Loneliness affects everyone at some point in their lives. Studies show that married, single, young, old, employed and unemployed – all of us experience bouts of loneliness. Loneliness is the gap between the perception we have of our relationships and the ones we would like to have. Loneliness is inevitable to some degree.
What do you do when you feel alone?
- Take a break from the Internet. Researchers have found that higher internet usage leads to a decrease in communication with family members and a decrease in social circle size. It has also been shown to increase depression and feelings of loneliness. This is especially true with social media outlets. Choose a day this week to be free from social media.
- Hug it Out. Hugging has been proven to increase the social bonding and trust chemical oxytocin and also stimulates dopamine, a chemical positively linked to higher self-esteem and self-confidence. Hugging also increases serotonin, a chemical lower, or absent, in those who are depressed or chronically lonely.
- Hug a friend or loved one
- Hug an object – Hugging an inanimate object has been shown to reduce fears of mortality. In fact, a “hugging chair” exists in Japan, a country with high suicide rates, created for the sole purpose of curbing loneliness. For those of us without access to that chair, grab a pillow or stuffed toy.
- Hug yourself – A research team in the UK has found that crossing your arms around yourself confuses the brain and relieves physical pain. Kelly McGonigal, health psychologist and Stanford University professor states, “A self-hug should reduce pain in other ways, too, providing contact comfort and a feeling of safety and self-compassion that reduces the nervous system’s reactivity to pain and threat.” Go ahead. Give yourself a big hug.
- Get lost in a joyful memory. Spend five minutes reflecting on the best social interaction you’ve had. Who were you with? What were you doing? Consider the things you saw, smelled, felt, tasted and heard. Reflecting back helps to improve mood and increase life satisfaction.
- Embrace the solitude. Mindful solitude for the sole purpose of enjoying your own company can have positive benefits. These include, uplifted mood and increased self-confidence. Learn to cherish being alone by watching this inspiring four-minute video.
If you are in the Houston area, our team of therapists at Fuller Life offer professional therapy for all persons regardless of income and assist in helping individuals build genuine connections.
Note: If you are experiencing persistent feelings of sadness, loss of interest in activities and/or suicidal thoughts, seek out a licensed mental health professional or call 911 to receive assistance.
Dorfman, A. (2010). How To Be Alone. Retrieved February 17, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k7X7sZzSXYs
Gallace A, Torta DM, Moseley GL, & Iannetti (2011). The analgesic effect of crossing the arms. Pain 152(6):1418-23.
Halvorson, H. G. (2010). The Cure for Loneliness. Retrieved February 17, 2016, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-science-success/201010/the-cure-loneliness
Kraut, R., Patterson, M., Lundmark, V., Kiesler, S., Mukophadhyay, T., & Scherlis, W. (1998). Internet paradox: A social technology that reduces social involvement and psychological well-being?. American psychologist,53(9), 1017.
McGonigal, K. (2014). Hugging Yourself Reduces Physical Pain. Retrieved February 17, 2016, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-science-willpower/201105/hugging-yourself-reduces-physical-pain
Moye, D. (2014). ‘Hugging Chair’ Invented To Cure Loneliness. Retrieved February 17, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/10/04/japanese-hugging-chair_n_5930264.html
Peplau, L., & Perlman, D. (1982). Perspectives on loneliness. In L. Peplau & D. Perlman (Eds.), Loneliness: A sourcebook of current theory, research and therapy (pp. 1-20). New York, NY: John Wiley and Sons.