6 Signs You’re Not As Alone As You Think You Are
It’s been said that loneliness is a universal human experience, at times as hard to deal with as it is to make sense of. And chances are, if you’re reading this, then you’ve probably felt lonely, too. No one is exempt from feeling a sense of loneliness in their lives from time to time, no matter what their age, race, background, or social circumstances may be, but when left to its own devices, it can be a potentially damaging state of mind to have.
So why do we feel lonely? And better yet, what can we do about it? Well, psychology has a few ideas. First of all, loneliness has commonly been thought to refer to “a state of mind where one feels empty, alone, and unwanted.” Loneliness makes us crave human contact and connection, and studies suggest it has to do with social isolation, poor social skills, and depression (Perlman, 1981).
And as to what we can do to ease our own loneliness, well, it helps to realize that you may actually not be as alone as you think. With that said, here are 6 psychology-backed signs to help with just that:
1. You have a good friend or two.
Most people tend to feel lonely when they don’t have as many friends as they like, or they have too many acquaintances they don’t feel particularly close to. So if you have at least one close friend in your life you genuinely feel like you can trust and who cares about you, then you’re already doing so much better than you probably think you are! In fact, one of the most famous psychological studies, the 40-year Harvard study on happiness, has found that it’s not the quantity of our social relationships that determines our happiness, but rather, their quality (Bradt, 2015).
2. You have people you can ask help from.
Similar to our earlier point, while most people want to be popular and well-liked, never without a friend by their side or flaunting a million followers on social media, we all know that deep down inside, none of that matters if the people you surround yourself with don’t truly care about you as a person (Heinrich & Gullone, 2006). So if you’ve ever found yourself in a tough spot before or struggling with a problem that someone in your life helped you to solve — be it a friend or a family member — then count yourself lucky. You’re not as alone as you think you are!
3. You have people who can give you advice.
Even though you might feel too scared to open up and “burden other people with your problems” or worry that they might treat and look at you differently once you do, the truth is, you’ll never really know until you do. Who knows? You might already have plenty of people in your life who’d be more than happy to listen to what’s troubling you and even offer some advice, like your parents, your best friend, your teacher, your guidance counselor, and so on (Ernst & Cacioppo, 1999).
4. You can talk about your hobbies/interests.
Okay, so maybe talking about all that touchy-feely stuff is a bit uncomfortable for you. That’s alright! A lot of people feel the same way. But talking to someone about your hobbies and interests can be just as fulfilling and therapeutic, too, especially with those who share the same passion as you. Finding someone you can talk to about all of the things that make you happy — whether it’s a favorite film, book, or pastime — is already enough to make us feel a stronger sense of belonging and emotional connection with others (Peteet, 2011).
5. You have people you regularly check in with.
Even if you might not see them as often as you’d like or you feel like you’ve drifted apart and aren’t as close as you used to be, that doesn’t mean that you and your loved ones have stopped caring about you or that you don’t matter to them anymore. Chances are, even if they don’t keep in touch anymore, they still check in on you from time to time to make sure you’re okay. Sunday brunch at your parents’ house, grabbing coffee with an old friend, a quick phone call from your siblings — all of these things tell you you’re not as alone as you might feel sometimes, because at the end of the day, your loved ones will always be there.
6. You’re careful about who you let in.
Being careful about who you let into your life and your inner circle can reap a lot of rewards, but it can also make us feel more alone than we really are. We might feel like we don’t have as much of a social media presence, don’t go out as often as other people think we should, or aren’t constantly surrounded by other people in our day to day lives. Regardless of all these things however, it’s still a lot better to choose your friends wisely because at least then you can be sure that the people you finally do let your guard down around can actually be trusted and are worth keeping around (Gierveld & Van Tilburg, 2010).
So, do you relate to any of the things we’ve mentioned here? Has reading this list helped you realize you’re not as alone as you once thought? While it’s tempting to push such a painful and scary feeling aside, it’s important that we acknowledge it and try to understand why we’re feeling this way. Loneliness, after all, is just like any other human emotion: it’s meant to teach us something about ourselves we might not yet realize.
Maybe your loneliness is trying to tell you to make a conscious effort to get closer to your loved ones, or maybe it’s trying to tell you that something needs to change in your life, that there’s something more you want that you’re too afraid to go after, be it a better relationship or a stronger sense of personal identity. Regardless of whatever the reason may be, if you are seriously struggling with your mental health, the best thing you can do is to reach out to a mental health care professional today and seek help.
- Perlman, D., & Peplau, L. A. (1981). Toward a social psychology of loneliness. Personal relationships, 3, 31-56.
- Bradt, G. (2015). The Secret Of Happiness Revealed By Harvard Study. Forbes. Retrieved.
- Heinrich, L. M., & Gullone, E. (2006). The clinical significance of loneliness: A literature review. Clinical Psychology Review, 26(6), 695-718.
- Ernst, J. M., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1999). Lonely hearts: Psychological perspectives on loneliness. Applied and preventive psychology, 8(1), 1-22.
- Peteet, J. R. (2011). Approaching emptiness: Subjective, objective and existential dimensions. Journal of Religion and Health, 50(3), 558-63.
- Gierveld, J. D. J., & Van Tilburg, T. (2010). The De Jong Gierveld short scales for emotional and social loneliness: tested on data from 7 countries in the UN generations and gender surveys. European Journal of Aging, 7(2), 121-130.