I think it’s a very common thing to experience loneliness while living alone. Although, I don’t think many people talk about it openly since we feel like we should be able to handle it as part of adult life. But we’re going to talk about it here. I, myself, experienced a deep sense of loneliness and isolation when I started living alone. From trying out different solutions, I figured out a few ways to deal with those feelings.
In addition, I think these recent years of the COVID-pandemic, social distancing, and remote studying/working have taken loneliness while living alone to another level. For me, it was depressing to not meet any friends, family, or acquaintances frequently; and it wasn’t even by choice.
These methods for dealing with loneliness are what has worked for me, and they may work for you as well, or they may not. But I hope that by reading this, you may at least feel that someone out there has felt the same and that there are ways that you can help yourself.
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Why Do We Experience Loneliness Living Alone?
1. Away from parents & siblings
Of course, one reason is simple: We used to live with our families and perhaps siblings, and now we live alone. That naturally takes away many hours of socializing or the possibility to easily talk and see someone else. It feels unusual to have to eat dinner alone at night and not having someone in the other room to share funny or interesting things.
2. The silence
And for me, It was the silence. Growing up, I could always hear my family members doing something, somewhere, around our home. When I moved to a student co-living, it was the same thing. But now, when I sit quietly at night, there’s total silence. The sound of my refrigerator or the rain splatter on the window is my sound-companions at night. During the day, I even find solace in hearing the birds sitting by my window or the cars driving by down the street below.
3. Changed life circumstances
Another reason is the commonly changed life circumstances of when we start to live alone. Many young adults move to their own place when beginning a new chapter in life: starting university, graduating, moving cities or countries, or entering the workforce for the first time. These are big life changes, often also meaning that we change friend groups, people who we used to hang out with move away, we lose a sense of community, or we get into entirely new social environments. All of these things could have made us experience loneliness even without living alone. But combined, it can get much worse.
4. Less free time
Suddenly you have more responsibilities and less free time. If you’re working or studying full-time (or both), have bills to pay, a home to take care of, food to cook, need to exercise, have hobbies and etc, you don’t have as much time anymore to socialize. You may not have the energy, time, or knowledge on how to prioritize things, to meet with people as often anymore. This also contributes to feeling more out of touch and disconnected from other people.
5. Personality type
And quite frankly, some people are just more gregarious. They just enjoy and feel happier being around other people, in crowds, socializing. It does not even have to be about being extroverted (getting energy from being around people) or introverted (recharging by being alone). I honestly didn’t realize how much company I enjoy before living entirely on my own. I always thought I was the opposite because I immensely enjoy my alone time for journaling and working on my projects.
How to Deal With the Loneliness – 7 Practical Tips
Now when we have a few ideas of why we might experience loneliness living alone, we can try to deal with it. For me, these are the things that helped.
1. Prioritize hanging out with people
The most direct approach is to simply go and meet people physically. What’s important here is to meet with people with who you actually can connect. Not all company is the same, which is why we can feel lonely even in a group of “friends“. So, think about who you feel connected to, understood by, and who feels present when interacting with; and go hang out with that person!
2. Listen to music out loud!
Music has been such a savior for me when feeling any kind of down. Sometimes, I listen to music that makes me feel understood, less alone, and that someone else has felt the same way before. Other times I put on music out loud in the background for the noise; while cooking, cleaning, working. It’s the solution for “the silence” I mentioned in the earlier section.
3. Seek digital company
Sometimes it’s easier to just seek company digitally. I do this by:
- Watching YouTube videos. For this purpose, I mostly enjoy living alone vlogs, or listening to someone talk honestly and vulnerable about feelings and experiences.
- Video calls with loved ones. Even though I’ve always been someone who hates taking a call or talking on the phone, I’ve made myself initiate video calls lately. And it has been so nice. Especially to video call with my family and see their faces.
- Communicate on social media. I know there’s a lot of social media hate going around currently since it can make some people feel anxious. But social media can be used for socializing (as the name implies). It’s a matter of how you are using social media. When I use social media to connect, I’m not scrolling on influencers’ profiles. I am replying, answering, and commenting on people’s posts and stories to start conversations. I am posting something that invites answers and responses. And it works! Many conversations have started that way.
4. Get out of the house & expose yourself to new environments
I make sure to leave my apartment every day. At least for a very long walk outside, or also to go somewhere else for a few hours. I visit coffee shops, libraries, the park, etc to journal, study, or work there. Just seeing and being around people makes me feel once again part of society. Sometimes I feel like one of the elders who go to stores just to talk to someone (hehe).
5. Get occupied with hobbies & interests
As my favorite philosopher Alan Watts said: “Happiness comes from being absorbed in something else entirely”. So, really diving into your hobbies, interests, work, or studying can put you in a flow state, and get you away from wallowing in the thoughts about how lonely you feel. It can make you happy, help you feel productive and purposeful.
6. Surround yourself with things that fill you up
Something that has surprisingly worked for me, is to fill my home up with things that fill me up. With that, I mean things that make me feel full, satisfied, happy, excited.
What these things can be is so dependent on who you are as a person. But for me it’s been: having a musical instrument at home to play with, buying tons of inspiring books, getting a couple of nice plants, cozy throw-over blankets, buying my favorite tea, having drawing supplies, and getting smart home applications that I think are cool. For you, perhaps it’s to have a skateboard on the wall, collecting vinyl records, having chocolate muffins in the cupboard, or maybe a Simpsons poster on the wall?
7. Meditate on life + learn self-validation
Many times, a feeling of loneliness stems from a feeling of lack of external love. But love, validation, and attention does not need to come from anyone else. You can learn how to validate yourself. You can also practice meditating on the feeling of love and the connectedness of everything.
Figure out your optimal amount of Social Time
I think it’s a good idea to figure out how much socializing is optimal for you. What is the least amount of socializing you need each week to feel happy and connected to those around you? And what types of human contact do you enjoy? What is the maximum amount of socializing before you feel drained and stressed?
Perhaps you can find a balance – the optimal amount.
For me, for example, I’ve figured out that my optimal amount of:
- Being in an environment surrounded by people without talking (e.g. cafés): 2-3 days a week
- Deep conversations & connection: 2 days a week
- Loud parties & environments: 1-2 days a week
- Low-effort chill and hang-out: 1-2 days a week
This leaves me around 2 entire days a week where I can go entirely without seeing and talking to someone, while still being happy. When I go over that, for example being entirely alone for 4 days, I do start to experience loneliness again. And when I’m getting too much, I feel drained and unhappy.
Gratitude Instead + Benefits with Living Alone
It can also help to change your internal perspective of your situation. Loneliness does come from the mind and how you personally are perceiving your reality. The practical tips I have given are a way for you to get your mind off of thinking about how lonely you feel. But you can also do this through meditative and spiritual practices.
Focus on gratitude. I find it helpful to instead shift my focus to appreciating and being grateful for my living conditions. There are so many people on earth who live in poverty and in extremely cramped living conditions. The fact that you can afford, and have the possibility to live alone, is something to be very appreciative of.
You can also be grateful for getting the time and space to focus on what you, yourself, choose. There’s no one there to nag you to do something you don’t feel like doing (the dishes, washing, cleaning, stop playing music, etc). You have all this possible space to do your hobbies, watch whatever you want to, read, work on your passion projects, exercise, cook whatever (or not cook at all), no one is there to judge you.
I hope this helped you in some way! And remember, if you feel a really deep and unsoothable loneliness and sadness, then there’s absolutely nothing wrong or shameful about seeking professional help. I have done it myself in the past, and it helped me immensely. And, I would do it again, if needed.