Maybe it’s because you’ve had a love disappointment, you’ve lost a loved one, or you’ve suffered great disappointment.
You may have had time without a partner, you have been rejected or you may feel that way even if you have formed a great family.
The point is that a feeling of sadness invades you that is difficult to explain. You feel disconnected from the world as if everything that motivates people is foreign to you and does not matter to anyone.
Your pain prevents you from seeing beyond this moment of suffering. You would like to share your sadness with someone who could understand you, but there is no one.
If you have ever felt lost, abandoned or without someone who loves you, surely you know what I am talking about.
I have lived it for several moments of my life. In some cases for a specific cause, but in others, I simply felt the sensation of being out of place, without anyone being able to understand my thoughts.
If you think about it, it’s paradoxical. It does not matter what Facebook friends you have. Today we are more connected than ever but at the same time more isolated than at any other time. It is perfectly possible to have 1,000 friends on Facebook, 700 followers on Twitter and not a single person to call to have a drink at night.
But there is hope.
They say that the best way to defeat an enemy is to know him, so I started to investigate what science said about it. So today I bring you this article where you will discover the bitter face of loneliness, but also the best psychological tools to break their chains and live a freer life.
What is loneliness?
Let’s start with a simple definition.
Loneliness is the circumstance of being without company somewhere during a certain period of time, either by choice or circumstances of others.
However, the feeling of loneliness is something else entirely. It is not related to the company, nor the number of friends, life together or family members you have, but how you feel about all that.
And when loneliness is prolonged, negative emotions can become very intense.
Why the fear of loneliness depresses you so much
We are born alone and we will die alone. So, why is loneliness so depressing? Are not we supposed to be able to be comfortable with just ourselves? Would not that be wonderful?
The answer to that question is in our evolution as a human species.
We are scheduled to be in contact. All social animals know that staying isolated drastically reduces their chances of surviving and reproducing, and that is why they avoid loneliness.
Feeling lonely is like an old-fashioned alarm. Your body warns you that getting away from society, from people who love you, endangers your survival and, although today you no longer run the risk of dying devoured by a tiger, you can not do anything to avoid it.
Faced with this situation, your mind begins to prepare for the worst, identifying any sign around you as a possible threat.
As your body has begun to live in constant danger, a double-edged sword is created. Because far from motivating you to go out, explore and meet new people, fear causes the opposite.
This situation generates a state similar to depression, to the point where you can interpret loneliness as real physical pain.
As if all this were not enough, our education has also reinforced these irrational beliefs, for example, assuming that at a certain age we must have already married or formed a family. Otherwise, it seems that we are weirdos, and that still adds more pressure.
But remember: this vicious circle is only in your head. It is a prehistoric vestige that is meaningless today. The more aware you are of this, the sooner you can stop living the loneliness as if it were depression.
The true relationship between loneliness and happiness
When I finished studying my career I was lucky enough to find work almost immediately. It was a good opportunity with great possibilities for growth.
I was young and I wanted to eat the world, and I turned all my efforts in my professional life. I spent more than 12 hours a day in the office and worked most weekends. Even the night I turned 23 I chose to stay working at my boss’s house to finish a project.
A year later I had been completely alone. And it was one of the hardest stages of my life.
No partner or friends.
I had forgotten to cultivate my relationships. I thought that my friends would always count on me, or that sending them a message from time to time would be enough.
But it’s not the same.
Do you remember the number of friends you had as a child? During adolescence, social relationships occupy the first place in our scale of values, but when we become adults issues such as working careers or caring for children relegate them to the background.
That is exactly what had happened to me. I completely forgot that social relations are what most influence our happiness. No matter how much money, work or fame you have, if you feel lonely you will remain unhappy.
And the social networks, in which I had taken refuge, do not work. Thousands of years of evolution have programmed us for face-to-face relationships, not to interact with text messages. That’s why people who spend more than two hours a day on social networks have twice the chance of feeling alone.
Not to mention that being spectators of the apparently happy lives of others makes us feel even more unfortunate, as one study showed.
Actually, you’re not as alone as you think
Yes, although we keep hanging smiling photos on the Facebook wall, we have all felt alone at some point in our lives.
It is estimated that 1 in 10 people feel alone, and that percentage increases to 1 in 3 in those over 60.
There are even several experts who warn that the next global epidemic is loneliness.
Although you feel that all the stars of the universe have been conjured against you and that you will never find someone who loves you or understands you, nobody escapes feeling alone. No one. In fact, I will always remember the confession that one of my best friends made when we went to high school.
He was the typical popular boy. He was fun, brave and always surrounded by friends, and we all wanted to be part of his gang.
But one night when he drank too much, he revealed to me that sometimes he felt unbearably lonely.
He told me that he did not dare to explain it for fear of breaking his charismatic image, but he felt that nobody could understand him and that he did not know what he wanted to do in this life.
That day I learned that the interior of people hides many surprises. And that you can be very close to people, but feel very far away.
Feeling lonely is not the same as being alone
Because, in reality, loneliness can be good. It has been shown that in this state, the brain regains attention capacity, motivation, creativity, and productivity.
However, feeling alone is another story. In the long term, it affects your mental health, provokes depression and supposes a greater risk of mortality than obesity.
So, what is the difference between being alone and feeling lonely and depressed?
The first answer is in your expectations. In the distance between your real social relationships and those, you would like to have. If you would like to be able to share your thoughts with someone but you have no one to do it with, you will feel lonely.
The second answer is how you feel about what you feel.
In other words, what is truly important is not feeling alone, but how you feel about feeling alone.
The important thing is not how you feel, but how you feel about what you feel.
It may be hard to understand, but if when you feel alone you interpret it as something terrible, you probably get depressed. If on the contrary, you interpret it as an opportunity to reflect and get to know yourself better, it probably does not affect you that much.
You can not help feeling alone, especially if your social relationships are not what you would like. But if you spend the day telling yourself that this is something terrible and that your whole life will be horrible, you will fall into sadness and depression, unable to get out of that vicious circle.
Fortunately, all these negative emotions are caused by thoughts. And this is great news because it means that you have the power to change them.
5 signs that you are afraid to be alone
The fear of loneliness is so strong that it makes us feel that we are unable to fend for ourselves in this world. That we need to have someone by our side to pull forward.
Logically this is not true, but the lack of self-confidence and the fear of being left alone is what chains many people in toxic relationships when their partner does them far more harm than good.
So, if it is possible to deceive yourself out of fear, what signs can betray that in the depths of your heart you feel alone?
Science has detected several, and some are surprising.
1. Sometimes buying compulsively
Do you know why you want so much the new iPhone or waste money on clothes that you do not wear?
In a study carried out on more than 2,500 volunteers, it was found that people who feel lonely try to fill their void by accumulating material possessions.
Although shopping can boost your mood temporarily, that feeling is fleeting. Several studies have shown that buying things does not improve your happiness in the medium term: it is better to spend money on experiences.
2. You are hooked on the series
Addicted to Game of Thrones? For it has been shown that there is a correlation between the feeling of loneliness and the tendency to abuse the television series.
If you enjoy marathon sessions watching series, be careful. Maybe you are using them as a distraction to avoid facing your real feelings.
3. You prefer to spend heat
It turns out that we associate the warmth of social relationships with physical warmth. Literally.
A 2013 study found that people who are lonely tend to take longer showers with hotter water, which helps them feel better.
Apparently, we do not feel more isolated when we are cold, and more accompanied when we are hot . The reason probably has something to do with the warmth that our first social experiences, such as the hugs of our parents or friends, gave us.
4. Your friends also feel lonely
Your friends can catch a cold, but did you know that they can also spread your loneliness?
Feeling alone is contagious, especially among women. In fact, you are 52% more likely to feel lonely if a family member or close friend also feels that way.
Why? Well, because depressed people can behave distantly with you, which will make you feel more alone having lost them.
5. You are more irascible than usual
Are you nervous lately? Can not stand being stuck in traffic jams or irritated by the antipathy of some people?
If it’s your case, maybe it’s not a matter of a bad patch. Maybe it’s the fault of loneliness.
Feeling alone puts you in alert mode against new threats. That is why certain behaviors cause you so much stress.
What do you do when you feel lonely? 10 psychological keys
If you feel terribly alone on a regular basis, stop pitying and start taking matters into your own hands.
To overcome loneliness, definitely avoid seeking consolation on the Internet, where it is easy to get hooked. Instead, you must learn to change your perspectives, improve your social skills and expand your social circle. Otherwise, you will be leaving the door open for solitude to return again.
Below you will find 10 psychological strategies that will help you to accept solitude, improve your mood and connect with people.
1. Identify the cause of your feelings
Is it true that you would not take a medication before knowing what your disease is?
For the first mistake of most people who feel lonely is to look for the solution before coming up with the problem.
Think about what it means for you to feel alone and try to discover its cause. But beware! The cause is not “I feel lonely because I do not have a partner”. No. The cause is why not having a partner makes you feel lonely.
Maybe it’s because you think that at your age you should already be married and that makes you feel unsuccessful, or because you value little and think that no one will ever be able to love you. To find the origin, simply ask yourself twice the question Why?
-I feel alone.
-Why do you feel lonely?
-Because I have no friends to support me.
– Why not have friends to support you makes you feel alone?
It is difficult to be painfully honest with oneself, but being clear about the motive is essential to find a direction.
2. Accept your feelings and do not fight against them
Once you are clear about the origin of your loneliness, it is time to reconcile with it.
You feel lonely and depressed when you interpret thoughts like “I do not have friends”, “I cannot be honest with my husband” or “do not care about anyone” as something horrible. Therefore, the solution is not to judge them or fight against them when they invade you again.
The reason is that the more you resist a thought, the stronger it becomes. It’s like trying not to think about a white polar bear: irremediably you end up thinking about that damn white polar bear.
However, the more space you give your negative thoughts to exist, the faster they will leave. Because you will stop interpreting them as a threat against which you have to fight.
Simply accept them and recognize how you feel: “To think that I do not have a partner makes me feel lonely”. And that’s it. You can even treat him like a heavy friend who is making you a surprise visit.
“Hi, loneliness, I see you’ve visited me again” – and welcome him with resignation until he leaves.
3. Tell someone how you feel
The next way to relieve your loneliness is to tell someone how you feel. Not in Internet forums, but face to face.
Think of a friend who has given you support in the past or who is simply comfortable with him and call him. It can be difficult to do it when you have not talked for a while but do it.
Maybe you think he’ll laugh, pity you or take away your importance. But I assure you, it will not be like that. Most likely, empathize with you, because everyone has felt lonely and lost at some time.
Sincere to someone and show your true feelings will unite you more. The only thing that raises suspicions and generates distance is trying to hide what you feel.
4. Meditate for 15 minutes a day
A 2012 study found that meditation can reduce the detrimental effects of loneliness.
Specifically, meditating 15 minutes a day for 8 weeks reduced the negative thoughts associated with loneliness by 18% compared to the control group.
Learning to meditate is not difficult. You do not need to read any books or sign up for courses. You just have to train your mind to focus on the present without wandering between the past and the future.
Just get comfortable, close your eyes, and focus on your breathing. If you start thinking about something else, return your attention to the breath, without judging whether you have done it right or wrong.
And that’s it. It is not possible to fail with meditation, just practice it and your mind will begin to create a new relationship with loneliness. A relationship that will allow you to observe it without fear, in a peaceful and calm way.
5. Stop reading self-help right now
Once I read a reflection on the blog of psychologist Marina Díaz that I thought was very successful.
According to popular psychology, when you feel lonely or depressed is because you have low self-esteem.
In that case, what you should do is try to increase it, right?
Many believe that. And then they start reading and reading self-help books to learn to know each other and love each other more.
But this strategy has a big problem.
Imagine that your self-esteem is a diamond. You keep it on a tray in your house, and logically you want it to be clean and bright.
However, in your house there is dust. When it is not because of the wind it is because someone enters with dirty feet.
As the diamond becomes constantly dirty, you obsessively clean it. You spend hours making it shine, but when you get lost, dust specks fall back on you.
However, your mind tells you that you should continue to clean the diamond, because if it is clean then you will feel good, find friends and solve all your problems.
But since all you do is clean the diamond, you do not have time to make new friends or talk about your problems as a couple.
You have to choose. Or you go out to live life and assume that the diamond is sometimes going to be dirty, or you stay at home cleaning it.
That diamond is your self-esteem. Because we believe that we are not capable of doing anything if we do not always have it perfect. And that’s why we do not do anything.
“I need self-esteem to not feel alone. ” “With more self-esteem, they would respect me more. ” “If I had self-esteem I would not be affected by what they thought of me. ” And a long etcetera.
Has it been useful for you to spend all that time cleaning the diamond? Do not you think it would be better for you if you did not worry so much about keeping it immaculate and dedicating yourself to doing something important for yourself?
6. Do 30 minutes of exercise
Mind and body go together. What happens to one has consequences on the other, and vice versa.
Loneliness also has negative effects on your physical health. But only 30 minutes of exercise for three days a week is enough to change that state and start recovering
Do not underestimate the importance of sport over your mood. Exercise triggers your positive thoughts by generating endorphins (known as wellness hormones), increases your metabolic rate and helps you feel more comfortable with your own image.
If you do not play sports, forget about the other nine keys and start here. Exercise may not eliminate the cause of your loneliness, but it will relieve your symptoms.
7. Connect with people through MeetUps
Interacting with people teaches you that you are not alone in the universe. It connects you with this world and makes you feel part of it, with its same problems and illusions.
But what happens when you have no friends nearby? How can you meet new people?
I present MeetUp.
MeetUp is a website where events and meetings are announced (there are to go on bicycles or comment books, for example), and where many people go alone.
I know that it is not easy to go alone to an event. Loneliness can increase your anxiety in social situations, so I recommend a psychological strategy that usually works well: consider the situation as a game putting yourself in the shoes of another person.
For example, you could imagine that you are a public relations person. How would you do to know if the people at the event are having a good time?
8. Do something for others (even if it’s small)
Did you know that when you donate to charity the same brain region is activated as when you eat chocolate or have sex?
Dar will make you feel better. In a study that would surprise many economists, the participants were randomly divided into 4 groups.
- The first one was given 5 dollars each to buy something for them. The second was given 20 dollars to do the same.
- In the third, they had to spend the $ 5 to buy something for another person, and in the latter the same with 20.
Those who spent 5 and 20 dollars on the others ended up feeling much happier and more satisfied than those who spent the money on themselves. But what is more surprising is that those who gave away 20 dollars did not feel better than those who gave 5.
In other words, it is not a question of how much to give, but simply to give.
One of the best ways to relieve loneliness and stop thinking about it is to do something for others. Join an NGO or dedicate two days a month to keep an elderly person company; It is very difficult to feel alone when you are helping the poor or the neediest. And it also rewards you with immense gratitude.
9. Travel alone to not feel alone
The more you just travel, the more you will be accompanied.
It is a paradox, but it is so. Many people do not dare to travel alone because of several fears, especially the one of not being able to bear the loneliness. But the reality is that they will be alone very little time.
Traveling in a company can be much more lonely than traveling on your own. It forces you to have to constantly relate to your classmates so that it does not seem like you are leaving them aside. In these cases, it is very frequent to return from a trip without having met anyone.
When traveling alone, people are more predisposed to talk to you. You stop being a closed group, with your own rules, and you become a curious traveler. Without realizing it, you will begin to meet people with amazing stories, and that will connect you again with the world.
Personally, on a few occasions, I have spent more than two days without company when I have traveled alone. If you stay in hostels you will find a lot of people (young and old) in your same situation, and in a matter of minutes, you will be making new friends.
10. Adopt a dog
If you feel sad and depressed lately you may think that now you cannot bear more responsibilities in your life. You just need to have a dog!
Allow me to disagree categorically.
I had not shown any interest in these furry beings all my life. Some of them seemed pretty, but having to walk them 3 times a day seemed like excessive slavery.
However, I have recently begun to see the advantages that entail. I’m going to quote you some:
It forces you to move
Having a dog means following a routine. You can not stay depressed in bed until 12 o’clock in the morning; You have to get up to take him out to the street and feed him.
A dog will add a routine to your life. And in the worst moments, that can be the first step towards recovery.
It helps you meet people
Dog owners initiate many more conversations with each other, so take advantage of it to meet people when you go out for a walk with your pet.
The reason is that having something in common with other people links us more to them and predisposes us to socially relate.
It lifts your spirits
As if all this were not enough, the simple act of caressing your dog for 20 minutes is enough to increase your serotonin levels by 10%, known as the happiness hormone.
If you feel lonely, having a dog will not only prevent you from leaving, but it will open the doors to meet more people and see things with more optimism. And if you also adopt it, you will be saving a life.
Conclusion: learn to be alone
In this guide, I have shown you the main scientific strategies to reduce the terrible effect of loneliness.
However, remember that it is normal for you to feel lonely from time to time. It all happens to us.
Even those people that you consider more sociable or extroverted have gone through solitude. At some time or another, we have all felt (or will feel) misunderstood, lost and ignored.
Do not reject loneliness. You do not have to be permanently happy and happy, nor behave like a brave person or be the one who always comforts others. You also have the right to feel sad from time to time, because that reflection will help you to regain momentum.
However, do not let this feeling go on too long. Otherwise, depression can start to show up.
To achieve this, learn to fight without resisting. Feel just a feeling, and there is no feeling that lasts forever. If you let him go instead of confronting him as if he were going to stay forever, he will end up leaving.
Once you learn to live peacefully with loneliness, put the first stone so you do not have to return. Get out, exercise, create routines and connect with new people. You will discover that your circle of loneliness is as small as you want it to be.
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