Have you been missing some company lately? Do you feel isolated and left out?
Some people actually do like to spend their time alone, and they enjoy it a lot. But for others, lack of closeness or emotional connection with others can make them feel a special kind of emptiness in their hearts – loneliness.
Loneliness is not always obvious. And sometimes it may feel like a weakness. You may try to make yourself believe you don’t really need anybody, especially if you’ve been alone for a long time. But we all need at least some kind of warmth from the ones around us. If you noticed you’ve been feeling down lately, check out these signs to see if you’re secretly lonely.
1. You’re often bored
Do you often feel bored, with nothing to do and no one to hang out with? Humans are social beings – our brains are wired for social connection. We need people to talk to, exchange ideas, have fun and spend quality time with. Those people give us emotional support and connection, and make our days more fun. But if you don’t have many friends, or if you’re not close with the ones you have, you may start feeling bored. You spend your days alone, doing activities alone, eating alone, just scrolling through your phone mindlessly. In this case, the boredom you feel could actually mean you’re feeling lonely.
2. You’re jealous of others having fun
How do you feel when you see a group of friends hanging out outside? Or when you see all those pictures on social media of people having fun? Are you indifferent, or does it make you feel a tiny bit… jealous? If yes, you should know that’s totally fine. If you’re feeling lonely and left out, it must be hard for you to see everyone else having a blast. It’s normal that you wish you could spend time with others rather than being alone. And even if they don’t talk about it, many people feel the same way sometimes.
3. You’re taking long showers or baths
This may sound kind of weird, because who doesn’t love a nice warm shower or bubble bath after a long day? But if a nice stream of hot water brings you comfort that you can’t find outside, it could be a sign of loneliness. A study published in 2012 in the journal Emotion found that “the lonelier a person is, the more showers and baths they take, the hotter the water, and the longer they stay under the water”. Researchers believe that the physical warmth that you feel from hot water may actually be a substitute for social warmth that you’re lacking. But this finding can be used to your advantage – when there are no friends around, maybe you can feel a bit better with a nice cup of hot chocolate.
4. You have no one to turn to
Imagine this: you had a very long, bad day. You finally come home after it’s over, but your mind is still racing with thoughts. You’re feeling overwhelmed and want to get it off your chest. You take out your phone to call or text someone. Who do you call?
If you’re having trouble answering, on top of feeling stressed, you might be lonely too. Loneliness is not just about not having any friends, but it’s about not having a close friend. You can talk about work or school with your coullegeas, or chit chat about the weather with your neighbour. But it’s also important to have someone to turn to, someone who can help you when you’re feeling down. Not having someone like that in your life can make you feel empty and alone.
5. Oversharing when someone’s willing to listen
Another sign of loneliness could be oversharing. Do you talk quickly when you’re having a conversation? Do you talk in great detail, telling them lots of personal stuff? And do you sometimes feel bad afterwards, like you said more than you actually wanted to say?
The reason for this is simple. If you’re lonely, you probably don’t usually talk much… maybe not at all. You are left with all your thoughts and ideas and emotions, but since there’s no one to listen, you have to bury it deep inside yourself. So when you finally find someone to have a conversation with, you’re delighted for the opportunity. You have so much to say, so much to make up for. All of it just comes out at once.
6. You keep buying and hoarding stuff
When we are little, we find comfort in our blankets and teddy bears. They give us a sense of security while we wait for our parents to comfort us. But as we grow older, we learn to turn to people rather than stuffed animals. That is, if we don’t feel lonely.
If you’re lonely, you may find yourself compulsively buying things or hoarding items you don’t really need, such as clothes, ornaments, jewelry… In a way, those things become a substitute for the company you’re lacking. You feel like you don’t have people to make you happy, so you seek happiness in material stuff. Because of this, you become emotionally attached to those things. According to a recent 2020 study, loneliness, hoarding and object attachment are all associated with one another – being attached to material things might actually be an attempt to compensate for the loneliness you feel.
Being lonely is a terrible feeling. It can even make everything else harder to deal with. And you should know that you don’t deserve to be alone.
No matter how hard it is, there are some small steps you could take to try and help yourself feel less lonely. The most obvious step is talking to someone and sharing your feelings. This can be a mental health professional, if you really don’t feel like you could open up to someone else in your life. Therapy could help you figure out your emotions and underlying problems. You could also try to engage with others more. Maybe join a volunteering group, a sports club, or enroll in language or art classes. Lastly, take care of your body, since the body and mind are connected. Drink enough water, get some sunlight and exercise as much as you can. Taking the first steps might not be easy, but the road to recovery is worth it.
Arzt, M. N. S. (2021, July 24). Bored and Lonely – Reasons Why and What to Do About It. SocialPro. https://socialself.com/blog/bored-lonely/
Bargh, J. A., & Shalev, I. (2012). The substitutability of physical and social warmth in daily life. Emotion, 12(1), 154–162. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0023527
Norberg, M., & Grisham, J. (2018, June 11). When possessions are poor substitutes for people: hoarding disorder and loneliness. The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/when-possessions-are-poor-substitutes-for-people-hoarding-disorder-and-loneliness-97784
Vann, M. M. R., & Laube, J., MD. (2018, January 12). 9 Secret Signs of Loneliness. EverydayHealth.Com. https://www.everydayhealth.com/depression-pictures/are-you-lonelier-than-you-realize.aspx
Yap, K., Eppingstall, J., Brennan, C., Le, B., & Grisham, J. R. (2020). Emotional attachment to objects mediates the relationship between loneliness and hoarding symptoms. Journal of Obsessive-Compulsive and Related Disorders, 24, 100487. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jocrd.2019.100487