How to Beat that Lonely Feeling

5 minutes

The summer before I went to college was emotionally challenging for me. All my friends had either moved away to other cities or had begun college and were leading a significantly different life than what we had shared earlier. I was to begin only in September, and I was excited to go college and to learn, but I was the last person left and I felt a strong wave of loneliness that was draining. I experienced what Mitch Albom wrote of loneliness:


“At that moment I felt lonelier than I’d ever felt before, and that loneliness seemed to squat in my lungs and crush all but my most minimal breathing. There was nothing left to say. Not about this. Not about anything.”

What is loneliness all about that writers, poets, and singers write about so extensively, and philosophers and psychologists study it? What is this paradoxical feeling that we all feel, and yet we don’t talk about? I’m reminded of a scene from The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry:

“Where are the people?” resumed the little prince at last.

“It’s a little lonely in the desert…”

“It is lonely when you’re among people, too,” said the snake.”

Loneliness is not simply the absence of others and being alone.  Being alone, is a state of being, of physical separation and a lack of proximity to others. Loneliness is not just isolation, but a feeling of isolation and sadness. It’s a profound emotion, a state of mind, a feeling of disconnect and emptiness that relates to the self and others, and the self in itself. Ironically it could also exist in the company of your friends.  It is a natural response of the individual to certain situations, and is more common than you think.  

A survey from the United States showed that 40% of people reported to feel lonely at a given point in time. Across age and background, we all experience loneliness at different occasions if life and instead of shunning it, we must acknowledge and accept this organic emotion. It is essential that we try to identify why we’re feeling lonely, and make an attempt to understand that feeling and respond to it.  Although an inherently negative sensation that may manifest into self-destructive behaviour, loneliness can be turned into a positive experience called solitude, which is engaging with oneself for inner reflection and growth. Mitch Albom writes in Tuesdays with Morrie

“Same for loneliness: you let go, let the tears flow, feel it completely, but eventually be able to say, “All right, that was my moment of loneliness. I’m not afraid of feeling lonely, but now I’m going to put loneliness aside and know that there are other emotions in the world, and I’m going to experience them all”

So, how can you deal with loneliness?

  1. Reach out. Research by the Co-op of people across the UK shows that 61% are uncomfortable confiding in a friend or relative that they feel lonely. Odds have it that the person you reach out to also needs a companion. Loneliness is as natural as any emotion and connecting with others will leave you feeling better.
  2. Find a ritual or practice to connect with people. My Mother has a wonderful practice where every fortnight, she phones a friend or relative she hasn’t spoken to in a while.
  3. Quality over quantity. While your network of people does matter, ensure that you have at least one person you can count on and who, they can count on you.
  4. Ensure that you are well rested, hydrated and nourished. The part of your brain that experiences loneliness works closely with your brain’s recognition of basic needs and rewards.
  5. Exercise and let the endorphins work their magic on your mood.
  6. Avoid passive activities like watching television. Instead, engage in reading, or cooking, or any activity that occupies your brain and actively involves it.
  7. Expression is the key. Find an activity that allows you to express yourself, be it craft, journaling, playing an instrument or sketching. These act as a creative outlet and allow you to steer your emotions in a positive direction.
  8. Write a letter. To a loved one, to a role model, to yourself. Writing may not only help you untangle your feelings but also pinpoint the cause of your loneliness.
  9. Find a cause. Adopt a pet, or teach at a local school. Find a cause and volunteer for it.
  10. Join a group that shares your interests.

Lastly, you might feel like a mere speck of dust in this universe, but there is a universe inside of you that is waiting for you to explore. Remember, you are enough.

This post is reviewed by Gayathri Rao



Gayathri is a psychologist by profession with over 5 years of experience. She is liberal by nature and a vegetarian by choice. She loves nature and believes in the healing powers of the mountains and the oceans, love and kindness.

Aayushi Deshpande

Aayushi is a a liberal arts freshman with an intended major in psychology and minor in creative writing and a photography enthusiast. She is passionate about mental health and is trying to cultivate a better understanding of psychopathology, stigma and illness, and positive psychology. She believes that art as an agent and expression of empathy has the capacity to transform individuals and make a difference.