What is Loneliness?
Humans are complex, social, emotional beings, and it’s natural for us to crave connections with others. Having a loneliness toolkit, tried and true methods to quickly boost your mood, can make a huge impact on how fast you recover to your true self when you’re feeling down. Even though we live in a digital, social media world where everyone shares every move, we are feeling the most disconnected from our friends and family than we ever have before.
Although loneliness is often defined as sadness related to being physically isolated, it’s more accurately defined as a state of mind. Someone can be in a room full of people and feel alone or be by themselves and feel completely fulfilled. Loneliness can lead to feelings of despair, abandonment, and hopelessness, regardless of how many people are in our lives.
What kind of loneliness am I feeling?
It’s important to discover why you are feeling lonely, so you can get to the root of the problem. Often when we feel stressed and lonely our minds can feel foggy, making it difficult to determine why we feel the way we do and how to boost our mood.
- School Problems: Difficulty keeping up with academics, pressure from peers, bullying, applying to college
- Relationship Stress: Arguing with parents, disagreements with friends, a break-up with a significant other
- Grief: Loss of a loved one, classmate, or death in the family
- Social Isolation: Not having friends, social anxiety, pandemic restrictions, unbalanced study schedule, physical isolation
- Moving to a new place: Moving locations with family, changing elementary or high school suddenly, starting college away from home
- Low Self-Esteem: Feeling unworthy, feeling unattractive, feeling undeserving of happiness, love, or success
Why should I care about loneliness?
Loneliness often gets swept under the rug as just a temporary feeling. “Get over it,” or “It’s all in your mind” might be heard from others. You know yourself best. It is crucial to prioritize your mental health despite the opinion of others. If loneliness is left untreated, it can turn into a larger issue like depression, anxiety, or even suicide. Studies show that loneliness can impact physical health as well. Feeling lonely has been linked to increased rates of dementia, premature death from health problems, heart disease, stroke, and general hospitalization.
How can I boost my mood when I’m lonely?
1. Find new ways to keep in touch with friends and family
Phone call your friends and family. Talking on the phone is a lost art. Instead of texting or scrolling through someone’s Instagram feed, consider giving them a call on the phone. More often than not, people are pleasantly surprised that you were thinking of them and put in the extra effort to reach out. Hearing a familiar voice can be comforting when feeling lonely.
Video chat with your friends and family. Pandemic life has transformed how we stay in touch with others, and video chatting can be a great way to stay in touch and keep face-to-face contact. Take the initiative to schedule a family Zoom party where you can catch up, have dinner together, or even watch a movie or show. Streaming services allow watch parties, so you can all share the same experience as if you were in the same room.
2. Help others in the community
Volunteer at a local dog shelter. Caring for our furry friends can help reduce anxiety, depression, and loneliness in a heartbeat. Local animal shelters are always looking for friendly people to take rescue dogs on walks, feed and play with the animals, and help staff members find homes for the animals. Snuggling up with a pup and knowing you did a good deed is sure to boost your mood.
Volunteer at a local library. With all of our books on Kindle and Amazon, it’s easy to forget the community library can be a place of peace and refuge. Take your time to browse through the books and check out anything that sparks your interest. Libraries are often looking for volunteers to help with children’s programs like reading out loud for story time, helping with homework, or teaching the less fortunate how to read.
3. Get outside
Go for a walk. When we’re feeling lonely, our immediate response is to curl up in bed or on the couch. Even though we crave social connections, we shut ourselves out from the world. Going for a walk outside in the fresh air can rejuvenate your body and mind. Sometimes we need to remove ourselves physically from our situation to gain clarity.
Have a picnic in the park. Laying out in the sun has been linked to higher levels of serotonin, the mood-boosting hormone. Bring a blanket, some snacks, and a relaxing activity like a book or sketchpad. Enjoy the beauty of nature and bask in the sunlight. Daydream about all the awesome things ahead in your future and appreciate your surroundings.
4. Write your feelings
Start a journal. Writing in a journal can be a great way to be your own best friend. Make it a habit to write about your day and how you’re feeling. Respond to yourself as if a friend has written to you asking for help. Recapture your favorite memories or goals you have for the future. Writing can help strengthen our memories, reduce stress, and track our mental health progress.
Write letters to family. When’s the last time you sent a letter or postcard in the mail? If you have friends or family members that you haven’t interacted with in a long time, make them feel special by sending them a handwritten letter. Let them know what’s going on in your life and ask them to send a letter back. Not only will you make someone else feel special, but you’ll also create a positive connection with someone.
5. Give yourself a pep talk
Use positive affirmations to challenge negative thoughts. The beauty of using positive affirmations is that the more you do it, the more true they become. Fake it ‘till you make it applies here. Remind yourself daily of your positive qualities. Make small efforts throughout the day to simply say something nice to yourself. Stick post-its on your fridge and reminders on your phone.
Here are a few to get started:
I am smart, confident, and worthy.
I am talented and intelligent.
Today is going to be a great day, no matter what.I love who I am.
I love who I am.
I will not stress over things I cannot control.
I am talented and intelligent.
I choose happiness.
Count your blessings. Literally. Showing gratitude for all the things in our life can transform our loneliness into confidence. Take stock of everything in your life that you are thankful for. Imagine your life without necessities like running water, food in the fridge, or a roof over your head.
Having good health, the opportunity for education or even the free time to scroll on the internet are great blessings. Even in the darkest times, we can find something to be thankful for. Just like sunlight, gratitude has been linked to higher levels of serotonin. Use this tip for an instant mood boost that will make you feel happy from the inside out.
6. Take care of your body and mind
Eat healthy foods. Eating natural, healthy foods full of nutrients and vitamins improves our mood when feeling lonely and also improves how effectively our brain functions work. Drop the candy bars and soda pop if you want to feel more alert, improve concentration, and increase happiness. Harvard classifies this as nutritional psychiatry, and studies link our gut bacterial health to our mental health. This is a mood-boosting tool to implement every day.
Get quality sleep. If you’re feeling lonely or depressed, chances are you’re also feeling very tired. Feeling these emotions can make you tired, but our sleep health often triggers those emotions in the first place. Set a reasonable hour to sleep and stick with it every day. Create a bedtime routine to wind down. Take care of personal hygiene, read a book, meditate, or stretch before bed.
Manage your time better so you can avoid procrastination and pulling “all-nighters” to get school work done. Feeling well-rested ensures a day of success and happiness, leaving loneliness in the past.
7. Improve your home environment
Clean your room. Have you ever felt like your mind is cluttered with a million thoughts, and when you look around your room is just as messy? This may seem more like a chore than a tool, but being in a clean environment can do wonders for our mental health. Often our state of mind reflects our surroundings, so paying attention to how we maintain our space can be crucial to boosting mood.
Declutter, organize, and get rid of what doesn’t bring you joy. Whether it is your shared room with a sibling, your dorm room, or your first apartment, getting rid of clutter and dusty items helps make room for new things in our lives.
Personalize your space. Decorate with photos, artwork, posters, books, and trinkets that express who you are and what you love. Make your space feel like a comforting place you can call home, a place that emanates peace and positivity.
Loneliness is a natural feeling that everyone experiences. Sometimes it is short-lived, and sometimes we feel like we’re drowning in our emotions. No matter how hopeless you feel, there are always ways to help you return to your normal, happy self. Take care of your body and mind, prioritize self-love, and help others when you’re feeling lonely. Experiment with this toolkit to see what works best for you, and immediately implement it when you feel like you need a mood boost.