Learning to overcome loneliness
It may come as a surprise that there are actually many people in Moab who are lonely. I meet several people, in and outside of my practice, who describe not fitting in, not knowing how to meet people, and not being able to make friends.
Loneliness is not just an uncomfortable, unpleasant feeling. It can have severe effects on a person’s health. Particularly, older or disabled people who are lonely tend to neglect self-care and don’t eat adequately. Generally, lonely people have trouble sleeping and are at greater risk for depression, infections, and heart disease.
Loneliness is not the state of being alone, but the discontent with the quality of your relationships. One person can feel fine being by himself for hours, sometimes even days, and another person feels lonely in the midst of a party or a family gathering. Being lonely means a person does not feel seen, heard, or appreciated. People report feeling detached or excluded, almost as if they are invisible. They long for a connection but they don’t experience one.
Lonely people are often shy or have low self-esteem. It is hard for them to approach people or to start a conversation with a stranger. They want to connect to others but think about everything that could go wrong. Or they convince themselves the other person won’t be interested in a friendship anyway.
However, as difficult as it is, the only way to feel less lonely is to take the first step and approach another person. It is helpful to keep in mind that many other people feel the same way and are just waiting for somebody to take the initiative.
Fortunately, there are many opportunities in Moab to meet people. One of the first steps you can take is to find out what you are interested in or passionate about. Look around and find out what your community has to offer in terms of your area of interest. Use every opportunity to learn more about people you meet. Find out what you have in common or what you could learn from them.
Another great way to create connections is by reaching out and helping others. Moab is wonderful community with a variety of nonprofit organizations. You can get involved on many different levels, from donating food to joining a board. The more excited you are about a project, the more positive energy you radiate, and the more interested others will be to get to know you better.
If these approaches are too intimidating for you, start even smaller. Use everyday opportunities, such as a trip to the grocery store, to practice connecting with people. Make it a point to smile at least at two people in the store. Don’t use the self checkout. Make eye contact with the cashier. Pay a compliment or ask a question, such as, “Those are beautiful earrings, did you get them in town?” People appreciate opportunities to talk about themselves and the short exchange with the cashier might brighten her day as well as yours.
When all your attempts to alleviate your loneliness fail and you just don’t feel any better, the underlying causes could be more severe than merely being shy. You might suffer from depression or anxiety, or you might experience interpersonal problems that are hard to address on your own. With the help of a mental health professional, you can evaluate and address these underlying causes and learn coping skills that will help you create more satisfying relationships with others.
- Antje Rath
- August 2013