In the same way our bodies send us cues for tiredness, hunger, being too hot or too cold, loneliness is the body’s cue for social connection. No matter who you are, if you have a body, you can experience loneliness. Humans are social animals who rely on each other to survive. Perhaps not in the way we once did, but we still rely on others for our survival through our exchange of information, goods and services.
Whenever we feel unsafe, our bodies go into survival mode. That might be fight/flight or freeze and people-please. All survival states affect our ability to think rationally, concentrate, feel at ease and authentically connect to ourselves and others. When we think about loneliness as a need for connection, we can start to evaluate how we make meaningful connections.
Here are six things that you can do when you’re feeling lonely:
Name it to tame it
When we continually ignore our unmet needs, our body will find various ways to communicate its needs to us. Over time our unmet need for social connection can make it hard for us to function. As mentioned earlier, our need to be social is closely linked to our felt sense of safety. By naming our need for authentic social connection, we validate our needs, and we can start to make a plan around things that we can do to help ourselves.
Slow down and reconnect yourself
One of the biggest challenges we face in our society is the inability to slow down. Being constantly busy can also be a result of being in that survival mode. If this is the case, then seek ways to tap the brakes so that you can connect to yourself. That might be taking an extra few minutes in the shower, mindfully making yourself a cup of tea or even taking the time to reach out to a friend. When we slow down, we can listen to our needs. Self-abandonment is the last thing we need when we feel lonely.
Reach out to your friends and schedule a time to connect. If your connection with your current friends doesn’t give you a sense of belonging, then perhaps it’s time to find a new community. Your new community could be a book club, a volunteer group an online community (e.g. Meet Up, Facebook Group, Eventbrite, Mind.org.uk Peer support groups etc.).
Connect with Non-Humans
Spending time in nature, with pets, podcasts and even getting into a new book can all be ways that we can connect. Taking a walk through your local park, library, or even local coffee shops are all great ways to feel like you’re part of a community.
Engage in a Hobby
What hobbies bring you joy? Are there activities you can engage in that will help you slow down. Positive distractions are different from disconnecting from our needs. Positive distractions allow us to acknowledge and sit without discomfort, instead of ignoring and pushing it away.
If you are struggling or concerned about feelings of loneliness, seek support from a mental health professional. They can offer a safe and compassionate space where you can speak about your concerns. Therapy might be in a one-to-one or group setting (or even a combination of both).
You are not alone in your feelings of loneliness. Being social is essential to our survival, therefore it is important that we listen to our body’s cues for social connection. Give one of the suggestions above as a starting point to reconnect.
Kaysha Thomas is a Registered Nutritional Therapist, Pilates Instructor and wellness blogger. She writes about mental health, self-love, nutrition and mindful movement. Or you can follow Kaysha on Instagram @Kayshathomas