6 Little Things That Make You Feel Less Lonely & More Connected, According To A Counselor
Sometimes you have those days when you feel like you're literally the only person on the planet — whether you live with three roommates, or you're surrounded by people at work all day, or even if you've just gotten 300 likes on your latest IG of you napping with your cat. Despite all of these things, sometimes you just feel alone, plain and simple. It can be hard to find things that make you feel less lonely, but it's not totally impossible. It's all about finding those little things in life that help you feel connected with others.
The sad thing is, loneliness is really common in our world right now, and it can have some really serious consequences. CBS News reports that, in a 2016 survey of more than 2,000 Americans, over 70 percent of respondents said they felt lonely at least once a week. What's more, a new study published in the journal Psychological Medicine showed that young adults who feel lonely are more likely to experience mental health issues, and generally have a much harder time coping with stress.
In this new study, Business Insider reports, researchers from King's College London gathered data from more than 2,000 pairs of millennial twins from Wales and England, who were asked about their personal experiences throughout different stages of their lives, the quality of their relationships, their feelings on the state of their physical and mental health, and how lonely they felt. According to the news outlet, 7 percent of participants said "they often felt lonely," and 23 to 31 percent reported feeling "left out or [that they] lacked companionship." What's more, feelings of loneliness in these participants were found to double their chances of experiencing a mental health issue.
Bottom line: Loneliness is clearly something that many of us are struggling with right now. It can be hard to shake these feelings, but trust me when I say it's not totally impossible. Here are a few ways to feel a little less alone.
1. Be Clear On What Loneliness Means To You
According to counselor and relationship expert David Bennett, "being around people" doesn't always make people feel less alone. Because of this, he tells Elite Daily, "dealing with loneliness has to go beyond simply 'getting out more.'" Rather, he says, you should focus on addressing what he calls "the maladaptive social cognition of lonely people." In other words, people who are lonely tend to view social interactions in a mostly negative way, even if they think what they're missing is that connection with others.
"So, even in a room full of people, or among a group of co-workers or acquaintances," Bennett says, "their own thoughts and attitudes keep them feeling lonely."
With that in mind, try to step outside your lonely mindset for a moment, and assess the thoughts, or doubts about yourself, that are making you feel this way. For example, do you feel like no one likes you? Or that you don't have enough energy to make small talk? Whatever the root of the lonely feeling is, it's important to recognize how you think about your relationships with others before you can take any real steps toward changing the way you feel overall.
2. Try Not To Assume The Worst
Sometimes when you feel down, it's all you can do to, you know, feel more down. Bennett recommends, when you go into a social situation, whether it's an exercise class or a work event, try to tell yourself ahead of time that maybe all of your negative thoughts about the people around you are literally just that: thoughts.
"Many lonely people are around others all the time," he tells Elite Daily, "but they convince themselves nobody is worthy of their friendship." This can lead you to start over-analyzing how people feel about you, Bennett explains, and you might come to totally inaccurate, or even illogical conclusions about them.
"Lonely people often make negative assumptions about people around them," he says. "They assume that people are stuck-up, fake, judgmental, or don't genuinely want to get to know them."
Give people a fair chance to get to know you, and vice versa, no matter how lonely you might feel going into the situation.
3. Be Generous In Your Interactions
Say "hi" to a person on the street, ask a few questions to someone at a party, or offer a funny anecdote to the person sitting next to you on the subway. "Assume the people around you really are good people who want to be your friend and like you, until you see evidence otherwise," Bennett suggests.
You might be surprised to learn that most people really are friendly and have an interest in getting to know you if you offer a little generosity of spirit.
4. Give People Your Full Attention
Yes, that means putting your phone in your pocket and making eye contact, y'all. When you're with others, make it a point to really be in the room and in the moment.
"This is challenging with the myriad distractions like mobile devices," Bennett says. "If you want to truly connect with the people you see regularly, and form deeper bonds, you'll have to give them your full attention when you're with them."
And trust me, it feels so nice to enjoy a whole dinner without looking at Instagram or Twitter, or take a walk in the park with a friend and really listen to how their day was.
5. Open Yourself Up To Interacting With People
Yep, that also means taking out the headphones, smiling at your barista, or talking to one of your customers at work with a little more depth than you might want to.
"Many people are lonely because they come across as extremely closed-off and uninterested in those around them," Bennett tells Elite Daily. "They will walk into a coffee shop, then sit in a far-off table with headphones in, hiding behind a laptop, and they never meet anybody."
Instead, he suggests, open yourself to spontaneous interactions. The first step to this is simply opening your mind to the sheer possibility of having meaningful interactions wherever you might go. Then, Bennett explains, consider your body language and how you interact with those around you. You might notice that these subtle changes really do open you up to totally new, and maybe even long-lasting connections.
6. Actually Ask People To Hang Out
I know this one seems obvious, but hey, we all forget to do it sometimes, especially if you find yourself stuck in a lonely funk.
"Many surface-level acquaintances never move to a deeper connection because nobody takes the initiative to deepen the relationship," says Bennett.
But someone has to be the one to move your friendship to the next level, so why not be that someone? Ask your co-worker to join you for drinks after work, Bennett suggests, or invite the cool person you met on the subway platform to grab brunch with you sometime.
"Someone has to initiate," the counselor explains, "and yeah, believe they will say 'yes' and want to do it."