What is Loneliness?
Loneliness does not necessarily mean being alone. For instance, you can feel lonely when you are in a class with twenty other students, in the middle of a party, or at a sports event with hundreds of screaming spectators.
Loneliness is a painful and disturbing awareness that you are not feeling connected to others and important needs are not being met. We are inherently relational beings. So, loneliness may be a signal that an important basic need is not currently being met such as the need to develop a circle of friends or a special relationship. People need people. Mutual relationships are essential to health! If you are lonely, you feel the need for warmth, understanding, and long to share your feelings and thoughts with others.
Loneliness can mean:
- feeling that you are unacceptable, unloved by those around you, not worthwhile, even if others don’t share these perceptions;
- feeling alienated from your surroundings: lack the attachments that you had in the past;
- feeling that there is no one with whom to share your personal concerns and experiences;
- feeling that you are alone and have no other choice. You may find it difficult to make friends or go beyond mere acquaintance;
- feeling an emptiness in your spiritual life, distance from God, or disconnection from your faith community.
What Can I do if I’m Feeling Lonely?
Good news! The antidote for loneliness is simple – CONNECT! Connecting with others and with yourself is the best way to beat the loneliness blues. It starts with recognizing that loneliness is a common experience, especially among college students. Feelings of loneliness are your internal cue that your basic needs to enter into relationship or connect with others are not being met. Here are some suggestions for what to do when you are feeling lonely:
- Actively look for situations that enable you to get involved with others. For example, sit with new people in class, join a study group, and eat with new people in the cafeteria.
- Learn to be assertive. Join in discussions about classes, learn to say “hi” to someone and start a short conversation.
- Develop your social skills. Learn to use verbal or nonverbal cues to let a person know you are interested in getting to know them. A simple way to start – eye contact.
- Get involved with clubs and organizations (i.e. service projects, sorority/fraternity, drama club, etc.)
- Be open to others and reserve judgment
- Connect with a faith community (i.e. church, temple, or mosque, etc.).
- Think of yourself as a total person. In other words, being lonely doesn’t mean there is something wrong with you or you are incomplete.
- When you are alone, use the time to enjoy yourself. For example, listen to music, do something creative, or just hang out and watch your favorite TV show.
- Be patient with yourself. Recognize that being alone doesn’t have to mean being lonely. Take small steps to extend yourself to others each day.
- Take care of your other basic needs like good nutrition, regular exercise, and plenty of sleep. Strive for balance among all the hats you may wear (student, friend, employee, club member, etc.).
The important thing to remember is that the solution starts with you! Learn to be comfortable with and even enjoy your time alone. When you feel loneliness creeping in reach beyond yourself and connect – motivate yourself to take risks to develop new relationships or deepen your current relationships.
Adapted from “Loneliness and the College Student” by Dr. Gregory Hall of Bentley College http://web.ccsu.edu/counseling/new/depression/college_student.htm
and “Self-HelpSolutions for Loneliness” from the Student Counseling Center at The University of Texas, Dallas http://www.utdallas.edu/counseling/selfhelp/loneliness.html.