Existential Psychology

What To Do If You Have Started To Feel Lonely

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Loneliness fluctuates because life circumstances are always changing. Change is a welcome friend when circumstances are aversive, but the other side of the coin is that sometimes things are exactly the way you want them to be yet they can’t stay that way forever. In the context of starting to feel lonely maybe you recently moved to a new city where you don’t know anyone, maybe some of your good friends moved away, maybe you’ve reached a stage in life where people are focusing most of their attention on their own nuclear families.

Regardless of the external changes that have prompted you to start feeling lonely it’s a painful situation, one that can really eat away at you and make you question yourself, affecting the way you think and act. The first thing you can do is purely psychological, not altering anything except your perception. This is to remember that there are a lot of people who do care about you although they might be spread out across the country or even the world. They exist though, and if you were living in the same geographical location as them you’d probably feel a lot less lonely than you do right now.

Psychologically speaking, we don’t need people in our immediate vicinity to feel connected to them. This is how political prisoners are able to handle deprivations like solitary confinement so much better than the general population. They cultivate a sense of meaning because they feel part of a larger cause and with that cause part of a community. It doesn’t matter that these prisoners have little or no contact with the outside world because they still feel connected to it. Their neurons fire the same way as if they actually were.

You can cultivate that inner feeling of connection by remembering all the people you care about who aren’t living in the same place, and you can take it one step further by reaching out to them and making your contact more regular. You might feel like a prisoner in solitary confinement right now but it’s a cell of your own making. Video conferencing, a service almost everyone with a mobile phone and a wireless connection has access to, is a powerful way to feel more connected to people spread out across the globe. I was a little skeptical of this form of communication until I started using it to see clients online and now I’m a huge advocate. I feel just as connected to clients in this format as I did when I saw them in person. I’ve also talked to a lot of couples whose circumstances forced long distance relationships for a while and they believe they wouldn’t have made it, not to mention flourished, if it weren’t for seeing each other live on video conferencing all the time.

Using technology to reach out and feel more connected will help with your loneliness all on its own, but a practical reason to do it is that your external behavior is usually a manifestation of your internal state. If you’re feeling connected even though you don’t have a lot of social connections in your geographical region you’ll act differently, you’ll be more open and confident, you’ll feel like yourself.

This will help you cultivate a positive state of readiness about making new social connections. Your perspective will help you deal with your current lack of connections better because you’ll perceive your loneliness as just a phase. That creeping sense of hopelessness will turn into hope. Go out there in the world with the knowledge that there are people out there who care about you, just like political prisoners do, and you’ll be more likely to act like your authentic Self in social encounters rather than the closed off, unhappy person you might be presenting now. This will probably turn some of these social encounters into something more substantial, especially if you’re actively trying to make it happen.