within.
22 – Throw a party. I know, it’s scary when you’re feeling alone. After all, what if nobody shows up? But what if they do? Keep it low-key, focused on some theme or event or activity (or even another person) and don’t allow your exceptions to ascend too high or plummet too low. If you’re uncomfortable with people in your home, consider hosting in some other location. Ask, and you’ll soon be receiving guests.
23 – Sign up for a group travel adventure. These groups are like ready-made sister-and/or-brotherhoods on a quest for adventure. You may all start out as strangers, but as you commiserate over the paltry breakfast one day and exclaim over the views the next, bonds will begin to form over the shared experiences. And even once you’re back at home, you’ll maintain the memories, if not the relationships.
24 – Start a home improvement project. Fixing up your space serves two purposes – it gives you a project to throw yourself into and it helps to create an environment that you find welcoming and supportive. And I promise you, if nothing else, you’ll get to know the employees at your local hardware store.
25 – Join a cause or participate in a social movement. There is no shortage of groups that promote, support and organize around some sort of cause or mission. Take a moment and brainstorm what beliefs you’re passionate about and then investigate local or virtual groups that are working towards that end. Smaller groups or smaller niches within larger organizations will provide more opportunities for regular and consistent connection with the same people.
26 – Smile and make eye contact with the people you encounter throughout the day. Most people want to make connections yet we often go through our public lives with our heads lowered, our faces lowered into our phones or our minds elsewhere. Make a conscious effort to make eye contact and acknowledge others through a quick nod or a smile. It will feel strange at first and some people may be surprised to have a stranger concede their existence. It’s okay. It gets easier and those smiles you receive in return will be proof that you’re establishing a fleeting link with another.
27 – Go to a show or a concert. What do people not do much of at a performance? Talk. So it doesn’t matter much if you’re alone or with somebody who makes you feel alone. In fact, no matter what, you’re not isolated. You’re with 1,000 (give or take) other audience members, all enjoying the same thing.
28 – Join a support group for something you’re working through. If you’re struggling with something in your life – divorce, addiction, the stress of being a caregiver, depression – consider becoming part of a virtual or in-person support group. Not only will this provide you with consistent and caring connection, it will also be a reminder that you’re not alone in your thoughts and experiences. Sometimes we just need to know that we’re not the only ones.
29 – Plan ahead for the rough days or times. Maybe you’re at your loneliest when the kids are with their other parent. Or maybe the holiday season has you feeling like you’re marooned on some godforsaken island, floating in the middle of tinsel and Christmas cheer. Identify the particular times or situations that are associated with an uptick in your loneliness quotient and plan for them. Those weekends when the kids are gone can become your time to pursue your interests. That holiday season may be an opportunity to get out of town. A little foresight and planning goes a long way to heading off the loneliness before it swallows you.
30 – Celebrate the benefits of being alone. Blasting music while you get ready in the morning? Check. Cooking dinner in the buff? No problem? Or deciding again on cereal for dinner? Okey dokey. Take a few moments and jot down all of the benefits you gain by being alone. And then take a moment each day to say, “thank you” for those opportunities.
31 – Read or watch a memoir or a biography. Take a break from being inside your own head and take a peek into someone else’s. It’s easy to believe that we are the only ones that experience certain fears and doubts. When you read these personal accounts, you will realize that others also face those same concerns. You may also find yourself inspired as you read about how they were able to overcome their perceived limitations.
32 – Boost your confidence. When you’re feeling less-than, it’s easy to withdraw and isolate from other people. This becomes a vicious cycle, because isolation leaves you feeling even more down on yourself. Instead of directly addressing your loneliness problem, try attending to your confidence problem. Here are some ideas to get you started.
33 – Make the time you have home alone purposeful. Idle hands may not really be the devil’s work, but too much unstructured time at home when you’re lonely can sure make you feel like hell. Consider giving yourself some loose structure around your time at home. Limit your television time and maximize the time engaged in activities that fuel and restore you. If you find yourself struggling to figure out what to do in the moment, jot down a list of possibilities when you’re feeling okay that you can turn to in times of need.
34 – Start (or reignite) a hobby. When you’re engaged in something that you’re passionate about, you don’t have the mental space to feel lonely. This is a great opportunity to try that thing you’ve always thought about or to pick up your high school hobby again and give it another try. Not only do hobbies keep you occupied and fulfilled, they also provide an opportunity for you to engage with others who share your interests.
35 – Nurture a new connection at work. It’s amazing how easy it is to feel alone even while in the midst of others. This phenomena can easily happen in many work environments, where people are more focused on tasks or technology than on each other. Make an intentional effort to reach out to someone at work. And then, if it goes well, reach out again. Friendships, like flowers, require attention to thrive.
36 – Practice mindfulness meditation. Meditation teaches you how to be okay on the emotional cloudy days. How to accept the momentary discomfort and trust that sun is still shining. There are countless apps or free downloads to get you started. Just a few minutes a day can change your entire outlook.
37 – Sleep. When you’re exhausted, everything seems worse than it is. If you’ve been routinely burning the candle at both ends, prioritize rest before you assign yourself the label of “lonely.” After a few nights of good sleep, you may find that your pessimism has lessened and your feeling of isolation has lifted. And if not, at least you’ll be in a better place to do something about it.
38 – Watch a (carefully selected) movie at the theater. Watching a movie at home is a solo experience. Watching it in the theater turns it into a shared adventure. With many theaters now allowing you to preselect your seat, you can decide if you want to be in a corner by yourself or sandwiched between two odd-numbered groups. Be cognizant of your movie selection. A romantic story may not be the best if you’re already feeling lonely.
39 – Join 7 Cups. This is an innovative online support service that pairs trained active listeners with people that are looking for comfort. You can either sign up for the anonymous service to receive help or, you can also apply for the online training course to become an active listener. Either way, it’s a community of people that have a shared goal of better mental health and connection.
40 – Become a fan. Whether you elect to cheer the Baltimore Ravens on to their next Superbowl or you dress up as Wonder Woman at the next DragonCon, join a group of like-minded people that are rallying around the same cause. Regardless of the group or person you rally around, invest in some clothing or car stickers that identify you as a member of the club. You’ll be amazed how many people will notice and initiate a conversation just because they see a Gryffindor crest on your shirt.
41 – Have your DNA tested to determine your ancestry. When you have your results, you can begin to trace your family tree back hundreds of years. Talk about reinforcing the connections you have with others! Depending upon your settings, you may be able to contact (or even visit!) living relatives all around the world. One caveat with these companies – be sure to read the privacy notices carefully before you decide to proceed.
42 – Go on a solo trip. There’s nothing like changing your view to change your attitude. Travel can highlight many of the benefits of being alone: autonomy, freedom and flexibility. Furthermore, tackling a new city solo builds your confidence and your resilience. If you have been feeling alone while in a relationship, individual travel can give you the mental space to think and process. If an overnight trip isn’t possible, consider a day trip, even if it’s just to the other side of town.
43 – Take off your mask. Ultimately, we feel more alone when we don’t feel seen or understood by another than when we are by ourselves. If you are presenting a front to world, you risk always feeling unseen and alone. It can be scary to let the mask slide away. You face the real risk of rejection. Yet if you never allow the “real” you to shine, you also don’t allow yourself to be accepted.
44 – Take a personality quiz. Sometimes loneliness comes from believing that you’re only person to perceive things in a certain way. When you take any sort of personality quiz (especially the Myers Briggs-based ones, which have entered the common dialog), you will discover that you are far from alone. In fact, you may discover that there is a whole subset of people out there that see, process and present like you.
45 – Find ways to share experiences with others. One of the primary ways that we find meaning and joy in experiences is by sharing them with others. Yet there are ways to do this even when you’re operating as an individual entity. Consider visiting a unique and stunning museum exhibit. You can share your feelings of amazement with the others standing beside you through words or shared looks. You can write about your encounter and publish it or mail it to another. You can inspired by the experience and let it impact your interactions going forward. You may have to be creative to find ways to share your solitary adventures, but I have faith you can find a way!
46 – Practice yoga. There’s a reason it’s called, “practice.” There are no expectations that you’ll be good at before you do it (or, even after you’ve done it for 20 years!). Yoga provides an interesting mix of being in your head and body within the four corners of your mat and also feeling the energy and hearing the breath of the larger group. You may never speak, yet you may also find that you feel heard. It’s powerful stuff.
47 – Run a booth at local fairs. What do children do when they feel lonely? They open up a lemonade stand. Why not try the adult equivalent? It could be lemonade at the neighborhood block party. Or margaritas (AKA spiked limeade) at the weekly outdoor concert. Or maybe you ditch the drink idea all together and set up a craft stand at the local art fairs. Think about where your interests and your opportunities intersect. And before you say, “I couldn’t,” try.
48 – Be careful not to be too needy. When you’re lonely, you can easily project neediness. This can unknowingly cause others to back off, as they sense the anxious energy behind your words and actions. It’s a bit of a catch-22, when you’re isolated, you have a tendency to grasp onto any connection yet that same intensity will push people away. Work to regulate your own emotions and reactions, especially before you consider dating.
49 – Try out a climbing gym. Because climbing takes two – one to tackle the wall and one to belay – if forces interaction and camaraderie between people. If you’ve never belayed, begin by taking a brief training course from the instructors at the gym so that you’re comfortable. And don’t worry about going solo – there’s always others alone or in odd-numbered groups that would be happy to pair up for a climb.
50 – Go on stage. If you’re naturally a performer, you thrive with the energy of a crowd or you are musical, consider finding your way onto a stage. Even though the interaction may appear to be uni-directional, you will also be feeling the vitality of the audience. You can sign up for open mike nights at a comedy club, play guitar at a coffee shop or sing with a church choir. If you’re unsure about where to begin, think about signing up for a class that culminates with a performance.
51 – Do something scary. When we go through something scary with others, it creates a bond. Whether that experience be jumping out of plane, going through a haunted house or just watching a scary movie, you will feel closer to anybody that shared that same event. And if nothing else, you’ll feel like a bada$$ for making it through!
52 – Know that you’re not alone in feeling alone. Every single one of the over seven billion people on this planet also feels lonely sometimes. Isn’t it nice to know that you’re in good company:)