In our world of constant connection to all things electronic, it may seem peculiar that many people feel isolated and alone. A recent study by health insurer Cigna revealed that nearly half of all Americans feel lonely, and 54% responded that they feel like no one actually knows them well.
Loneliness is different than being alone, as we all need some healthy “alone time” now and then. A sense of loneliness is more of a deep aching that people experience when they feel disconnected, disengaged or detached from others.
Most people experience loneliness at times, but few talk about it or address how to push through it. Let’s consider a few principles that can help us move from a mood of isolation to a place of connection once again.
Mind Games. When a person feels alone, there are often thoughts that tend to be replayed in their mind. Thoughts like:
- No one understands me.
- No one cares about me
- No one sees life the same way I do.
While each of us are unique individuals and have different life experiences, there is actually nothing new under the sun. Don’t buy into the lie that no one understands or cares or that no one has ever experienced similar circumstances. It is time to weed out the old messages you are telling yourself and start planting new ones like:
- There are other people who understand.
- There are people in my community who care.
- There are people who have gone through similar situations.
Change your thought patterns and slowly bring hope into the structure of your daily thinking.
Simple Action Points. When we feel lonely, it is easy to accept the invitation to our own pity-party, but that’s one party invitation we need to decline. We must choose to slowly and surely step forward and get out of our funk. Here are some practical ways to do just that:
- Volunteer at a place you feel passionate about
- Join an organization, club or support group
- Go to church and join a small group or Bible study
- Reach out to people you know who need encouragement or help from you
- Pay attention to lonely people at work or in your community – be their friend
Take an honest look at yourself. There is always room for self-improvement, and we can make positive changes in our lives. Here are some questions you may want to ask yourself.
- Am I always negative?
- Do I complain too much?
- Am I bitter?
- Do I discourage others rather than lift them up?
- Do I need to forgive someone and open back up the door of friendship?
- Am I typically thinking or talking about myself?
- Do I sincerely care and love others or am I just concerned about what people think about me?
As you answer these questions honestly about yourself, you may realize you need a turning point to go in a new direction. Start by being grateful (counting your blessings every day) and focusing on the needs of others. Guard against complaining and grumbling, and speak only kind words about others.
Less Online, More Real Time. Online connections can’t take the place of real human connection. We need eye contact and touch. We need to hear the intonation and sound of people’s voices to understand and feel understood. Online connections loose many of the non-verbal cues essential to relationships. Sometimes in our own families, surrounded by people, we can feel lonely because we are engrossed in our electronic devices. Be deliberate about putting down the electronics, so that you can truly communicate with the people around you. Meal times especially should be “No Phone Zones.”
Proactively Deepen Connections. There are simple actions we can take to strengthen and deepen our relationships. Never underestimate the power of eye contact. Pay attention to the people you are talking to and actively listen by asking questions to learn more about their thoughts and feelings, hopes and dreams. Stop looking away from each other and start looking toward each other.
Remember you are not alone. Possibly one of the most comforting statements ever uttered is “God is with you.” He is a constant source of comfort and strength to our tired and weary souls. He loves you and will never leave you. He created us for connection. We can ask Him to guide us and show us how to be a good friend to others. He can open our eyes to the people we should reach out to and give us the grace and love to connect in a deeper way.