Now that the pandemic has subsided and restrictions have been lifted, people have returned to their typical social ways: we are witnessing an unprecedented amount of traveling, gathering, and overall celebrating. But many of us still feel alone despite our return to “normality.” How can we explain this? Forlorn feelings are signals from your inner self that something is wrong on a deeper level and that certain aspects of your life must change.
If you find that feelings of loneliness are lingering post pandemic, read on. Here are six actions you can take today to break out of isolation and reunite with a supportive group:
Take it slowly. Returning to a normal social life after extended lockdowns can be difficult. We can feel pressured to go out and have fun, though we may not feel like it. If this thought intimidates you, limit your time with others and increase your interactions little by little. For example, if you’ve been invited to a gathering but don’t feel enthusiastic about it, plan on attending it for an hour then excusing yourself. For the next event, you can stay a bit longer, and so on. Examine how you feel afterwards: did being around others help you feel less alone? Gently increasing interactions will curb feelings of loneliness and slowly reintegrate you into a strong and vibrant social circle.
Only go where you feel comfortable. Just because restrictions have been lifted doesn’t mean you have to throw yourself out of your front door and join every party in town. Be selective about the invitations you accept, attending only events where you know your presence will be appreciated. Take a moment to think about where you would feel best going and before leaving your house, don’t just check if you have your keys and wallet, check how you’re feeling: are you excited about this gathering and do you really want to go (not just to please others)? If you find that the answers are no, remember that it’s okay to decline the invitation; forcing yourself to socialize will only exacerbate desolation. Your mental and emotional wellbeing are more important than any temporary diversion.
Surround yourself with truly good people. The late actor Robin Williams once said, “I used to think the worst thing in life was to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people that make you feel all alone.” True to Williams’ words, the problem is not always being alone, it’s feeling alone because you’re around the wrong people. If a certain person—whether it’s a partner, friend, or family member—makes you feel uncomfortable, insecure, or undervalued, reevaluate your relationship to him or her; it may be time to put some space between you and seek someone who is as genuine and kindhearted as you are. Some red flags to watch out for are not reciprocating the same effort you put into the relationship and invalidating your emotions when you try to explain how you feel. Relinquish the mentality of solitude and the fear that you’ll be hurt or disappointed; there are plenty of people who have pure intentions and can make you feel healed, whole, and loved. Otherwise, if you remain in bad company, you’ll feel more alone than if you were by yourself.
Evaluate the origin of your emotions. To alleviate isolative tendencies, you should begin by investigating their source: what is causing you to feel alone? Do you still feel a nagging sense of loneliness after a breakup, loss, trauma, or crisis? Do you feel as though something’s missing from your life, like there’s a void inside? It’s helpful to put your emotions to paper: keep an emotional diary over the course of one month, jotting down your feelings each day. Try to reach the core of how a particular person or situation is making you feel. If you’re anxious about an upcoming social event, you can write, “Not looking forward to Anne’s party, being around too many people exhausts me.” Or, if you’re down about spending another Saturday night alone, you can scribble, “I’m tired of being by myself, I want to find a person to share my life with.” Unearthing the origin of your emotions will provide not only key insight into why you’re feeling alone, but solutions.
Create a positive ripple in the world. Don’t hesitate to take an opportunity to do good. Doing good will merge you with a community and allow you to thrive by cooperating with others towards a greater cause. Performing acts of kindness increases feel-good hormones in your brain and creates a sense of reward that reminds you of just how much power you have to impact this world in positive ways. It connects you to others more deeply and reinforces the common thread that runs throughout the human race: we’re all here to love and be loved. One small deed, performed with compassion and with no expectation to receive in return, can forever change someone’s life while eradicating loneliness in your heart and mind.
Seek the spirit within you. Even if you feel alone, the truth is that you are never really alone: you are permanently connected to Spirit and your ties to your higher self can never be severed. Even if you’ve been betrayed or abandoned by others, know that you have yourself to rely on. Having a faith-based mindset reassures you that you are always accompanied and ever-protected by the Divine. Fortifying your relationship with the spirit within you will bring you all-encompassing comfort and fulfillment.
Feelings of loneliness are normal, but no one should be made to feel alone. We can mitigate empty emotions by introspecting on their sources and taking the right actions to become included in a greater whole once more.
To belonging and being loved,
Dr. Carmen Harra