Loneliness is an epidemic.
While almost everyone feels lonely sometimes, it can show up in different ways for different people.
And to be clear, not everyone who is alone feels lonely. Loneliness is a state of mind. It is a feeling of missing out, of being unwanted, of not belonging anywhere.
For example, some children feel lonely if they do not have friends. I’ve heard numerous stories of women who are married or in relationships yet feel completely alone. And certainly, we all know of women who struggle with loneliness following the death of a spouse or divorce from a spouse.
The irony is that loneliness exists within many women who are actually among many women: at work, at school, at events, in their children’s schools, in the community, and at church. Even people who have hundreds of friends on social media are lonely.
What do the numbers tell us?
- 25% of Americans do not feel connected to someone who understands them.
- 50% of Americans do not have meaningful, in-person social interactions. They do not have outings with friends or quality time with family members.
- 20% of Americans do not feel close with people.
And yet for some people, being alone is a perfectly comfortable state of being. In fact, some people can be alone every day and never feel lonely at all. This is more an exception than the norm….so not our topic of conversation for today.
Let’s get back to the women who struggle. If you struggle with loneliness, you can do some things to overcome loneliness. You can take responsibility. Below are five ideas.
Five Ways To Overcome Loneliness
1. Become comfortable being alone
It’s okay to be alone.
Being alone is frightening to many women, yet think about the things you actually enjoy doing alone while you’re alone: Reading a book, knitting, watching your favorite show, taking a walk, organizing a drawer, baking a nice dessert, cooking a healthy dinner, or even cleaning your house.
So why do we make it so difficult to be alone? In most situations, it is because we are thinking about what we’re not doing. We’re thinking about our “fear of missing out.” We’re thinking about other people being out and about, while we are sitting home alone.
Can you stop and think about the moment you are actually experiencing? What others are doing aside, are you comfortable with what you’re doing?
You’ve heard of JOMO? The “joy of missing out.” Can you reframe your thinking to feel glad that you are home doing things that feel enjoyable and peaceful to you?
2. Invite people to stuff!
I remember waiting to be invited.
Following my divorce, things changed. I realized, perhaps for the first time, that we live in a couples’ world. Couples invite couples. The number of invitations I received following my divorce decreased, and I was spending more time at home, alone.
I could have sat home feeling sorry for myself. Maybe I did. That was a long time ago. At some point, I started being proactive. I started inviting people to come over or to go out.
Too often, I’ve seen women kind of sit back and run a test. “Who cares about me?” “Who will invite me if I wait?”
I encourage you to not be this person. In fact, there are other women sitting at home wondering the same thing. Someone has to pick up the phone first. How about you be that person?
3. Create a friend group
Let’s see how you stack up in the “Friend” category!
According to a Gallup poll, Americans have an average of 8 to 9 close friends.
- 2% have no close friends
- 14% have one to two close friends
- 39% have three to five close friends
- 18% have six to nine close friends
- 27% have 10 or more friends
We are social creatures. We are meant to interact with others.
One of the ways to create the “habit” of friendship is to create a “friend” group. I have been an avid fan of the series, “Friends.” I loved the idea of this diverse group of friends hanging out together at the coffee shop and in each others’ homes. For years, I thought about how wonderful it would be to have a friend group like that.
About five years ago, I proactively started reaching out to women, asking if they would be interested in being part of a friend group. Every woman I asked enthusiastically said “Yes, thank you for picking me.”
As I began to establish some gathering opportunities, a number of the women were consistently too busy. This group fizzled. I was, of course, disappointed.
I was fortunate enough, four years ago, to be invited into another established friend group. This group has contributed significantly to my happiness and fulfillment. We get together frequently, text daily and enjoy a set “If you’re there you’re there” night every Thursday.
Think about friends as an essential part of your life.
4. Create rituals
Rituals provide comfort in life. They give us something to look forward to.
Let’s pare this with friends. You can create rituals in your life that involve your friends.
What do you and your friends like to do? What can you ritualize?
For my friend group, “If you’re there you’re there” is a ritual. Every Thursday night. The first person who arrives at our meeting place texts that group. “I’m here. See you all soon.” This is inviting and comforting. It creates a steady sense of belonging.
I have a group of college friends that I have been out of touch with for years. Recently, we decided to establish an annual ritual to head to Florida together. We’ve all raised our children, and now it’s time to get re-acquainted. We take a five-day trip to Florida. And, each year it’s an “If you’re there you’re there” situation. We’ve done this for three years, and we envision doing it for years and years.
I am familiar with a group of guys who walk together every Sunday morning after church. There are about six of them. They walk for an hour, then they go to the local coffee shop where they settle in to continue their conversation. They have been doing this for more than two decades. They are always smiling and laughing.
What rituals can you and your friends establish?
5. Combine your hobby with togetherness
Women connect over shared interests.
Do you like to knit? Gather women together who like to knit. Knit and chat.
Do you like to run? Find a local running chapter in your community, and join in. Strike up some new friendships.
What about gardening or photography? Take some classes offered by local stores in your community. Meet new people. You can arrange to meet with new ‘friends’ outside of class to practice your new skills together.
You are not the only person looking for togetherness. I promise you that.
The world is filled with lonely people. You could shift your thinking away from how others can ease your loneliness, and instead think about how you could ease the loneliness of others.
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If you’d like to contribute your thoughts to my research on women’s fulfillment, you can find my survey at aletanorris.com/tribe.
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