There are numerous healthy ways for dealing with being lonely and single. In this article, you will learn four therapist-recommended tips to feel better, and cope well, when you are single and feel lonely.
You’re Not Alone
Feeling lonely can truly be so painful. Not only is there the pain of feeling disconnected from others but for many, they also feel embarrassed if they acknowledge they’re lonely.
It’s as if many of us pick up the message that loneliness is a personal failing. In other words, if you’re lonely, then something is wrong with you. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, right now, there is a loneliness epidemic.
Many People Feel Lonely
American culture often makes it seem like having an abundance of friends is the norm for most people. But the reality is that half (49%) of all American adults have three or fewer close friends.
Additionally, during the pandemic, almost half of women in the U.S. aged 18 to 29, lost contact with friends during this time. And 16% lost contact with all their friends. This means while painful, ironically, you have a lot of company in your loneliness.
Single and Being Lonely
The truth is that you can be lonely in a relationship or without one. While being single can add to your loneliness, finding a relationship is not a cure all to feel lonely.
If you’ve ever felt lonely in a crowded room, you know that being around other people doesn’t take away a sense of loneliness all the time. And you know how deeply unsettling that can be.
To feel truly better, the rest of this article will focus on tips which not only help you deal with being lonely and single but that will help you sustain a healthy relationship with a future partner.
Dealing with Being Lonely and Single Tip #1: Be Compassionate with Yourself
It’s easy to think that if you’re lonely then there must be something wrong with you. This is especially true if you buy into the fantasy of life sold by the media and perpetuated on social media. However, this isn’t reality – remember it’s very common to feel lonely.
Also, believing that you’re the reason for being lonely and single is an example of personalizing. This is a thinking mistake from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Thinking mistakes always lead to feeling worse. If you believe you’re the reason for your loneliness, you may naturally be hard on yourself. While understandable, attacking or criticizing yourself only intensifies feelings of loneliness because you’re hurting your relationship with yourself.
Give Yourself Grace
If you ever find yourself being harsh or critical towards yourself for being single and lonely, please practice self-compassion.
Related: What is Self-Compassion?
This is the act of being kind to yourself and giving yourself grace. Instead of saying something like, “You need to be better (thinner, funnier, etc.) to find a partner,” for example, a compassionate statement is, “It’s ok to feel sad and uncertain that you’re single. But you are good enough as you are and worthy of love as you are now.”
In general, the practice of self-compassion is truly life-changing if you have a harsh inner critic or struggle with anxious or depressed feelings. A great book to explore, and practice its exercises at this time, is Self-Compassion: The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself by Kristin Neff.
Dealing with Being Lonely and Single Tip #2: Be Honest with Yourself
When you feel lonely and single, it’s natural if you have the urge to deny your desire for a partner. Maybe a part of you feels that you should be totally happy all alone? Maybe you even say you shouldn’t and don’t “need” anyone and pride yourself on your independence? (Whenever you say should by the way, this is another thinking mistake from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).
To feel better being alone, lonely, and single it’s important to honor your genuine desires. This is part of being self-compassionate as well. It’s ok and understandable and healthy to acknowledge if you truly do want a partner in your life. You don’t have to hide if you hope being single is a temporary state in your life!
Wanting Companionship isn’t Weak
There’s an American myth of “rugged individualism.” But the idea that we don’t need other people and should only rely on ourselves is toxic, inhumane, and scientifically inaccurate. While of course, it’s not healthy and is codependent to overly desire and crave others, being overly independent is the flip side of codependency.
The healthy middle ground is interdependency. Here we are responsible for many individual tasks like supporting ourselves financially and self-soothing while at the same time needing relationships for the experience of support and intimacy. Here we know and accept that belonging and connection are core human needs.
The literal need for connection
As human beings, we literally need to connect with other human beings. Holt-Lundstad (2021) found that being socially disconnected from others is as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Furthermore, Einsenberger and Cole (2012) found that social disconnection triggers the brain’s “alarm system.” This system processes threats to our safety and includes the amygdala which triggers the fight or flight response.
This response helps us survive danger by compelling us to run or attack the threat. Thereby, if a person is rejected socially this truly feels like a threat to our survival and can trigger a sense of panic or anger. Eisenberger (2012) also discovered our brain processes physical pain and social disconnection in the same region. This means that we literally hurt and are scared when we are disconnected from others.
Dealing with Being Lonely and Single Tip #3: Focus on Cultivating Connection
Connection is a literal need and just because you’re single doesn’t mean you have to stay lonely.
If you have friends, or family members you connect with, reach out to them.
You can even focus on seemingly trivial interactions like chatting with the cashier at the grocery store when you’re checking out. In The Power of Strangers: The Benefits of Connecting in a Suspicious World, Joe Keohane explains that even passing interactions with other people makes us happier and less lonely!
Overcoming Social Anxiety
If you feel uncertain about your social skills, you can cultivate them!
In The Charisma Myth, Olivia Fox Cabane uses research to highlight that charisma or the quality of being likable to others can be developed without compromising our authenticity. One way to be more charismatic she explains is to simply be more present with other people. After all, we all like the feeling of truly being listened to by someone else.
Dealing with Being Lonely and Single Tip # 4: Stop Waiting for Your “Real Life” to Begin
When you feel lonely and single, it’s natural to sometimes fall into the trap of waiting for your life to “begin” or the real fun to start when you find your person. However, this is a codependent trap. Yes, finding your person adds great joy for the companionship and support it brings.
But you are still a separate person and ensuring you care for your whole self rather than wanting or waiting for another person to satisfy your every need or desire is important for healthy relationships.
The Future You Want
You don’t need to wait to find your person to experience more of what life will be like with them. Let me explain further.
To find the right person for you, it’s important to identify and date with your non-negotiables in mind. These are 3-6 qualities that a person must have for you to feel truly satisfied. These non-negotiable needs are unique and personal to you. And there’s no need to judge them. Please remember that it’s important to be honest about what you want.
The Wait is Over
Once you’ve identified your non-negotiables, you can bring this energy into your life starting now. For example:
- If you want a partner who is funny, maybe you could go to comedy clubs regularly now,
- Or if you want someone religious, connect more with your beliefs,
- If you want someone ambitious, focus on your own career goals, or
- If you want someone adventurous, plan a trip now that you’ve always wanted to do.
These are just a few examples of how to bring the energy of what you want into your life now. You don’t have to keep waiting for a life that feels fun and meaningful. In fact, you become less lonely – and more desirable to your right person – as you become more of the person you’d like to date!
You Don’t Have to Feel Lonely
When you cope well with loneliness, whether you are single or not, you naturally reduce these feelings of being lonely and/or empty.
Take time to focus on cultivating connection with yourself and others while being kind and honest with yourself. You deserve to treat yourself with love even without a partner in your life!
About The Author
Krystal Mazzola Wood, LMFT is a practicing relationship therapist with over a decade of experience. Currently, Krystal sees clients at her private practice, The Healthy Relationship Foundation. She has dedicated her entire career to empowering people to heal from unhealthy relationship processes. She does this by teaching the skills and tools necessary to have a life filled with healthy and loving relationships.
This passion led her to write her best-selling books and create courses. Her books, The Codependency Recovery Plan: A 5-Step Guide to Understand, Accept, and Break Free from the Codependent Cycle and The Codependency Workbook: Simple Practices for Developing and Maintaining Your Independence have helped many people heal.
Her third book, Therapy Within Reach: Setting Boundaries, will be released September, 2023.
If you have any personal dating or relationship questions, Krystal is happy to provide advice using her expertise and compassion. If you feel comfortable, feel free to leave any questions in the comments of this post. Otherwise, you may send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or DM her on Instagram. Your name and any other identifying information will always be kept confidential.
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