Chapter 1 - Relationships Subchapter: Belonging

Feeling lonely

Split-frame of an illustrated character happily alone in their room listening to music and looking at their phone; right frame is three characters looking awkward together.

 

I want to be alone.

Wanting to be alone is a personal preference for solitude. It means you are happy being by yourself and don’t wish for company.

Lonely is a negative feeling. Sometimes you don’t even need be alone to feel lonely. When you feel lonely, you might also feel sad or isolated or abandoned. You can feel lonely in the middle of a group of friends or family.

Maybe the social situation is making you anxious, or you’re afraid to talk to anyone in case you say something that makes you sound stupid. You might be with a group that doesn’t appear to share your interests or values. The conversations that others are having make you afraid that your views will be rejected, or that you will be excluded. This happens to all of us at some point.

When you are not alone and you feel lonely, it’s time to take steps to change your situation.

Every friendship is different. But positive, healthy, respectful friendships should not make anyone feel lonely.

Perfect non-confrontational friendships where everyone gets along all of the time, as the media often portrays them, are mostly a fiction. No friendship will ever be perfect, and no group will be all that we will ever need.

It’s important to remember that representations of other people’s friendships on social media are deliberately chosen to project a positive image. Reality is often much more complicated.

That doesn’t mean you should accept a situation that compromises you and your well-being.

The remedy to loneliness is increasing meaningful social connections. Building relationships with people we value, relationships that make us feel cared for and understood.

 

TRY: focusing on strengthening the quality of your existing relationships.

 

If you don’t have any existing relationships that you feel are offering positive benefits for you, then you need to be proactive to seek out new relationships.

Perhaps it might help to think about how you have established and nurtured relationships in the past? What has led you to feel closer to someone? For example, this could be spending time on shared interests, or showing an interest in their interests.

When someone shows an interest in the things that interest us, it makes us feel good about our choices and more willing to talk about them to others—‘That sounds cool, tell me more about that’.

 

TRY: you could also seek out new friendships.

 

Join a club or an online group. Start engaging with different people on social media. Switch servers for your online games. Sometimes a small change can make a massive difference.

 

TRY: be the first to reach out—talk to someone that interests you.

 

If that doesn’t work out, try again. You’re worth the effort.

 

Making the first move

An illustrated character cautiously saying 'Hi!' to three other characters, with trees in the background. One waves back and the others smile.

 

Making the first move is scary, but you could try turning it into a personal challenge. When you’re confronted with a group of people you don’t know, like first day of a class, set a goal of talking to at least one person you don’t know. And then next class, say hi.

Say “yes” to social opportunities. Get out and see your friends or meet new ones, even if you’d rather stay home and watch videos.

Volunteer. Building ties to others through volunteering is a proven way to combat loneliness.

Take a walk. Fresh air and a change of surroundings can improve your mood and reduce stress.

Realise that you’re not really alone. Remember, if you’re feeling lonely many other people are lonely too, and nobody has to be! Just take that first step, and you’ll be on your way to finding your next friend.

 

Some alone time is healthy

Some people really value their alone time and feel they don’t need a lot of social interaction. Many of us will enjoy some individual activities like walking the dog, listening to music, watching TV, reading a book. Wanting to spend time by yourself is totally normal.

Our personality may often dictate how we like to spend our time – introverts tend to enjoy time on their own, whereas extroverts are much more comfortable and happy spending time with others. It’s about finding the happy balance where we can be alone, without feeling lonely.

Feeling lonely now and again, as most of us do, may not have much effect on us. However, long-term loneliness can have impacts on our health and well-being.