Are you feeling lonely? If the answer is ‘Yes’, here are some simple steps to help you reach out and feel more connected to others
CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Happiful
There are many reasons why we may feel lonely. Sometimes it’s as a direct result of a change in our circumstances – relocating or following a break-up – other times, though, there isn’t an obvious reason.
If you’re struggling with feelings of loneliness it’s important to remember that this is absolutely not your fault. Trying to make changes can feel overwhelming, but there are steps you can take to help you feel more connected with those around you and make new, meaningful connections.
We’ve compiled five steps that you can take to help you reach out if you’re feeling lonely. Some people find these ideas useful – but remember that different things work for different people at different times. Only try what you feel comfortable with, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself – these feelings are usually temporary, and there is absolutely no shame in saying that you’re not okay.
If you haven’t socialised for a while it might seem daunting to meet new people, or open up to others, but you don’t have to make any drastic, overnight changes. Focus on the small things you can do right now that will help you to feel more positive and connected to the world.
Sometimes simply being around other people can be enough to give us a sense of connectedness. Why not head out for a walk in the fresh air, or pop down to the shops or a local cafe for some people-watching? This can take the pressure off if you don’t feel much like talking.
Or, you could text a friend to ask how their day is going and if they’d like to meet up soon. If you can’t (or don’t feel able to) do this, why not send them a funny gif or a joke – this can help to make you smile, get the conversation moving and take your mind off how you’re feeling.
Create your own ‘self-care toolbox’
We all do certain things to cheer ourselves up, or turn a bad day around. For some, this might involve listening to a certain song; for others, it might be eating a particular food or going to a special place. We can arm ourselves with lots of little things like this, as part of a ‘self-care toolbox’.
“Perhaps there are things you already do in your life that give you a sense of calmness and connectedness,” says Dr Charlotte Whiteley. “Whether it’s playing an instrument, walking in nature, watching your favourite film or box set, speaking to a particular friend, or some other hobby. continue doing these things, and add to them.”
Disconnect to connect
Sometimes our ‘phones can get in the way of real-life interaction. A lot of the time, we can fill the silence with scrolling, even when we’re not intentionally trying to avoid conversations. But eye contact is an important factor for human connection so, even if you’re not speaking to others, taking your gaze away from your ‘phone can be really helpful to prevent loneliness.
Why not try a social media break the next time you’re in a situation surrounded by other people? Whether you’re on the train to work, sat in a coffee shop or having lunch in the staff room, put your ‘phone down. If you feel up to it, try to engage in a little bit of small talk and,even if you feel tempted, leave your ‘phone alone.
Of course, if you’re feeling isolated, social media can be a great tool to connect with others. So, if you rely on your ‘phone to help you connect with other people, why not explore how you might be able to use social media to your advantage? Take a look to see if there are any Facebook groups in your local area or other networking groups that you can join to help you take part in conversations – and even make some new online friendships.
Allow yourself to be real
Sometimes it’s nice to appreciate our differences – to learn from one another and to hear from other perspectives; however, it can be isolating if we feel that we have nothing in common with peers or colleagues.
This lack of connection may be a result of the way we are presenting ourselves to others, according to integrative counsellor Beth Roberts. “Feeling really lonely can be a sign that you aren’t showing your authentic self to others, so you aren’t truly connecting.”
One of the biggest barriers to a sense of connectedness can be in our inability to show our real selves. We can make assumptions about other people that prevent us from sharing our thoughts and feelings with others. One thing you can try is to let your barriers down a little. Of course, you can’t change who you are, or the way you are – but you can try to help others get to know you a little better.
If you’re feeling disconnected from your colleagues, why not try attending (or organising) a work social event? Being away from your place of work can help you to break away from any expectations, or limitations, you may feel about letting people get to know the real you.
Ask for what you need
Reaching out when you’re feeling lonely doesn’t mean you have to pour your heart out and say exactly how you’re feeling; it just means acknowledging how you’re feeling and leaning in to that need for human connection. So, make eye contact, send that text, make that ‘phone call – let people around you know that you’re feeling a little out of sorts.
And remember, you are important, you are needed and you are loved – even if you don’t feel it right now.