Make the most of alone time, and leave loneliness behind

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By psychologist Jane Dodding

We all feel lonely at times. Sometimes, we can even feel lonely surrounded by people.

The best thing you can do when loneliness strikes is to acknowledge it, and then be kind to yourself by shifting your thoughts. Dwelling on loneliness helps no one and solves nothing. 

Easier said than done? Perhaps - especially around Christmas time when we think the rest of the world is ecstatically happy (that's a myth by the way).

If you're prone to loneliness, here are some ideas that might help...

Make the most of your alone time

There is a difference between loneliness and solitude. Loneliness is when you are unhappy to be alone. Solitude is when you are happy to be alone. Alone time can be enjoyable and useful. Take advantage of this time, it’s an opportunity to think about, plan and do things that you want to do. Enjoy it.

Loneliness is a feeling, not a fact

Loneliness is how you feel, so get to know and understand what thoughts trigger this emotion. Write them down and look for alternative perspectives.

Be realistic 

Have realistic expectations, as loneliness is often a mismatch between your ideal and what you actually have at that time.

Acceptance

You are where you are right now. Accept it for what it is, make the most of it and don’t struggle thinking about how you think it "should" be. 

Make a plan

If you know you feel lonely in particular circumstances, make a plan of what you are going to do to look after yourself when it happens. If you're working away and missing a special event, that might include planning a holiday later in the year or nice dinner together when you're reunited with your family - this can help to keep loneliness at bay.

Distract yourself

What can you do to take your mind off feeling lonely. Do something that you can immerse yourself in. Watch your favourite TV show or movie. Buy yourself a favourite treat to eat. Avoid drinking alcohol though, as it's a depressant and can actually have the opposite effect and leave you feeling more lonely. 

Reach out

Others might be feeling lonely too, so suggest activities you can do together.

Focus on others

Helping other people can help us to feel better. Think about how can you help others less fortunate than you?


To read other columns written by our psychologists, please click here. And remember that we offer a free email Q&A service with our psychologists, so just click here to ask a question about relationships, parenting or your career.

All advice on Mining Family Matters is for general information only and should never be regarded as a substitute for professional health services or crisis services. To talk with a trained volunteer telephone counsellor at any time of the day or night, call Lifeline on 13 11 14. To contact the info line at beyondblue: national depression initiative, phone 1300 22 4636.


Jane Dodding is a psychologist and director with MindsPlus, a group of psychologists and other mental health workers who came together in 2007 to provide support to people living and working in rural and remote regions of Australia. For further information about MindsPlus, contact 1300 312 202 or visit www.mindsplus.com.au