Feelings of loneliness can be overwhelming and affect most of us from time to time. Have you ever felt alone in a crowded office, or walked into a party and felt that you didn’t belong? Ironically, you are not alone, as most people have experienced this same altercation in perception. A perception, interestingly enough, is all that loneliness actually is. It is a state of mind of how connected we want to be with others, versus how close we actually are. And yes, this feeling can increase our well-being. We may therefore feel alone, even when we are not all that separated.

What causes this flawed mindset is what psychologist and author of Reinventing Your Life, Jeffrey Young, explains as “life traps,” or negative behavior patterns, which originate from our experiences in childhood and go on to develop the core beliefs that we have about ourselves in adulthood (including the belief that we are always alone). A sense of emptiness underlies this feeling of loneliness, and can have devastating effects on both our mental and physical well-being. We may keep others at a distance as to not be disappointed by them, thus preventing ourselves from ever forming meaningful relationships. Cardiologist and mindfulness teacher, Jonathon Fisher, MD, FACC, informs us that loneliness has the same risk of causing a heart attack or stroke as smoking a pack of cigarettes does. Loneliness, as Fisher explains, may even increase a person’s chance of dying early by 30%.

Despite the damage that feelings of loneliness may cause, there are mental techniques that we can utilize to combat its triggers as we work to better understand our patterns of relating to others. Follow the remedies for loneliness listed below so that you too can begin to develop a healthy mindset, fill feelings of emptiness, and improve your overall well-being.

Build Your Self-Esteem

People who feel lonely often feel unworthy and undeserving of others’ love and attention.  To combat these negative feelings, we can build our self-esteem with self-love. After all, if we want others to love us, we must first love ourselves. Begin by thinking of a situation in your life that once caused you emotional stress or loneliness. Acknowledge the feelings that erupt within you as you visualize this situation. Do you feel sad? Stressed? Explore it. Remind yourself that being human means being imperfect. Then, create a mantra, or phrase, that resonates with you in your situation and that you can say to yourself to show self-compassion: “I am worthy,” “I am loveable,” “I am enough.” Repeat your mantra 5 times, so that it becomes part of your conscious, and your negative self-talk becomes positive. This active change in inner-voice will build your self-esteem, and the confidence to believe that you are always worthy of all that others have to offer you.

Make Gratitude an Attitude

Practicing gratitude magnifies positive emotions and heightens self-worth. It can also be transferred onto different areas of your life, such as loneliness, by using it to recognize all that you have and that it is enough. Close your eyes and remember a time that someone did something kind or compassionate for you, and the gratitude that resonated. Allow yourself to re-experience that gratitude, and envision the words “thank you.” Let the words, “thank you,” repeat in your mind. Picture gratitude as a fire inside you, expanding with each “thank you” that you repeat. Enjoy the feeling. Transfer this fire of gratitude to someone that deserves appreciation in your life. Use your inner voice to thank them, and focus on the pleasurable feelings of here and now that you feel as you thank them. Appreciate your health at this moment, and all those present in your life. As you allow yourself to see, hear, and feel moments of gratitude, gratitude will become an attitude, and any feelings of emptiness that you may have will become filled with all that enriches your life.

Connect with Others

Now that we’ve discussed correcting our inner-narrative and have begun to love ourselves for who we are, let’s discuss the external steps that we can take to form connections with others. It’s easy to become distracted in today’s chaotic world of global pandemics and over-stimulation, so take a moment to look around and ask yourself, “Who is there for me to connect more deeply with?” Make an effort to call that person, or send that person a thank you letter. For more daily practice, limit the time you spend on your smart phone during dinner, or when around family. Reflecting on these times of connection will open your mind to recognizing more opportunities to connect with others, as there often are, in the beautiful moments of everyday life.

Remember that Loneliness is a Feeling, Not a Fact

Awareness is key to combating triggers of loneliness. Recognize the life traps that cause your suffering, and notice the thoughts that come into your mind. Accept the fact that you have these feelings, and remind yourself that loneliness is a feeling, and not always a fact. When you find yourself without plans on a Saturday night, is it true that everyone you know has abandoned you, or do you work in the restaurant industry and therefore most of your friends are just at work? By practicing mindfulness and becoming aware of your triggers, you can develop emotional intelligence, which will improve your mindset with not just loneliness, but all aspects of life.

To Recap:

Loneliness can lead to decreased well-being due to the harmful effects that it may have on our minds and bodies. Its origin can be traced back to our experiences in childhood that have shaped the core beliefs that we have about ourselves as adults, but these beliefs do not have to stay damaged as we look to the future. In addition to the practices listed above, we highly suggest you utilize the exercises in the Mindshine app, such as “Self-Compassion Tripled,” “Feeling Grateful,” or the “Attitude of Gratitude” training plan, to combat triggers of loneliness. Micro-steps help build life changing habits, and soon you’ll find with an improved mindset, comes improved well-being.