7 Ways To Deal With Loneliness

Photographed by Bianca Valle.
It is totally normal to feel alone, even when you're surrounded by a sea of people — it's not just in your head. And chances are you're not the only person in that sea who feels like this, says Andrea Bonior, PhD, a clinical psychologist who focuses on relationships. "It's possible to have a ton of people around you that you like, but still feel lonely and disconnected on and off," she says.
Feeling a little blue if you're home alone on a Friday is one thing, but if your loneliness is pervasive in your everyday life (like you can't sleep, eat, or focus at work), that's a sign you shouldn't ignore, Dr. Bonior says. "If your loneliness goes on for a long time and seems to get worse, or it's not fleeting but happens more often than not, you should consider talking to a professional," she says. "Loneliness can be a component of depression, but that's not to say everybody who feels lonely feels depressed."
Being lonely is part of the human experience, Dr. Bonior says. We all have habits that we turn to when we feel lonely, like snacking or watching TV, but it's worth it to take a step back and observe whether or not these things actually help and if they are productive. "Sometimes, these things we do out of habit are unproductive and make us feel guilty about feeling lonely," she says. The next time you feel lonely, Dr. Bonior suggests you try one of these productive strategies and activities.
If you are experiencing depression and need support, please call the National Depressive/Manic-Depressive Association Hotline at 1-800-826-3632 or the Crisis Call Center’s 24-hour hotline at 1-775-784-8090.
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Do someone a favor.

"One of the best antidotes to loneliness is doing something that helps someone else," Dr. Bonior says. Ask a neighbor if they need help with yard work, or call your grandparents and see if they need a ride. "We get a mood boost from helping, so if you're dwelling on your own loneliness, an act of service for someone else can feel good," she says. If you do feel like you get into a pattern of feeling lonely, you might want to sign up to do simple volunteer work (like spending time at a domestic violence shelter or cleaning up trash at your local park) regularly.
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Get off Instagram for a second.

FOMO is real, and even though, technically, you could use social media to contact someone instantly and snap out of your loneliness, Dr. Bonior says social media could also contribute to your feelings of isolation. "Contact online is usually superficial and fleeting, and not emotionally intimate, so it makes us feel more lonely," she says.
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Thank someone for a thing they did.

Gratitude is powerful, and Dr. Bonior says you should do some sort of "gratitude intervention" that makes you feel better. You can write a quick note thanking someone for something they did (even if it was years ago), and research suggests it'll boost your mood, even if you never send it. "Of course, it's always better if you do [send it], but just thinking about your gratitude and what someone's done for you can be helpful," Dr. Bonior says.
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Go out in the sun.

Getting some fresh air and sunlight is important, Dr. Bonior says. But just being in and around nature can help you feel related to the world at large, which dissuades loneliness, she says. "Take a brisk walk and see nature and people; you'll feel connected to the other people," she says.
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Call a friend you actually like.

If you know you have a friend who always makes you feel better, give them a call. "You know your friends, and some people make you feel better and some won't — but you have to gauge that," she says. Pick someone who makes you feel energized when you hear their voice, not someone who's going to force you to get out of the house. "Making plans can also be the antidote, but you have to know whether your friends are going to be too much for you."
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Go find a dog.

"A surprising amount of people report that just the act of stroking an animal, or spending time with animals, can be calming and make you feel more connected and loved," she says. If you don't have an animal, try going to a dog park to just be around people's dogs to pet — it's not weird! "If you tell any dog owner, I just need a dog around, they'll understand." You could also find an animal shelter that needs volunteers to walk the dogs for a double-whammy of lonely-busting activities.
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Rediscover a hobby.

A spark of interest can be enough to snap you out of feeling lonely. "Even if it's not with other people, a good book or a hobby that you enjoy can give you connectivity and meaning," she says. "They go a long way toward diminishing loneliness." Books require your attention and are more captivating than just binge-watching TV, and there's a chance you have friends who also like reading and would want to start a book club with you. Or you could check out some free meet-ups in your area, so you can meet other people who share your interests.