Are You Lonely?
Have you ever felt lonely in a crowd? When you’re amongst family and friends, have you ever felt lonely? Do you ever feel lonely in your closest relationship?
Loneliness has been called a national healthcare crisis because of the pervasiveness of loneliness and the research indicating that it contributes to disease and illness and hinders effective healing. That was before COVID-19. Recent research has shown that feelings of loneliness skyrocketed during COVID-19 and social distancing. There are indications that feelings of loneliness will continue to increase. If you have times where you feel lonely, you are not alone.
When I was a young man, I recall a popular song that said, “Listen to all the lonely people thinking that love has passed them by, don’t give up….” I remember that phrase, and only that phrase. Why? Because I, too, struggle with loneliness. Many of us do. With help, we can have meaningful connections. We don’t need to feel lonely; we can do something to make it better.
Loneliness is one of life’s most difficult experiences. It feels strange and can make you feel empty, sad, insecure, invisible, and worthless. You can feel like no one cares or loves you. Loneliness can make us feel disconnected, like we don’t belong or matter. When we feel lonely, we can feel isolated with nowhere to go for help. Feeling lonely, isolated, or disconnected can mess with us deeply because meaningful connections are an essential core desire of every human heart. Loneliness can significantly undermine our well-being.
It hurts when we feel like we don’t belong, fit in, or are somehow disconnected. This painful feeling can cause us to withdraw even further. When we withdraw from the pain, loneliness hurts even more. We can feel that our only recourse is to completely withdraw, making it worse. Loneliness feeds loneliness, and it grows.
Designed for Relationships
People are designed to have relationships. We need deep, personal, close, intimate relationships. Without them, it can feel like we can’t breathe. We can feel suffocated or like we are drowning. Relationships can give us a dose of much-needed relational oxygen. As a coach and counselor, I often hear couples and individuals talk about feeling lonely. When you experience challenges in your closest relationships, and we all have challenges, it can cause us to feel lonely.
Help for Loneliness
So where is hope in the midst of loneliness? I spent some time compiling some helpful suggestions that have worked for me and for couples I have helped when struggling with loneliness. I want to share them with you.
- Notice and name feelings of loneliness (or) Identify what are the root causes for your loneliness?. This can be tricky as loneliness travels with companions like fear and anger. It can also be excruciating to go through this process, and this pain can radiate to other places. Can you explain how to go through this process? Perhaps it’s talking to a counselor, journaling, confiding in a trusted support person.
- Be OK with feeling lonely. Tell yourself you will be OK. Don’t shame yourself or stuff the feelings. You are not alone. You will be OK.
- Loneliness is often accompanied by horrible self-talk. See if you can identify the self-talk traveling with these feelings. I encourage everyone to test their self-talk by asking the following:
- Is it right (correct)?
- Is it helpful (helpful to yourself to think that way)?
- Is it kind (to you to think that)?
- If your thoughts are not helpful and kind, shift to other thoughts. Controlling your thoughts takes practice. You will improve over time if you keep at it.
- Take a step to connect and force yourself to engage with others. Talk to someone. Join a group. Go to church. Tell a friend what you are feeling. Reach out to someone as they may be feeling lonely too.
- Know the difference between times of solitude, time alone that we all need for good self-care, versus times of loneliness. Sometimes our weary hearts need some downtime by ourselves. This can feel like loneliness, but it is not. It is a healthy habit.
- Manage expectations. Unrealized and unidentified expectations are often connected to feeling lonely. We live in a broken and imperfect world with other broken and imperfect people. We all let ourselves and others down. This is normal. Be OK with normal, and you may feel less lonely. We can miss many amazing things if we dwell on unrealistic expectations.
- Get help. When you’ve exhausted all efforts and are still struggling with feelings of loneliness, it’s time to seek professional help. Talking with a coach or counselor will help you sort through your thoughts and identify the root cause of your feelings of loneliness.
Additional resources to help:
- Brene Brown, Atlas of the Heart Chapter 9, Braving the Wilderness
- Lysa TerKeurst, Uninvited
- Read my Shame Blog Part 1 & Part 2
If you’re struggling with loneliness, the counselors and coaches at Married Life can help you work through the process to heal. With help and the right tools, you can begin to rebuild meaningful relationships with your loved ones and reconnect. Schedule to see us; we can help.
Jeff is a guest blog writer for Married Life Counseling. Through his own experience as a husband, and many years of counseling couples as a pastor, Jeff has developed a passion for marriage and helping to restore relationships. Jeff has been married to his wife, Joyce, for 39 years. Together they have continued to grow a healthy and flourishing marriage.