Craving connection: What to do if you feel lonely
By Maria Montemayor
Posted on April 19, 2021
Whether you are an immigrant to Canada, senior citizen, employee, widow, or student, we’ve all felt lonely at some point in our lives. Not that we would admit it! Admitting to someone that you feel lonely can feel like admitting that you are a loser, social outcast, or reject. You don’t want to be pitied when you already feel disconnected and misunderstood.
The fact is that you are not alone in your loneliness. According to a 2020 Ipsos poll, 54 per cent of Canadians agree with the statement that physical distancing has left them feeling lonely or isolated. Also, a 2019 Angus Reid survey found that 41 per cent of Canadians often or sometimes wish they had someone to talk to but don’t, and 47 per cent of Canadians feel lonely and wish they had more friendly human contact.
Loneliness: A signal for change
While you can ease loneliness by getting a pet, praying, or playing video games, you should recognize that feeling lonely can be a signal that things need to change in your life.
Whenever you feel lonely, you can do some inner reflection and evaluate your life. You can start by asking yourself these questions:
- Do I have any meaningful relationships (parents, siblings, friends, etc.) where I can speak openly and honestly without judgement? If so, how many? If not, why not?
- When was the last time I reached out to someone I cared about? Why did I reach out to that person?
- How can I reconnect with someone I have lost touch with?
- Do I have any estranged relationships? If so, how can I try to reconcile with them?
- How can I establish new and healthy relationships?
Remember that the desire to connect with others is not a selfish desire, nor is it a sign of weakness. Connection with others is possible if you are willing and able to socialize, reach out to others, and be vulnerable. All you need to do is try.
If you don’t currently live with your friends, send them a message first asking about their availability for a one-to-one conversation. While you may have a friend group and think that meeting them all at the same time is more efficient, personalizing your time with a friend can show them that you care about their individual needs. Meeting in person is always more meaningful, but if that’s not possible, have a phone or video conversation and try to keep in touch regularly (set up a call at least once a month).
Some topics you can discuss with your friends: the news, updates in your respective lives (work, relationships, health, etc.), books, TV shows, movies, and plans for the week or month. If you are unable to watch a movie at the same time, you can watch a movie beforehand and then discuss the movie when you are able to meet or chat. You can also go to a board game café with your friends or play virtual games with them like Codenames, Skribbl, and Scattergories.
If you live with family members (parents, siblings, spouse, or kids), you can start by strengthening your bond with them. Plan some one-on-one time with each family member and make the effort to ask them questions and really listen to what they have to say.
If you don’t live with any relatives, message (through social media, text, or email) your family members to request a phone or video chat. After your chat, try to set up in-person meetings, if possible, for heart-to-heart conversations. Try to keep in touch with family members through calls or meetings on a weekly or monthly basis.
If you don’t have any family members or friends to turn to, you can turn strangers, acquaintances, or colleagues into friends and family members. You can meet people through volunteering, by attending workshops, classes, or events, and at your place of worship. If you attend online events, you can privately send a message to someone you connected with during a Zoom breakout room discussion. Just type: “I enjoyed our conversation. Would you like to keep in contact?”. Then, text your new friends and schedule weekly or monthly hang outs. For more strategies on how to build new relationships, check out this article on how to meet new people in Canada.
When meeting strangers, you have to be clear with them and let them know that you are only seeking their friendship, as many people may assume you have other motives (for example, they may think you are trying to sell them something, convert them, or date them). If they seem uncertain about spending one-on-one time with you, you can invite them to festivals, conventions, or social events in a group setting (e.g., with your relatives or some of your other friends). Later on, when they start to view you as a friend, you can arrange one-on-one hang outs.
Loneliness and self-acceptance
On the other hand, if you are not used to being by yourself, you can use this opportunity to get to know yourself better, further develop your potential, and become more comfortable with yourself. Instead of seeking new relationships, you can take the time to invest in other interests, passions, and hobbies. Identify your skills, strengths, and talents. Find purpose in your life, outside of your relationships to others and various roles in life (e.g., aside of being someone’s sister, brother, wife, husband, mother, father, etc.). List all of your past and present achievements. Tell yourself positive affirmations (for example, “I am beautiful,” “I am wonderful,” “I am intelligent,” “I am talented,” etc.), and be grateful for what you have. You need to build yourself up so that even when you are alone, you are happy and feel confident and optimistic.