Posted by: silverliningsblog | February 1, 2019

Overcoming loneliness by finding your tribe

It happens to most of us at some point, especially after a break-up or the loss of someone dear…we look around, notice the empty space, hear the pounding silence…and suddenly feel alone.

And not the good kind of alone (the kind where you love having your freedom and time to yourself). But the ugly kind of alone…the kind where you wish you weren’t.

Nobody likes to talk about it, but we all know the feeling…that aching longing in our heart for someone to talk to. To spend time with. To laugh with. To hug and snuggle up on the couch with. To share experiences and day-to-day life with.

Someone who cares how your day went. Someone to be silly with and laugh until your face turns red. Someone to cry with and feel supported by. Someone to hang and chill with. Someone to step outside your comfort zone with and go on adventures. Someone to share meals and interesting conversation with. Someone to call spontaneously because you have great news to share, or just because you just need to talk.

And not just someone…but someone special. Someone who gets you, who likes you, who appreciates you, who enjoys your company…and you equally dig them.

While few people like to admit it, we all feel lonely sometimes…it’s part of the human experience. These feelings are normal, and are a reflection of our human need for connection with others. It doesn’t mean there is something wrong with us…it just means we’re needing more healthy human contact.

The loneliness “epidemic”

In recent years, media around the world have described loneliness as an “epidemic.” Recent studies suggest that loneliness is on the rise, with rates of loneliness doubling in the U.S. in the past 50 years.

According to Cigna’s U.S. Loneliness Index (May 2018), almost half of the 20,000 respondents reported feeling alone, left out, and isolated. One in four Americans shared that they rarely feel understood, and only about 18 percent of participants believe that there are people they can communicate with.

So if you’ve been feeling alone, you’re not alone.

Loneliness in and of itself isn’t a problem…it’s a normal human emotion that is usually temporary and will pass. But when loneliness becomes a chronic state, that’s when both mental and physical health problems arise.

Loneliness has been linked to an increased risk of:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • irritability
  • suicide
  • heart attack
  • stroke
  • dementia

A recent CBC article says that:

“Chronic loneliness is as harmful to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness is even more damaging to your body than obesity and diabetes, and has been linked to high blood pressure, dementia and premature death.”

But don’t hit the panic button if you’re feeling lonely…loneliness is simply an indicator that something needs to change for you. What’s important is to do something about it so that it doesn’t become a chronic condition that negatively impacts your health.

Causes of loneliness

It seems ironic that loneliness is on the rise, since digitally, we are more connected than ever before.

So what’s causing this trend?

Here’s what some of the most recent studies suggest:

  • social isolation (when a person has a restricted social network and limited social contact – e.g. a senior living in a nursing home, a student living away from home, a single mom living alone, an entrepreneur working alone, someone who recently moved to a new city)
  • poor social skills
  • working too much (which results in less time to spend doing social activities)
  • more people living alone (according to Statistics Canada, 28 per cent of households had only one person living in them in 2016)*
  • the rise of social media (which may mean that people spend less time socializing in person)**  

*It’s important to note that living alone does not necessarily lead to loneliness. Many single people are happy living alone, especially those with well-developed social networks. And we all know you can live with people and still feel lonely. The issue appears to be more with people who don’t want to be living alone.

**It’s interesting to note that the Cigna Loneliness Index found that social media use was not a significant factor in loneliness. However, other studies show that the more time a person spends on social media (more than two hours/day), the more likely he/she will feel socially isolated. Conversely, those who logged on for half an hour a day felt less lonely. Which makes sense…social media can be a great tool for connecting with others and feeling less isolated, when used in moderation. But if you’re spending hours a day on your phone, you are likely avoiding socializing in person. So balance is key!

I’d also like to suggest a few other causes not discussed in studies…

First, there is spiritual loneliness. Spiritual loneliness generally means feeling disconnected from source energy (by whatever name you choose to call it…God, Allah, Great Spirit, the Universe, Source, etc.). It’s like floating on a boat at sea, with no port to return to. Or running on a battery with no power source to plug into to recharge.

Related to this is a disconnection from ourselves…not being comfortable in our own skin and enjoying our own company. It’s caused by focusing on our human failings, and forgetting our spiritual nature (that part of us that is powerful and can rise above anything).

And finally, there’s the Ugly Duckling phenomenon. As the short version of the story goes, the Ugly Duckling is rejected and taunted by his peers (ducks and geese), because he looks very different from them (and therefore “ugly”). Later on in the story, he discovers that the reason he didn’t fit in was because he was actually a swan, and had been trying to fit in where he didn’t belong.

I know I’ve experienced the Ugly Duckling phenomenon in my life, and often felt I didn’t fit in. And the truth was that I didn’t belong where I was…I wasn’t with my tribe of people. So if you are also feeling like you don’t really fit in, it’s very important to find your tribe of swans…that group of people who accepts you as you are and makes you feel “normal.”

It’s also important to know, accept, and be who you truly are…others can’t accept you if you don’t accept you. Be authentically you wherever you are, so that your tribe can find you.

Solutions for overcoming loneliness

Ultimately, loneliness results from a need for more and better-quality human connection that is not being met (and I’d argue spiritual connection as well). So the ultimate solution involves finding suitable people to spend time with, as well as ways to connect spiritually.

I’d like to note here that a mistake I see many single people making to “cure” their loneliness is to rush out to find a partner, and settle for anyone who looks their way.

Romantic love is only one form of love…there are many others. You’ll be far better off in the end if you take some time on your own to get to know yourself better, and develop a high-quality social circle in order to feel connected, rather than fling yourself in the arms of the wrong person.

Once you’re feeling connected with some good-quality relationships, you’ll be able to take your time finding a romantic partner, and will be less likely to make a mistake because you’re rushing to fill a void.

Some ways to reduce loneliness include:

  • connecting with co-workers at work
  • finding a community to be part of (school, church, volunteer, activist, social, online)
  • joining social groups and attending events
  • using social media in moderation to connect with others (not just aimlessly browsing)
  • finding a way to connect spiritually (church, synagogue, temple, meditation, prayer, nature)
  • developing a healthy relationship with yourself (treating yourself like your own best friend)
  • creating enough balance in your life (between work, friends and family, romantic partner, time for yourself, time to rest and recharge)

How to find your tribe

So how do you “find your tribe” if you’re wanting to find new and more like-minded people to interact with?

  1. Community groups/events – One way is to look around your city/town for community groups and activities that resonate with you and join. Look at posters on bulletin boards, community newspapers, or ask around.

  2. Volunteer organizations Find an organization looking for volunteers and join. It’s a great way to meet new people, feel connected, and also feel a greater sense of purpose through giving back!

  3. MeetUp MeetUp is another great way of finding people with similar interests – it’s an online tool that lets you search for groups of people in your area who share a common interest in a certain type of activity. Once you join a few MeetUp groups that interest you, you will be notified of events and can attend to meet people.

  4. Facebook communities Facebook groups are another way of finding friends around the world. You can join a local Facebook group, or a global group to find people with common interests to interact with online (these interactions can lead to friendships in real life too).

  5. Create your own! And finally, if you can’t find a group you like, create one like I did! 🙂

Join us!

If you are a single woman who is looking for a warm, welcoming community, I invite you to join the two I have created (both are free):

Final thoughts…

If you’ve been feeling lonely, I’d like to leave you with these final thoughts:

  • Loneliness is normal. And it’s treatable. 🙂
  • If it’s only once in a while, just sit with your feelings, acknowledge them, and allow them to pass. Then do something you love to shift your focus.
  • If you feel lonely a lot, reach out and find others to spend time with. You don’t have to be alone if you don’t want to be!
  • Finally, show interest in others…you’d be surprised how many people feel just as lonely as you!

You are an amazing person and deserve to be surrounded by people who understand and support you. So keep looking until you find your tribe of swans!

Share your thoughts!

What do you do to overcome loneliness?

Resources for further learning

**************

Karen Strang Allen is an empowerment coach for single women and mother of two. She is the author of Free to be me: Create a life you love from the inside out! and international bestselling co-author of Unwavering Strength Volume 2. Widowed at 22 and separated at 35, Karen’s mission is to help single women feel great and create a life they love, so they easily attract their dream partner. Check out Karen’s free workshops and inspirational resources at www.karenstrangallen.com.


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