“He who cannot howl will not find his pack.”
– Charles Simic
When we were younger, making friends seemed easy. You were forced to spend your time in school surrounded by a diverse group of people, and through this consistency of presence, you figured out which groups you wanted to be a part of and which you did not. You found a group that you could call your friends, and despite any differences you might have had, you accepted each other.
But when you become an adult and leave the academic setting, finding friend groups becomes a bit more difficult. The only situation where you might be presented with the same faces each day is through employment and your living situation. For that reason, many people choose to stay friends with their high school and college friends, even though as people they may have evolved out of those relationships and are seeking different social fulfillment.
Have you ever been surrounded by people and yet still feel so alone?
Our friends which once were enough to make us feel complete, accepted, and appreciated, sometimes end up making us feel isolated, misunderstood, and compartmentalized. They might still only see you as the person you were all those years ago instead of the person you have become as you’ve grown older. This can be comforting, but also unsatisfying if you are growing and your friends are not. Or, if you are growing in separate directions but still trying to make the old friendships work when you clearly have nothing in common anymore.
Feelings of loneliness in adulthood can occur after a sudden loss such as a breakup, death, or divorce. If you’ve invested all of your social time and effort into a partner who then ends up leaving you, you may be faced with depression and feelings of loneliness as you try and cope with living the single life again. You create a routine with that person. You talk to them every day, and see them often. You build up expectations around their presence, and when it’s no longer there, it breaks all those habits. It disrupts your rhythm, which can leave you feeling miserable, and desirous of that habitual comfort again. You sit by your phone waiting for the texts that no longer come, on Saturday nights when you used to visit your partner you now sit alone, or with friends in an attempt to ignore the feelings of loneliness. But in some instances, when you date someone, you also prioritize them over your other friends, and when you break up, you may find that the friends that you set aside no longer have time for you. Or your connections lack the same intimacy that you shared with your partner, which can make you feel more lonely. This can also be true for divorce. If you’ve lived the majority of your life with a spouse, separation from them may leave you feeling like you’ve lost your best friend. Or maybe you are very close with your family. Perhaps your siblings are your closest friends, and when you experience a sudden loss such as a death of a relative, it may leave you feeling lonely and lost.
Coping with these losses takes time, healing, and effort to overcome. So how do you deal with loneliness as an adult?
Most sources say the same things: Focus on yourself, do the things you love, get out there and join a group or club to meet new people, reconnect with old friends…
But I am here to share with you some of the things that I find most helpful when I am feeling lonely
- Recognize that loneliness is only a feeling, it’s not a state of being. If you’re feeling lonely, it’s because of some sort of discontent inside yourself. If you can’t find company with yourself, you might not find it with other’s. Therefore it’s important to understand that the power to change those thoughts and feelings lies within you. If you can rationalize with that sad feeling of abandonment inside your head, you can more easily accept the emotions that come with being alone. Just because you are lonely doesn’t mean you are actually alone. I mean, really consider it. You are surrounded by people every day of your life. You go to your job and you are surrounded by people. You go to the store and there are people around you. What you are feeling is a disconnection from those people, which brings me to my next point.
- Interact with others. Yes, sometimes this means strangers. When you leave your house (which really, is a huge step to overcoming feelings of loneliness), strike up conversations with the humans around you. Compliment someone on their outfit or makeup. When we do nice things like giving compliments, it makes yourself feel good too. Make a comment to the cashier, even if it’s about the shitty weather. I hate that talking about the weather is so looked down on, because I actually really enjoy discussing the weather, nature, and the cycles of our lives. After I broke up with my boyfriend I went to the bookstore just to get out of my house and in the presence of something that I always love to do; book shopping. While I was there, an older gentleman came up to me and started talking about one of his favorite books in the section I was in. I thanked him for the recommendation and let him talk about why he liked the book so much. The conversation usually wouldn’t have interested me in the slightest, but he was a human soul that might have been feeling just as lonely as I was, so I engaged in the social interaction and accepted it for what it was, and when I went home, I was filled with a feeling of “wow, that was neat, I just had a random conversation with a dude at the book store”.
- Throw yourself into a new hobby. This one doesn’t have to be social, per se, but by engaging your brain in something active, you can distract yourself from those feelings of loneliness. In my experience, during times of loneliness, I always found a new topic to research extensively. Most recently this hobby became yoga and tarot. Whenever I felt that nagging pull on my heart that I was lonely, I turned to these new hobbies to distract myself. By working on something, you improve yourself and use your time wisely. Some people spend their whole lives consuming. They sit down and watch Netflix, or read endless books, and there is nothing wrong with that, but I think that by discovering a new hobby and learning something new, you engage different parts of your brain that can lead to feelings of accomplishment, fulfillment, and contentment. If you just went through a divorce and throw yourself into your job full force, yeah that piece of kitty litter left you, but hey, at least you are slaying in your work!
- Being active can also help combat these feelings of loneliness and sadness. Want to kill two birds with one stone? Join a gym. Yeah, you might be surrounded by meatheads, but not only will you be working towards a goal for yourself (to get bangin’ hot), you will be around people. Sometimes all you need to feel better about being lonely and sad is to see other’s in worse scenarios than you. I know, that sounds really bitchy of me, but there’s a name for it. Schadenfreude. Sometimes you just have to see someone suffering worse than you to make yourself feel better. What better place to do that than at the gym? You’ll either see someone just like you, trying to work their fluff into tough which could lead to a beautiful friendship or you’ll see some buffed out beefcake trying way to hard to pick up chicks, and hey, that’s worth a little chuckle.
- Yep, I’m going to say it. Join a group. No, I don’t mean that this has to be a physical group where you physically go to a location and have to awkwardly sit through a few meetings before having the courage to introduce yourself. Joining a group could be as simple as finding a new interest and then immersing yourself in that lifestyle online. Like makeup? Start following a ton of makeup twitters and eventually you’ll become a part of that group. Like professional wrestling? Start a tumblr blog or fanpage for your favorites and watch how many notes you’ll end up getting! Like bdsm? Join fetlife and start posting in the forums. And POST! The way to become a part of anything is to be active. It’s ok to lurk around the pages, but the real connections start when you put yourself out there. You did your makeup really nice today? Post a pic of yourself and tag it with all the twitter tags you usually follow. Livetweet wrestlemania! Got a question about how to properly choke ya girl? Ask in the fetlife forums. Believe me, there are plenty of people out there willing to connect with you.
- This next point follows point five. Make things of quality. Be the kind of person you want to see out there in the world. Try to be the best version of yourself. If you raise your vibrations to where you want to be, you will attract that back. Be authentically you and put yourself out there and eventually you WILL find the people you are meant to be with. You will find your tribe. But you’re never going to find them by dwelling on the negative emotions and feelings of loneliness. You must put in the effort to be a part of the world, and the world will accept you, your world will accept you.
Don’t get discouraged when you feel lonely. Everyone goes through these things at some point. And if you are reading this and feeling lonely, say hi! I’d love to connect with you. We’re all a part of this world together. My invitation will always be open.
What do you do when you feel lonely? I’d love to hear from you in the comments or a pingback!