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How to stop feeling lonely

Loneliness feels bad, but chastising yourself or feeling shame about it doesn’t help

I feel lonely

Everyone feels lonely. In or out of a relationship, in your family, with a baby, in the city, at work, at the school gate – loneliness is part of the human condition. “You can feel lonely even if you are surrounded by groups of people. You can be at a party with 10 of your best friends and still feel lonely,” says psychologist Keelin O’Dwyer of online therapy platform, Fettle.ie. All of us feel lonely at some point.

How do I fix it?

Loneliness feels bad, but chastising yourself or feeling shame about it doesn’t help. “A huge tip I would give with loneliness is to sit with the feeling of loneliness,” says O’Dwyer. “When we feel lonely, all we want to do is avoid that feeling, but when we deny our feelings, or are harsh with ourselves, telling ourselves to ‘cop on’, or ‘get over it’, it can make us feel worse,” she says. Instead, try making space for the feeling. “Our emotions are valid and they are showing up for a reason,” says O’Dwyer. “Validate that feeling of loneliness and then practise compassion and kind self-talk like, ‘I’m feeling lonely, this sucks, I’m going to go easy on myself’.”

But everyone else seems fine

Everyone else may seem to have loads of friends and appear to be doing loads of cool stuff all the time. In two clicks or fewer, someone’s Instagram feed can make you feel like Norman no-mates. The curated holiday snaps of others set unrealistic expectations. “We know from reading interviews with influencers that in some of their most famous shoots, they were at their lowest,” says O’Dwyer. Feel your feelings, but remind yourself that photos are not the full picture.

Start small

Saying “hello” to a colleague and asking about their weekend, going to a museum and being around others, spending time with a pet – small things can help us feel less lonely, says O’Dwyer. If you are struggling with difficult thoughts, a therapist can help you explore the factors contributing to your feelings of loneliness.

Find like-minded people

Try focusing on what you are into – the arts, sport, video games, singing – joining a club is a really great way to connect with like-minded people. O’Dwyer recommends Meetup, a platform for meeting people with similar interests. “Technology, music, hiking, film – get on that and see if there is anything you enjoy and maybe show up to one of those.”

Say ‘Yes’

If someone asks you to do something and you don’t really feel like it, give “Yes” a go, says O’Dwyer. “Quite often when we feel down, we turn down opportunities to connect. We might think, ‘What’s the point, everyone would prefer if I didn’t go, that’s not for me,’” she says. “Even if you are not really feeling it, just give it a go. You might find a bit of socialising will help you a lot more than you think.”

Give something back

When social media is bombarding you with images of the seemingly perfect lives of others, getting involved in a cause can bring perspective. “Giving back and doing good deeds for others not only mitigates loneliness, but it gives us a real sense of purpose and reminds us of our common humanity,” says O’Dwyer. “It can make us feel grateful for all that we have.”