Loneliness can be defined by feeling disconnected from your social relationships. One can feel lonely if the quality of their relationships has not met their expectations and/or desires. The quarantine has further exacerbated loneliness in our lives.
Staying at home during quarantine due to COVID-19 outbreak has made us more isolated from other people and our communities, which can make us feel lonelier. We know from experts that it is not the quantity of our social interactions that fights loneliness, but it’s the quality. The quality of our relationships shapes how we view the world and how we can cope with difficult times.
The type of loneliness we are experiencing as a society for many people is unprecedented. This climate poses a lot of uncertainty around when we can gather freely again and what our new normal will look like. It is common to feel lonely when we are by ourselves for significant periods of time and/or not seeing our friends/family face to face. This requires us to build and strengthen the emotional muscles that we haven’t always engaged.
What can we do about this? Fortunately, loneliness is treatable! Here are some strategies that can be employed during the pandemic to help you cope better.
Offer to help others: We feel happier when we help others. It gives us a sense of meaning and purpose. It can improve our self-worth. This has been referred to as Helper’s High where our brain produces a euphoric sensation after we give to others. This is based on the psychological theory that giving produces a mild version of morphine high. Maybe you can offer to deliver a meal to someone who is unable to go out or cannot afford groceries. If you are an animal-lover, an option might be to foster a pet that needs a home. If you have the means, you can make a donation to a charity or business organization that speaks to you.
Practice Self-Care: Taking care of ourselves is extremely impactful on our mood and our wellbeing. Find time to unplug and get off social media and technology.
Read a book, listen to calming music, meditate, or start a new skin-care routine!
Improve Self-Compassion: Be gentle and kind to yourself. You are going through a lot as you navigate this new terrain. No one is perfect and you deserve to love yourself through it all. Hold off on punishing yourself when you make mistakes. Instead, learn from them and how they might allow you to grow in the future. As we cultivate self-compassion this can help decrease loneliness.
Accept uncertainty: We don’t know exactly when the pandemic will end or what life will look like. Many of us are grieving the life we knew before the pandemic. We are learning to adjust to this new normal and find our footing. Although this current environment is not permanent, it can feel very scary and overwhelming. It is important to acknowledge your own personal losses during this pandemic and mourn them. As you allow yourself to feel difficult emotions, you will be able to move through them more freely.
Exercise: This is one of the most natural and effective ways to boost your mood. It helps alleviate stress and enhances your overall well-being through the release of endorphins. Take a socially distant walk with a friend or neighbor! If that doesn’t work for you, you can try a live workout class and can tune in with others virtually to feel more connected.
Connect with supportive people virtually: We are social beings and crave connection. Whether it’s on FaceTime or any virtual platform, use this as a way to deepen your connections and tune into each other’s facial expressions and emotions. Use this opportunity to be creative in how you maintain your relationships. Having a game night together or trying a new dinner recipe with friends can be fun and make you feel less alone.
Start virtual therapy: Maybe it is that time to rip off the Band-Aid and start therapy. You might be feeling nervous about sharing your feelings to a stranger. However, a good therapist will make you feel comfortable, at ease, and understood. A therapist can be an influential part of your support system as they are impartial and available at trying times. Many people feel more comfortable sharing issues they are having with a therapist as they have expertise in this. A therapist can help you understand yourself better and help you change behaviors that are getting in the way of your happiness.
Loneliness is real but you are not alone. We all want to feel loved and know that we matter. Tell your loved ones how important they are to you and express gratitude for those who you deeply care about. It can make all the difference in your life and in theirs 🙂