8 Simple Tips to Overcome Loneliness

by Tammy Strobel on March 4, 2010

Sitting still or being silent is often frowned upon. American’s are taught to always be busy, to be doing something. As a result, I don’t think people deal with their feelings in healthy ways, especially when it comes to loneliness. Rather than dealing with the cause of a feeling we distract ourselves by running out to the store to buy something, turning on the TV, or drinking alcohol. It temporarily eases discomfort, but doesn’t deal with the underlying issue.

Humans are social animals. We crave connection and companionship. It’s natural and important. I think blogs and social media platforms foster amazing connections. However, I don’t think these tools replace face-to-face communication. Meeting a friend for a coffee date is a much different experience than talking on facebook or twitter. Although the internet has connected many of us together, are we really connecting or are we becoming more lonely?

Below are 8 simple tips to help you overcome loneliness. The tips will force you to get out from behind your computer screen.

1. Go ride your bike.

As you know I’m a huge fan of riding my bike. It’s relaxing, fun, and a great way to see your surroundings. For example, on Friday night I’m attending an Art by Bike tour in Portland. I’ve gone on art walks before, but an art by bike tour will be completely different and fun!

Micro-action: Plan a fun biking adventure with friends or family. For example, go on an art by bike tour, picnic in the park or take a tour of your local coffee shops.

2. Write in your journal.

Writing is a powerful tool. It can help you identify many different types of feelings, including loneliness. If you’re feeling lonely, start writing. Get your emotions out on paper and start asking yourself how you can create a feeling of connection in your life. Focus on the important.

Micro-action: If you don’t have a journal, I highly recommend purchasing one. Use it to write down your ideas, feelings and action items to foster reflection and make your life better.

3. Cook a real meal.

Cooking a good meal can be a meditative experience. It’s a great opportunity to mull over thoughts and lose yourself in a recipe. Cooking a real meal is also a perfect excuse to find a dinner date. I don’t know about you, but I feel lonely when I eat alone. Making dinner for a friend or loved on is the perfect way to create a meaningful connection.

In addition, Michael Pollan talks about the importance of NOT eating alone. Eating with a friend is more fun. You’re more likely to eat slower and less.

Micro-action: Do you cook real meals regularly? If not, make that part of your routine. If you’re looking for simple and easy recipes subscribe to Stone Soup: Minimalist Home Cooking.

4. Take photographs.

Taking photos is a way to notice the details of life. Whenever I walk around with my camera and take photos I get into a zone. I notice the little things, like the morning dew on flowers or a beautiful sunset. For some reason this makes me feel less alone. The world is alive with beauty and has so much to offer. We just have to slow down long enough to notice.

Micro-action: If you own a camera, take it everywhere and start taking photos. If you don’t own a camera try sketching in your journal.

5. Connect with your community.

There are so many ways you can connect with your community, from volunteering to attending city meetings. A few nights ago I attended a city budget forum. I was hesitant to attend, but I’m glad I did. I met some amazing community activists, I met the mayor and learned a great deal about the Portland community.

Micro-action: What are you doing in your community to make the world a better place? Do you sit on committees, volunteer at local organizations or mentor youth?

6. Read a good book.

Go to your library and pick up a good book. Reading is a great way to escape into another world or glean creative ideas for your latest project. I spend a lot of time in libraries and books stores. It’s a frugal way to educate yourself, be inspired and a healthy way to use your time.

Micro-action: If you don’t have a library card, go get one and start reading. Make a personal goal to read a book a week. If reading a book a week seems too overwhelming, try reading one book per month.

7. Be still and do nothing.

Supposedly being “busy” is a sign of success in this culture. I’m not sure that’s true. Why are we all in such a hurry? Do we really create beautiful art if we we’re rushing from place to place? And if everyone is so busy, how do we create meaningful connections with others?

Slow down, take your time and start to take your time. Rushing from place to place can be counterproductive. Being busy can sometimes erode our sense of purpose causing us to feel undervalued and lonely.

Micro-actions: Set aside 10 minutes a day for meditation. If you have over-committed yourself to meetings or projects, consider re-prioritizing what’s important to you.

8. Set-up a coffee or tea date with a friend.

I have to admit that I’ve been a little lonely the last month. It’s weird not having Logan in Portland and I miss him. At the same time being by myself has forced me out of my comfort zone and that’s a good thing. It also makes me appreciate Logan and my friends even more.

Since I’m by myself, I’ve been getting together with new friends for coffee and dinner dates. It’s been a great way to connect with others and get out of my apartment. Plus, I’m seeing more of Portland.

Micro-action: Call a friend and schedule a coffee or dinner date.

Leave a comment and tell me how do you deal with loneliness.

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1 Chris O'Byrne March 4, 2010

This is such a good post, Tammy. I love the Art by Bike tour and wish there was one here. Hmmm… I could always help organize one and also incorporate tip #5.

I’ve used these ideas before to add depth and meaning to my everyday life. And they do help with loneliness. Back in one of my single periods I framed my motto in a picture frame where I could see it: Alone, But Not Lonely.

And suddenly I have this strange urge for pancakes…

2 Tammy March 4, 2010

@Chris – thanks! Glad u liked it. Ohhh u should totally organize an Art By Bike tour in your town. That would rock!

And I love the idea of framing a quote or something meaningful that you see everyday. Words are powerful. :)

3 Frann Spiess August 4, 2011

What if you do not have any friends?If you live in the conrty & don’t have a drivers liceince. What do you do in this case.

4 Rebekah August 14, 2011

Frann, those things can make it tough, but it doesnt stop you from finding things to do. try chossing a hobie. You dont even have to be good at it. and then when you can get a ride to the nearest town buy stuff to start that hobbie. I know beyond my loniless I tend to get antsy, I have figured out that it my sign for some sort of relese so painting for me is great. and cheap really. I use canvas and can paint over and over it if I dont have a fresh one and that gives me a way to vent my emotions in to something creative.
Good friends are really hard to come by. I know as I have very few friends, partly by choice. I want a good friend if I am going to have one, If not I dont want to waste time with someone I dont connect with.Not sure of ur age or location or other interests, but there are people out there that would love to become ur friend sharing simmilar interests, and thats how friendship generally start. So if you go to church, or school, or parks. I think you may have more options and resources than your aware of. What’s the deal with the driver liscense? can that be changed?there are options i am certain. Even though we deal with lonlinees it doesnt have to control ur life or ruin it. You can write me back and maybe i can help you learn some things about ur area.

5 Tami March 4, 2010

Volunteering.

Not only did I meet people I had things in common with, I made a connection to the new place I was living. It also helped me land a new job and some of the people I met through volunteering when I moved to Portland all those years ago (’96!) I am still close to.

6 Alejandro Reyes March 4, 2010

Wow, I think I got caught int this post. I usually deal with loneliness by meditation, but lately I’m becoming more social. i have been reconnecting with old friends, making new ones at work and so on. All these actions have pushed me out of my comfort zone since I have been known for being a bit anti-social in the past.

So far I think I still have to go out more, there is no point of studying all day and try to build something if I can’t share it so that is being a bit of a focus right now. I definitely will try your suggestions tip No. 8 will be a goal for the following days!

Thanks for sharing Tammy!

7 Karol Gajda March 4, 2010

Hey Tammy, you hit on so many topics that interest me on your blog. :)

It’s sad that so many people don’t know how to be alone. I’ve been writing a Black Book called How To Be Alone and a couple of the activities you describe are what I call Solo Social Events. Things you can do by yourself but in social environments. One of my favorites is going to the movies alone. While a movie is playing you’re not going to talk to your friends anyway, right? So why not go alone if you don’t have anybody to go with when you want to go? It also gives you an excuse to talk to random strangers about the movie after it’s over. :)

Thanks for another great post!
Karol

8 Tammy March 4, 2010

@Karol – thank you. :) I appreciate the good feedback.

Your “black book” sounds intriguing. I’m doing a solo social event tonight. The Pearl District has an art walk the first Thursday of every month. It will be fun to go check out art and just be around other art lovers. :)

9 Lelly March 4, 2010

Great post as usual Tammy!

I read something not too long ago about how if instead of finding ways to cover up our loneliness and depression (like shopping or incessantly talking) and actually truly experienced these emotions we would be a happier society overall. You know, like if you’re depressed, don’t go throw yourself off a bridge, feel your depression find out where it’s coming from and do something to change it. I don’t know if that would actually work but I do know that if I’m sad or lonely, it usually means I’ve stepped off my correct path and am now travelling down a back ally full of dangers :) Kinda like the “you’re getting warmer” game I used to play when I was a kid.

10 Tina Smith March 4, 2010

Awesome post! I have two kids, so I think when people look at that they think I could never be lonely. But unfortunately I am just as susceptible as anyone else (hence the amount of time I spent of Facebook on some days)! I think lots of people are lonely in a crowded room. I think the key is true connections with people who make us feel important or can have a honest conversation. Ten minutes of an honest conversation is worth more for my sanity than an hour of a superficial one. I like to read too and this helps when I have the time. If my friends arnt available (which happens when all my friends available during the day have kids too and are busy that day or have sick kids) I load the kids up and we go to the park, it is amazing how many awesome conversations I have had with parents I don’t know. I am not shy though so I don’t mind starting conversations with strangers :) When it is raining and I am lonely, instead of being tempted by going somewhere that requires a fee on entry we go to the library for story time or Barns and Noble to the kids section. There are lots of things to do with kids for free that don’t require money at all and combat lonely feelings.

11 Tammy March 4, 2010

@Tina – I think we’re all susceptible to loneliness, whether we have cute kids or not. I would assume that it’s hard being home with the kids and not have other adults to talk too during the day?

Your strategies for overcoming loneliness are awesome. :) Hugs to u…

12 Meira March 4, 2010

Some of my best friends live over seas. I love to go and visit them, we go on bike rides through Berlin to coffee shops and shopping trips. Some of your best friends can be made online. But that doesn’t mean that’s where it should stop. Making friends where you live is just as important. :-D

13 Tammy March 4, 2010

@Meira – I agree. I’ve made incredible connection through the internet. It’s an amazing tool. I just think it’s a tool that needs to be balanced with face time too. :)

14 Stephanie Reiley March 4, 2010

I didn’t realize you didn’t have Logan with you yet. :( I need to at least introduce you electronically to a couple of the other cool peeps I met in Portland. Will try to hook you up on Facebook. :)

15 Tammy March 4, 2010

@Steph – that would be lovely.

Yeah – no Logan yet. He’s still working on the dissertation. I’m hoping he’ll be up by the end of March for good. But he’ll probably still be writing the evil dissertation. :)

16 Jen CleanBin March 4, 2010

I love option number 1. Just yesterday, my boyfriend and I rode our bikes to a local outdoor chess set and had a wintery picnic with hot chocolate and played chess. Super fun.

17 Jarratt November 23, 2010

oh i wanna play at an outdoor chess set! where did you do that?

18 Fox March 4, 2010

I’m pretty lucky. I live in a fairly small college town and was part of the sci-fi club for several years. Even though some of my cohort has moved on, others have stayed on so occasionally I see people at work or run into people randomly around town. And if I get lonely, I can always go to the club meetings held every week. :D

19 Erin N. March 4, 2010

Almost 5 years ago, we picked up our family and moved to Eastern Washington…where we knew absolutely no one. Superman quickly got a job and my children were enrolled in school immediately and I was home…alone…with no one I knew in a city I was unfamiliar with. Did I mention I was 42? Looking back, I’ll say this was a terribly difficult time for me. Everyone else slipped into a ready-made place in our new hometown, but I didn’t. I was different. I was from a huge city and people had a lot preconceived ideas about me. It ended up, however, being the best time of my life (inside my head…not better than marrying Superman or having my kids, you know?). I was able to finally let go of all the “shoulds” and all the scripts for a life that didn’t fit that I’d been following up until that point. All the things you recommend: Get physical, cook at home, be still, look around (take photographs meets this to me), put yourself out there, slow down, and best of all: use the time by yourself to design the life you want…not the life you SHOULD want. Oh, I know I’m not even close to there yet, but the past four years have been the best yet. I think we need more time to be alone and to feel loneliness…if we use it correctly, it helps us get our heads on straight.

P.S. Thanks for both of you commenting back to me about your move. I’m still thinking about your responses…so much to think about.

20 Hayden Thompson March 6, 2010

Hey Tammy,

It was great meeting you last night on the Art by Bike tour. I don’t think anyone expected it to continue for the rest of the night and it was really fun to get to connect with people from the tour. I think you will really enjoy Portland and you are making a great start by getting out and meeting people. Have a great weekend!

Cheers,
Hayden

21 Tammy March 6, 2010

@Hayden – It was great meeting you! I’m so glad that I went on the Art by Bike tour. I had such a good time. :) We’ll have to connect again and have a beer. And you can meet Logan. :)

22 Janet March 14, 2010

Thanks for writing such a great and (for me) timely post. About seven months ago I moved away from my home and my fiance for grad school, and it’s taken me almost just as long to realize that I actually am lonely, and that as great as Skype and Facebook are, they aren’t a perfect replacement. Thanks for all of your suggestions on ways to deal with it – I can definitely vouch for the photography tip – I found it’s really made me more conscious of everything, like you said. As for the other tips – I’m looking forward to trying them out :)

23 Tammy March 14, 2010

@Janet – I’m glad the post helped you! Best of luck and thanks for reading the blog. :)

24 SM August 10, 2010

I also recommend expanding your social network through sites like meetup. In the last few years, I’ve had some dramatic changes in my friend circle, which has severely dwindled my circle of close friends. I live in a city where it’s hard to meet people, so I’ve started going to some meetup groups, and it’s been a good solution to feeling lonely. I’m meeting new people and going to events, and I like that.

25 Tracey March 18, 2011

I think you and your readers will really enjoy this lovely spoken word poem, “How to be Alone,” poet/singer/songwriter, Tanya Davis (video by filmaker, Andrea Dorfman). It’s absolutely beautiful.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7X7sZzSXYs

26 Tammy March 21, 2011

@Tracey – Very cool! Thanks. :)

27 Anonymous March 18, 2011

Hi Tammy,
It was a great subject. I never thought of writing in jurnal. I think I will do that! Also, I also try to spend more time in reading a book instead of surfing websites for hours… This is so bad habit.

I feel that as I get older, I become scared of being alone; but I noticed recently after I moved to the new city where I did not know anyone, being able to enjoy loneliness is such a challenge, but it is the good time to discover self. I started trying things I had been interested in, such as knitting and computer scrapbooking. I also realized that I do not have to constantly make lots of friends as far as I have a few of good qualitative friends.

Tammy, I would like to ask you if you initially had hard time to adjust to the new lifestyle when you moved to Portland from your previous house. Also, I would like to know how one can find a joy in reading.

28 Tammy March 21, 2011

At first it was hard to adjust. But it didn’t take me very long to settle in. Once I started meeting new people and volunteering, Portland felt like home. :)

29 Pankaj Rawat March 18, 2011

Hi Tammy

Very nice perspective. I spent my idle time (and loneliness) reading anything which I find interesting.

I have very recently started following your blog on recommendation of a friend (Sayantani Dasgupta), and want to thank both of you for bringing in the new perspective towards life !!

Thanks

30 Charlotte K March 18, 2011

Re photography, join & be *active* on a photo web site like Flickr. I am a fairly solitary person by nature but I have met a LOT of great people doing this. I just got back from a wonderful weekend in NYC with two Dutch Flickr friends who I had never met in person before then. And I have been to Holland a couple of times already to meet some others, who are now counted among my most favorite friends.

31 rob March 19, 2011

Tammy:

Of course there is a difference between being lonely and being alone, but nonetheless this video by a countrywoman of mine does resonate with your topic.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7X7sZzSXYs

32 Ronald Carl Holmes March 24, 2011

i believe that you should find someone more lonely then yourself to eliminate the pain of loneliness,pray,fast and read one bible,go to church and join a single group.i believe that a person should find something interesting,positive, and constructive to invest one time in doing to combat loneliness.

33 rob March 24, 2011

I would disagree strongly with this. After my mother died my father was completely at loose ends. A local church sucked him in with its biblical mythology and promise of helping with his loneliness. While it *did* do so, it also caused him to become so obnoxiously religious that he lost his connection with my brother and I. Fortunately, after the worst of his grief passed he realized that religion is just a crutch and abandoned it, becoming normal again.

Encouraging someone to embrace mythology as a cure for loneliness is akin to encouraging someone to start smoking to help combat hunger pains. It’ll work for a while, but cancer isn’t the solution to hunger. Just as mythology isn’t the cure for loneliness.

34 Phil April 2, 2011

Several years ago, I went through a divorce. It was similar to experiencing a death. I leaned heavily on my faith. Then, I dismissed it as a crutch. After I completed a Master’s degree in social work and began evaluating clinical programs, which used interventions such as cognitive behavioral therapy, I began to fully understand the simplicity of therapy and its similarity with core elements of the faith I had dismissed. I reintegrated faith into my life. I moved, got involved with someone, and then lost the relationship. My faith was in place and actually buffered the intial pain. I relied on my faith heavily–but I knew it would be okay if I was to ease off. In the Bible, I have found several references to seasons of life. There’s always a storm on the horizon, and I want my faith to kick-in especially during those times. I could not have done it without the Lord.

35 Lu December 3, 2011

I just recently moved to another part of the country. Back home where I’m from I had a strong connection with my twin sister and family. I have moved out here to mainly spend time with my fiance and try the job market hopefully a more forgiving place. We have been long distance the entire time we’ve been dating- a year and a half now. He’s very established, has his friends and his connections and I feel more alone than ever. Sometimes I feel his friends may have a better connection with him than I do. Anyhow, I thought by keeping busy with wedding planning and taking on a holiday retail job, searching for jobs that went with my bachelor’s degree and hitting the gym frequently would help me cope with my loneliness. Boy was I wrong… at times when I feel most alone I’ve finished a task or I’m waiting for something. I’m really glad to have found your website and will be seriously pursuing these tasks. Reading your ideas helped me begin to feel a whole less lonely. I will write back about my progress!

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