The more you learn about happiness, the more you will believe that loneliness is a terrible, common, and important obstacle to consider.
There is a fascinating book called Lonely — a memoir by Emily White, about her experiences and research into loneliness. White she doesn’t attempt to give specific advice about battling loneliness, but from her book, a few strategies can be outlined:
1. Remember that although the distinction can be difficult to draw, loneliness and solitude are different. White observes, “It’s entirely reasonable to feel lonely yet still feel as though you need some time to yourself.” Loneliness feels draining, distracting, and upsetting; desired solitude feels peaceful, creative, restorative.
2. Nurturing others — raising children, teaching, caring for animals — helps to alleviate loneliness.
3. Keep in mind that to avoid loneliness, many people need both a social circle and an intimate attachment. Having one of these elements may still leave you feeling lonely.
4. Work hard to get your sleep. One common indicator of loneliness is broken sleep — taking a long time to fall asleep, waking frequently, and feeling sleepy during the day. Sleep deprivation, under any circumstances, brings down people’s moods, makes them more likely to get sick, and dampens their energy, so it’s important to tackle this issue. (Here are some tips on getting good sleep.)
5. Try to figure out what’s missing from your life. White observes that making lots of plans with friends didn’t alleviate her loneliness. “What I wanted,” she writes, “was the quiet presence of another person.” She longed to have someone else just hanging around the house with her. The more clearly you see what’s lacking, the more clearly you’ll see possible solutions.
6. Take steps to connect with other people (to state the obvious). Negative emotions like loneliness, envy, and guilt have an important role to play in a happy life; they’re big, flashing signs that something needs to change. The pain of loneliness can prod you to connect with other people. Unfortunately, loneliness itself can make people feel more negative, critical, and judgmental. If you recognize that your loneliness may be affecting you in that way, you can take steps to counter it.
Most people have suffered from loneliness at some point. Have you found any good strategies for making yourself less lonely? What worked — or didn’t work?
To read more along these lines, read Happier at Home, chapter eight.
*Article by Gretchen Rubin, one of the most thought-provoking and influential writers on happiness. Her books Happier at Home and The Happiness Project were both instant New York Times best sellers, and The Happiness Project has spent more than two years on the bestseller list.