Do you feel alone and lonely? You are not alone.

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Do you feel lonely, alone, and sad? Are you overwhelmed by those feelings? If so, you are far from alone. I found myself in that very unpleasant place. When I went through my tough times and my life shifted in a different direction, one of the most powerful emotions I experienced was loneliness. I felt alone and abandoned. It was soul-destroying. The truth is I had a lot of support, care, and love around me, but I still felt alone. I felt no one understood my story.

The more I felt alone, the more I started to have thoughts of not belonging or feeling rejected by others. Those thoughts become my worst enemy, the perfect breeding ground for harmful, self-critical beliefs.

These thought patterns make up the “critical inner voice (CIV),” a secret enemy that leads to self-destructive thought processes and behaviors. This inner critic feeds into our feelings of isolation, encouraging us to avoid others and remain in a lonely state. We must confront those feelings; in many cases, as in mine, it might take professional help to do so; in other circumstances, you can manage it with your own resources.

Whether your loneliness or feeling alone is due to life-changing events or finding yourself in a new uncharted phase in life, it’s important you find a way to rediscover the feeling of connection, of sharing, of communication.

Relate loneliness to your values of a connection.

It may sound invalidating, but we can also ask, “What is loneliness good for?” I would suggest that loneliness reminds us of the value of connection, intimacy, or simply sharing experiences with others.

Have a plan; we must recognize that we need to have strategies for coping with loneliness.

The first part of developing a plan is to identify your “trouble times” for loneliness; what are the trigger points? Is it harder in the evenings or at weekends? If so, make plans in advance for those times, and stick to it. On weekends you might make an arrangement with friends or family; you might go to museums, concerts, bike rides, guided walks. Research your local area for clubs or meetups that suit you, that you think you will enjoy. Maybe take up tennis or yoga, join a bridge club, or take cooking lessons. If you have a dog, join local doggie meetups, it’s possibly one of the best ways to meet like-minded people. It’s important you stick with your plan and follow-through; to make an effort. No one will do it for you, but people are very happy to respond to you reaching out. Slowly will you will start to feel connected. So maybe you think you don’t have anyone to do things with. Well, you can do much of what I suggested above alone, which leads to meeting people. Maybe you think, “I feel self-conscious doing these things by myself.” Try to identify what those self-conscious thoughts are — they may be things like, “People will see me alone and think that I am weird.” But how do you know what others think? And even if they did think that, why should you care? Doing things alone may mean that you are independent, confident, and free. Look at the positive image of yourself. I know it can be hard to keep pushing yourself in a positive mode, but I promise you will start to feel much better about yourself and your life.

Empower yourself by getting out and realizing that you don’t need someone else to do things with. You have yourself.

Identify your loneliness.

Write down some of the thoughts that you have when you are lonely and alone. These might include thoughts like;

-I will always be alone.
-If I am alone, I have to feel lonely and unhappy.
-I must be a loser because I am alone.
-I can’t stand feeling lonely.
-If you have these or other negative thoughts, then you are like thousands of other people who feel stopped in their tracks by loneliness. But you can try some of these rational and helpful responses:

You are only alone for these moments (minutes, hours), and you will be interacting with other people soon — at work, waiting in line, shopping, talking to a friend.

Just because you are alone doesn’t mean that you have to feel sad and lonely. You can look at it as an opportunity to do some things that you like, and you have always wanted to do. You might enjoy having time to read the book you have always wanted to read, listen to your music, cook your favorite food, watch your favorite movie, visit a museum you always wanted to go to, or research ideas to follow your dream.

The idea that you are a “loser” because you are alone makes no sense: Everyone is alone at some time. And as recent research shows, about 45 percent of people experience loneliness at some stage in their lives. Being alone is a situation — and situations change, and most importantly, you can be the architect of your change.

The idea that you cannot stand being alone is irrational. It may be true that you don’t like being alone, but it’s the way you relate to it that matters. If you relate to loneliness with anger, desperation, or defeat, it won’t serve you positively. It might be more helpful to relate to it with the idea that feeling lonely or being alone comes and goes and that it is something you can cope with, that you can move from. Accepting what is – might be better than catastrophizing what, in fact, you can change.

Build a community of connectedness.

We all need some connection with other people — or even animals. So many people have told me how much love and connection they experience with their pets. So maybe think about getting a cat or a dog. Or go to your local animal shelter and offer to volunteer.

Another way of connecting is to do volunteer work because we all need to be needed. You can search online in your community for volunteer organizations that correspond to your interests. It’s not only an effective way to combat loneliness and take you out of your thoughts; it’s also very fulfilling.

Being alone doesn’t mean you have to feel lonely. And feeling lonely doesn’t mean that you have to feel that way indefinitely. And you certainly can help yourself; you are the powerhouse of your life; you can either find a way to move away from your loneliness or wallow in it. And I know which route I took, and believe me, if I could overcome my feelings of despair, loneliness, and abandonment, so can you.

I have learned emotions are like waves. They raise and crash, depending on how you think and what you do.

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