A study released last month suggests the best remedy for alleviating loneliness is changing one’s perception.
While loneliness can affect everyone, singles are particularly susceptible. Typical strategies usually center around improving social skills or increasing social interactions. Other more unhealthy coping behaviors include alcohol or substance abuse, pornography and other distractions.
While deliberate socializing can be beneficial, research shows changing our attitude is more effective.
Cognitive therapy, a well-known and effective treatment for various disorders, emphasizes replacing negative or incorrect thoughts with more rational ones. If one experiences loneliness, the sense of sadness from the longing for intimacy or friendship,
particular negative thoughts often compound the problem to create a snowball effect. (“I am feeling lonely.” “Nobody wants to be around me.” “There must be something wrong with me.” “I am flawed,” etc.)
To stop this cycle in its tracks, I offer some basic cognitive strategies.
When you are feeling lonely:
1) Remind yourself are not alone and that while it isn’t what you ideally want, you are OK being alone. Remember being alone doesn’t have to be awful.
2) If tempted to blame yourself, recognize there are numerous reasons for the situation and counter any self-critical thoughts with positive attributes. (Jot them down if it helps.)
3) When tempted to blame others, again look at all the other factors and avoid unduly attributing your circumstances to specific persons.
4) If tempted, don’t give in to call a friend. Doing so, you miss an opportunity to comes to terms with the loneliness yourself.
5) Avoid bad habits at this time, reminding yourself it only adds to a negative cycle and leads to guilt and shame.
6) Look at the problem squarely, without avoidance or distraction. Briefly counter each negative or exaggerated thought with something more reasonable – and then move on.
7) Take the opportunity to talk with God. Your loneliness can be an invitation to draw to our Lord, who will always cherish your company.