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combat loneliness with e.a.s.e.

 

 

"The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon peculiar to myself and to a few solitary men, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence."

Tom Wolfe



From time to time we all feel lonely. Loneliness can creep up when you least expect it and it's not always when you're physically  alone. You can be in a room full of people and feel alone. Likewise, you can be by yourself and feel less alone than you ever have. Some people, I believe, are more prone to loneliness. As much as I like spending time alone, I hate to be lonely. For the most part I'm not, but every once and awhile loneliness sneaks up on me and there I am -- perhaps alone in my apartment, perhaps surrounded by others -- feeling isolated and, well, alone. The other day I came across an article on Psychology Today titled "Easing Your Way Out of Loneliness, by Dr. John T. Cacioppo. In the article, four steps were provided for how you can deal with loneliness and I found these steps really helpful so I thought I'd share them with you. I'm going to be paraphrasing what's in the arti cle and the article is taking these tips from Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection so keep that in mind when you're reading these insights. Also keep in mind that loneliness can happen to anyone, at any time, for any reason. You might be the most un-lonely person in the world right now, but keep these tips in mind because you never know when you might need them.

 

How To E.A.S.E. Out of Loneliness

E is for Extend Yourself. One of the first things you should do (and the last thing I ever want to do) when you're feeling lonely is extend yourself by interacting with others in social environments. I recommend, as does the article, that you start out small and try to find ideas of interacting socially that will almost guarantee that you have a positive experience. One suggestion in the article is charitable outreach and I think this is a great idea. Last year, a year that I was feeling particularly down, I began volunteering and now it's one of the most fulfilling things I do. Sure, it's a lot of work, but it really feels good to know that, even in a small way, I'm helping other people. Another suggestion (not mentioned in the article) is spending some time with family and close friends. Think about the people you have had the most fun with in the past. Think about people who encourage and uplift you. When you're feeling lonely, seek them out. Call them up. Send them an email. Even a simple phone call can be a really positive experience if you're feeling alone.

A is for Action Plan. Often when we're trying to fill a void of loneliness we open ourselves up to new experiences. This is great -- except when we over do it. It's important to have a plan of action. Just because you're feeling lonely doesn't mean you have to accept every single offer that comes along. You don't have to join a million different groups or agree to assist friends with a thousand different projects. Pick something that's meaningful to you and focus on that. Choose people who really make your world a more positive place and spend time with them. According to the article, one of the best ways to overcome loneliness is to have "an openness to engagement combined with realistic expectations, accurate perception of social cues...and realism about the type and number of commitments to take on." This is a great point. Be realistic. It might seem like you have tons of free time on your hands, but you won't be any less lonely if you have a million tasks to get done.

S is for Selection. When choosing new activities and/or companions, we need to be selective. When you're feeling lonely, it might seem like a good idea to spend time with anyone who's willing, but that's not the best plan of attack. A better idea is to devote your time and energy to those who are willing to put in as much to the relationship that you are. As mentioned in the article, it's important to have balanced relationships, to have relationships of quality not quantity. When you're lonely you might be willing to let just about anyone into your personal space, but take a step back and consider the following: "Is this person a good influence on my life? Will this person put in as much to the relationship as I will? Will this relationship be mutual?" Loneliness is not an excuse to befriend everyone and jump into new relationships at the first sign of interest. Take your time making good, honest choices. No matter how lonely you are, you have a right to be choosy when it comes to who you allow into your life.

E is for Expect the Best. This is the hardest one for me to deal with because it is as if this advice is directed right at me. I was just telling my therapist last week that I make decisions not to attend certain events because I know what they're going to be like and I know I won't have a good time. Yes, I'm sure this is the case in some situations, but in the ones I was referencing this was not necessarily the case. In fact, I'd probably had a bad time in the past because I'd been anticipating having a bad time. When you go into a situation with a closed mind, you limit yourself from having a good time. When I've been lonely or grumpy and I don't want to do something, I usually end up having a bad time. But, I'll be honest, I bet this is mostly due to my attitude. If I went into a social situation saying, "This is going to be fun!" I bet I would have a lot better time than if I went in saying, "Oh, man, this is gonna suck." Expecting the best in new situations and with new people can only help you to spread your wings a bit more, have new encounters, and (hopefully!) conquer your loneliness.

 

If you're not feeling lonely right now, loneliness probably isn't at the forefront of your mind. However, at some point you'll probably feel lonely. No matter how many people you have in your life or how many activities take up your time, loneliness (at least, a small dose of it) is something almost everyone must face. Next time you're feeling alone, try using this E.A.S.E. method and see if it doesn't help you out of your woe-is-me slump. Being lonely doesn't have to be a permanent state. Just give these tips a try and you'll be feeling less alone in no time!

What actions do you like to take to combat loneliness?
How do you help those who are feeling lonely?

Comments

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Great post. I especially like expecting the best. Thing will get bad from time to time, but be optimistic. There are no highs without any lows.

EXPECT FOR THE BEST. That always works. It's the whole self-fulfilling prophecy and affirmation concepts. This is why my mantra is "things are falling into place." :)

Very nice post, I love the simplicity of it. And I agree with expectations. Expectations and attitude toward life and most importantly, ourselves, is the key to our happiness and way out of loneliness. Thanks for posting!

Dayne
TheHappySelf.com

It makes my day to see a new post from you Dani!

I like what you've written about selection. So many times in my life when I was lonely I was grateful for any attention, which led me to date men I shouldn't have, and be friends with those I should have run miles from! It's hard not to do that, because you're so vulnerable, but knowing that even though it's slim pickings you have the right, and the responsibility to yourself, to only surround yourself with those who make you happy and feel good about yourself is a very good point.

Expect the best - I love it! And it really works, not just if you're feeling lonely, but feeling frustrated as well. Last week I was walking home from work, and I have to walk through a very crowded area of central London and it's a bit of a nightmare and sometimes I get very frustrated with the slow moving crowds. But I kept saying to myself the whole way home, "no one will get in my way - people will look where they're going and won't bump me/step on my feet/etc. I will have a happy walk home." And I really did! I felt quite amazed when I got home and realised I wasn't grizzling about the crowds and slow people. And it made me far more patient as well :D Win win!

Thanks again for your inspiring words Dani. x

YES! "Selection" is so important. If you are spending your time with people who do not care about you (or whom you do not necessarily care for) even though you are "with" others you will still feel very disconnected.

And I think loneliness is really about feeling disconnected.

John - Thanks! I like that one the best too. It's not always easy for me to do, but I do believe it's the most important out of the four steps.

Meream - It defintiely works (if I choose to do it!). It's amazing how if you think you're going to have a bad time, you will. Likewise, if you think you'll have so much fun, you will.

Dayne - Thank you! It's so important to do what we can to have a positive attitude and optimistic expectations. Most of my life, I've been living in a gloomy state of mind, always thinking about and finding the worst. When I focus on the positive, I am a lot happier and ultimately enjoy experiences more.

Green Ink - It made my day to see that comment from you! :) So glad you like my posts! Being selective about who we surround ourselves with is SO important. It's not always easy when we're feeling lonely but it never works out well to surround yourself with people who are negative influences on your life. Having positive expectations is equally as important. Whenever I go into something with a positive attitude, the situation is always much better, no matter what ends up happening. (Of course, this is so much easier said than done when you aren't feeling very positive!) That's a great story you shared about having a positive attitude. It really does work!

Hayden - Good point! Loneliness is definitely about feeling disconnected and you can feel that way when you're not surrounding yourself with the right people, which is why selecting positive, supportive people is such an important thing to do -- no matter how lonely you feel.

As always, you're on the mark with what I need to read and remember! Sometimes being around other people is the opposite of what I need to cure my loneliness. Instead, I just need to embrace it and think a little or meditate. So I usually do that first, but the never fail tactic is talking to my mom or one of my closest friends on the telephone.

Ia - I know just what you mean. Sometimes people aren't the best cure for loneliness unless they are very close to you. Sometimes being alone is less lonely than being with others, odd as that might sound!

Great post Dani. Expecting the best is one of the most powerful things I have came across. That way, even the smallest things make you see the whole event differently.

I love Psychology Today. Loneliness is one of our basic needs along with food, water, sleep. If we feel lonely, then we may also feel out of balance, stressed, etc. Great that you bring this up -I haven't seen much written about it.

That said, I never considered Expect the best as a remedy for loneliness, but as I read the explanation I realize I have been in social situations where I went in with a bad attitude, and sure enough felt lonely during the evening. Something to consider for the future.

Srinivas - That's so true. When we are looking for something (good or bad), that's what we'll find.

Stacey - Psychology Today is great! :) Having recently changed my lifestyle quite a bit, I've been contemplating loneliness a great deal recently, though I had not yet found a great, to-the-point article like this one until now. It was a great read and I'm glad I could share its insights with my readers.

As with many of the other commenters, I particularly like the expect the best part too. I tend to place expectations on things that are sometimes not altogether positive. Expecting the best is a great tip and a good reminder for me! Thanks PP.

"...but keep these tips in mind because you never know when you might need them." How true! Like you, there are times when, even though I prefer solidarity, loneliness creeps in. And I laughed at what you wrote in parentheses about extending yourself. I'm the same way: when I'm feeling lonely, oddly the last thing I want to do is reach out, and yet that's when I know I need to most.

What a great post! Thanks for summarizing these tips for us!

I feel like ultimately, lonliness stems from a sense of being separate from the All-That-Is, which we're not. We just feel that way sometimes. I love to be alone, can't get enough of it, but occasionally I do feel lonely. My answer for most everything--more meditation. Works for me.

Great tips, I especially enjoy the last one "Expect the Best". When I keep an open mind, it is when I learn the most.

Thanks for this, Dani. I've been feeling a little lonely myself for the past few days, and so this post is just what the doctor ordered!

Sami - Expecting the best can be really hard sometimes, but it really can change the way we view the world. Attitude is everything!

Megan - Thanks for your comment! I'm glad you could relate to the post. When I'm feeling really lonely the last thing I want to do is be with other people (seems odd but it's true) but I always feel better if I force myself to be social with close friends or family members.

Molly - Good point! When we are lonely, we're feeling separate from the world and, no matter how we feel, we really cannot be separate from that. Meditation sounds like a great way to deal with this feeling.

John - Thanks! I'm glad you liked 'em. I agree that expecting the best and going into things with an open mind is so important for creating the best possible experience.

Jay - I'm so glad I posted this at the right time for you! Loneliness happens to all of us from time to time and I really hope these tips helped out.

Dani,
This is a marvelous post. Congrats! and thank you for creating it. I found upon reading this that I do use these four elements regularly so it may explain why sadness or loneliness does not often come to visit. And when it does, I do not allow it to linger long. I believe that, for the most part, we choose our mental/emotional orientation. Happiness is, indeed, a choice.

(Though I do also realize for some with dis-orders and chemical imbalances or addiction, or any number of maladies, happiness may not seem like a choice. I am speaking here of those of us who are cognizant enough to recognize the option...)

May you be happy today...

Awesome post -- you read my mind! Loneliness happens in the workplace too, and that's always been particularly problematic for me. Particularly now when I'm doing a series of one-month rotations, where I'm constantly out of my element and forced to meet new people. I always start each month with dread. But your post, particularly "Expect the best", reminds me that it's about keeping a positive attitude, making the most of the situation, and keeping an open mind for opportunity instead of letting the feeling of isolation overwhelm you. I'm sure the people around me are probably feeling just as lonely, and it helps to shake off some of my loneliness by extending a friendly hand towards others around me, even if you don't expect anything in return.

I absolutely love your website! Keep up the awesome work! I had a similar epiphany about 5 yrs ago, and my life is still a work in progress, but I do think it gets easier the more you work at it. It's important just to never give up. Hopefully I won't either.

If I'm really in a funk, it can be hard to make a plan, call someone or put a plan into action. The simplest thing I've found so far is to GET OUT OF THE HOUSE. I just get my butt out the door, breathe some fresh air, check the mail, sit on a lawn chair and maybe take a walk around the block. It doesn't completely cure the lonely blues, but it's a good start.

Hi Dani. Being selective is so important. You are honouring that person you reach out to with the best of you because they bring out the best in you. It's a win-win for both of you. I've been lonely before but I value my solitude a great deal, so I don't feel lonely all that often. I've noticed that when I do feel lonely it is when I am my happiest and there appears to be nobody around to share the happiness with.

Very nice writeup and insights.

For me, loneliness is when you can't share an experience or connect in a deep way. Nothing replaces shared experience. That's what makes some friends and family so special ... you have those funny, crazy, Hallmark moments, that you just had to be there.

Hi Dani

I would say when loneliness comes, reach out and touch someone. It can be hard to do when a person feeling down, so try to think of ways to reach out to those who are more in need of contact.

Giovanna Garcia
Imperfect Action is better than No Action

Hi Dani

Thanks, this was a really nice read for me. One thing I hate is when I read a column and I get this underlying feeling that the writer is preaching his/her views. But reading through your posts I don't get that at all and it's inspiring.
I've always felt that when it comes to certain important decisions - like choosing the friends you allow close to you or even your partner - your standards can never be too high. Don't be too easy to please. Therefore I totally agree with "SELECTION".

And perhaps it's not always such a bad thing to be lonely. Sometimes it forces some of us (or maybe just me) to re-evaluate the people and activities we occupy ourselves with..

Jan - That's so great that you're already implementing these techniques and they're working for you! It's good to know that I'm not recycling bad advice, haha. You make a good point about how happiness is not a choice when you have a disorder that prevents you from seeing it as an option. That is very true. I wish you happiness as well!

Stephanie - You bring up a great topic: loneliness in the workplace. It's probably very common because we are likely to be around people for a long time but not necessarily be close with them. Also, like school, there can be cliques and non-inclusive groups at work (I know at my work there are a bunch of people who always go to happy hours and even though I probably wouldn't go -- okay, definitely wouldn't go and have turned them down before -- it still feels odd not to be included). In your situation, it sounds like "expect the best" is good advice. It has to be really hard to be forced to meet new people all the time, but keeping a positive attitude is the best advice in my opinion. So nice to hear that you went through the same thing I'm going through now! I'm looking forward to making more and more progress as time goes on. :)

Lori - Great point! Getting out of the house is one of the best things you can do. When I'm feeling down, even just going to get groceries and interacting with people in the store can bring my mood up. Anything that gets you out of a rut and feeling sorry for yourself is a good thing!

Davina - Selection is VERY imporant. Reaching out just to anyone often doesn't solve the problem of loneliness. As I believe Hayden said in her comment, loneliness comes from being disconnected. You can still be with others and feel disconnected. Likewise, you can be completely alone and feel very connected to a lot of people. I like to be alone a lot so I completely know what you mean about being really happy and not having someone right there to share it with. That can be a lonely feeling sometimes.

JD - You're so right. There is something about sharing a connection and experience with someone else that's irreplaceable which, as you said, is why close friends and family members are so important. They know and understand you on a deeper level because you've been through a lot together. For that reason, when feeling lonely it's best to turn to these people first (rather than new people who you don't yet have a connection with) because the shared understanding is such a mood booster.

Giovanna - That's great advice. Touching someone else -- even just a small hug -- can be great for loneliness. And, as you noted, when you feel that someone else might be lonely, it's a nice thing to reach out to him or her because often it is when we are the loneliness that we have the hardest time reaching out to others.

Semisweet - I'm so glad you don't find my posts preaching or pushy. That makes me really happy because what I'm trying to do here is work through my own issues while hopefully helping others along the way. I certainly wouldn't want someone to feel as if they had to do things my way or as if I had some sort of answers to everything. You make a good point about loneliness. It's okay to be lonely sometimes because often it is from that loneliness that we grow and learn more about ourselves and our choices. Thanks for the comment!

Wonderful post! The E.A.S.E. part is brilliant in its simplicity and says it all, doesn't it? I rarely fall prey to feeling lonely since I am in my solitary-preferred stage of life, but when I do feel a bit "down" I go to a park, take a walk, get in nature first of all. That helps me to get my thoughts off of ME. Then I think of someone I should call or visit - there are always peoples in our lives who are happy to hear from you or may need help with something. There are a ton of elderly people on this planet who deserve attention.

I have lonely moments but have come to realize that I'm really not alone, except by choice. Rather than sink into self pity, I do my best to get out and get busy, doing something that I like. That definitely helps. Great post.

Hi Dani,
Loneliness...something that DOES affect us all at some time or another. And I couldn't agree more that it's not always how many people you're around that makes you lonely or not. Sometimes the best of conversations happen when we listen to ourselves. The whole idea of "expecting the best" - I'm completely with you on this. I too often tell myself something's not worth it - and miss out on a golden opportunity. Those times when I do hush that negative voice in my head - and go into some situation with excitement - it's almost always a positive experience. Thanks for reminding me of that today...

Suzen - It is pretty brilliant, isn't it? I'm so glad I came across the article because I thought it was so easy to relate to! You provided some great ideas for dealing with loneliness. Just getting out of the house or visiting a friend can really help!

Syd - You're totally right. When we're alone and lonely it's usually by choice and the best thing to do is to get out and get moving. Great advice!

Lance - Yes, expecting the best is so important. I feel like I miss out on a lot because I think that something won't be a fun experience, but when I go into something with a positive attitude I usually have a good time.

Hey Dani Deluxe!!

i think you make a really good point. by accident almost it seems :)

lonely and alone are completely different things.

alone is.. .well, you know what alone is.
but lonely... lonely is a story that you make up to give yourself disapproval for a certain aspect of your life.

as you say, you can feel lonely in a room full of friends and not lonely at all when you're alone.

I really like the EASE steps. 'specially the first and last. extending yourself will let you see how not lonely you actually are. give yourself a lil proof ya know.. and expecting the best will snap you out of the "woe is me" attitude.

another one that i'd definitely add is to ask yourself, "can i let go of wanting to make this story about me being lonely real again?"
- it's a sedona method / releasing technique phrasing.

but basically any wording that reminds you that lonely is just a story that you're making up. it's not real and it's not you and you can let it go :)

stumbled! :)

keep well dani. and don't feel lonely :)
alex -unleash reality

Alex - Thanks for the great comment. You've made such a great point about loneliness being a story that we can choose to accept or to reject. It isn't a reality and it's something we can change just by changing how we think about. Thanks for bringing up some really interesting insights and adding some great feedback to the post! And thanks for the Stumble too! :)

Thank you for this post - it really strikes a chord with moi right now.

xoxo,
C

Carolyn - I'm really glad this post resonated with you. It makes me happy to know I'm writing about topics that are relevant to my readers. Thanks fo rthe comment!

I've tried to form balanced relationships with others, but I almost always end up doing all the giving, initiating, calling. If I didn't no one would call or invite me. If drop them to look for "better" friends, the same happens else where. What gives?
No one approaches me, but when I approach others, it seems to come off as desperate. I can't win.

Robin - Without knowing more about you and the people you're interacting with, I can't tell you exactly what to do (or who to do it with), but I've found that working on myself has always helped me to connect with others. Focus on improving your relationship with yourself and the rest will fall into place.

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