Everyone has feelings of loneliness from time to time; it is 100% human nature to crave connection -physical, emotional, spiritual, etc.- and it is completely normal to feel disconnected when those connections are not obtained. Feelings of loneliness are not limited to literally being alone at a certain moment; they have more to do with feeling alone. So, it is natural to be in a house full of people and still feel lonely. A few years ago, the former Surgeon General, Vivek Murthy, declared that our world is “suffering from an epidemic of loneliness.” It seems to be almost paradoxical that our world feels more isolated and lonely than ever as social media platforms, with the goal of building new ways to connect with others, appear to be ever-expanding.
All of this data was collected before the beginning of this global pandemic, where we have been obligated to physically isolate from others. These statistics are only predicted to greatly increase by the end of summer because there is a strong correlation between physical isolation and emotional isolation (or loneliness). This makes sense; we are more likely to feel disconnected from others when we are not physically near people. While we really cannot do anything about socially isolating (because we are decreasing the spread of COVID-19 by staying at home) there are ways to decrease the feelings of loneliness that are associated with socially distancing. Here are five things to do when you’re feeling lonely in quarantine:
- Acknowledge your loneliness.
Put your feelings into words. Denying your loneliness, or any feelings in general, will only exacerbate their impact on you. Think about it as pressure building up in a carbonated drink. The pressure, like your emotions, will build up until the bottle cant handle it anymore. Then, it pops. Cleaning up that mess will be a lot harder than if you relieved the pressure earlier. Be honest about how you are feeling; it is the first step in initiating a positive change
- Identify why you are lonely.
Is it because you cannot physically see people, or is it something deeper than that? Reflect on this, because sometimes the answer may not be as clear cut as you think. If it is the physical aspect, try facetiming friends or make future plans to have something to look forward to. However, physical distance may make you realize that you are lonely possibly because your relationships lack depth or no one really knows you. In this case, take some time to journal and meditate to learn about your resistance to intimacy. Once you do some self-reflection, reach out to others and move past the small talk. Them you can start getting to know others on a more personal level.
- Reflect on the connections you already have.
When you get into the negative headspace of loneliness, it is easy to get tunnel vision and feel like you are completely alone. But when you get the wave of loneliness, do not fall into the black hole that is victimization. Instead, think about all of the connections you have. Think about everyone that loves you and everyone that has gone out of their way to help you. It is hard to feel lonely when you know you have a large support system behind you. If you want to go a step further, reach out and show gratitude to those people
- Reduce the time you spend on you phone.
While it seems almost counterintuitive, spending a long time on your phone can actually make you a lot more lonely. On Instagram and other social media platforms, it is inevitable to compare yourself to the happy, very selectively photos posted by others. Therefore, try reducing the amount of time that you spend on these platforms, or at least evaluate the influence that social media is having on your mental health. Are you making lasting connections on these platforms? Are you following accounts that paint unrealistic standards of beauty, wealth or life in general? Are you using social media as a way to escape reality? Think about these factors the next time you reach for your phone and go out into nature instead.
- Place your hand over your heart.
An absence of physical connection can be a cause of loneliness. Regardless of whether or not you consider yourself a “touchy” kind of person, humans naturally associate physical contact with feelings of security, compassion and care. However you do not need another person for this feeling of compassion; simply put your hand on your heart. According to a study done at the University of Texas, the care and compassion we give ourselves through touch gives our bodies the same response as the contact of other people. Touch stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system that helps us relax. So place a hand over your heart, feel your heartbeat and realize that loneliness is a feeling you can overcome.
If these feelings persist, think about trying professional help like therapy. Therapy is an amazing tool, especially at such a strange time like today. But most importantly, remember that you are not alone. Do not further isolate yourself further, but rather reach out to others to help with feelings of loneliness. Who knows, others around you may be feeling the same way. With connections and compassion, we can help overcome feelings of loneliness in this time of social isolation.