Loneliness is a common feeling, but there are steps you can take to help feel more connected. Listening to music, calling a friend, taking a walk outside, and other activities may reduce your sense of isolation.

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Loneliness is going around, and it’s having a pretty big impact.

Even before psychological distress and loneliness increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, a January 2020 survey reported that over three in five Americans felt lonely.

Prolonged loneliness can drain you emotionally, making life seem bleak and pointless. It can also lead to physical symptoms, including aches and pains, sleep problems, and a weakened immune response.

Note that loneliness isn’t the same thing as social isolation. You can be alone without feeling lonely. You can also feel lonely even when you’re around other people. Loneliness happens when you feel distressed when you’re alone, while social isolation is the lack of regular interactions with other people.

When it feels impossible to escape feelings of loneliness, these 13 tips can help you navigate them and keep them from wearing you down.

Casting a different light on what it means to be alone may make it easier to navigate feelings of loneliness.

Loneliness happens when your needs for social interaction and human connection go unmet. Different people have different interaction needs, so this doesn’t happen at the same point for everyone. For example:

  • If you spend most nights with friends and loved ones, you might feel lonely with just one interaction per week.
  • If you prefer being on your own, you might feel perfectly satisfied by seeing one friend each week.
  • You might feel lonely upon returning to an empty house, even when you have plenty of strong friendships.
  • If you struggle to connect with a live-in partner, you might feel lonely even if you’re often together.

Most people need close relationships in order to thrive. That said, research suggests that some amount of solitude — or quality alone time — is also important. Solitude creates opportunities for self-discovery, creative thought, and self-reflection.

Time alone can also open the door to greater mindfulness, which may help reduce anxiety and depression.

Next time loneliness begins to surface, accept it as it comes. Maybe you put on music and pick up a forgotten sketchpad, flip through old notebooks and rediscover your love of poetry, or simply sit and get in tune with your feelings and personal goals.

Whatever you choose to do, finding ways to make the most of your alone time can help you lean into solitude and use it to your benefit.

It may feel difficult to notice positive things in your life when you feel lonely, but taking a few minutes to practice gratitude each day may help you feel better.

Practicing gratitude can be as simple as thinking of something small you enjoyed recently, like talking to a friend or eating a tasty meal. You can also try to:

  • write down a few things you’re grateful for
  • remember a few positive moments from your day
  • if you feel grateful to someone, tell them about it
  • relive a happy experience from the past in your mind

A 2019 study found that participating in a daily gratitude writing exercise reduced loneliness and improved health among older adults.

Music and other sounds aren’t specifically proven to reduce loneliness, but they may still help push it back.

Sound may help fill the space in your environment and thoughts, which can make it feel less overwhelming. For example:

  • Music may boost your mood, according to research, while audiobooks might provide distraction and a temporary escape.
  • Podcasts and talk radio inform and entertain, and their conversational atmosphere may also help create a sense of connection.
  • A favorite TV show or movie can help break the silence in a comforting way, even if you don’t sit down and watch it all the way through.
  • Opening a window to hear birds and passersby may help you feel more connected to the wider world.

Even if you don’t see all your friends or family regularly, you can still maintain your closeness. Research from 2021 suggests that virtual interactions, especially when you’re connecting to a larger number of people, may help reduce loneliness and benefit mental health if you can’t meet others in person.

Sometimes a quick text can seem like the easiest way to connect, but don’t underestimate the power of speaking to another person. A 2021 study found that even a regular 10-minute phone call may help ease loneliness.

Simply spending time around others won’t always relieve loneliness. A 2021 study found that being in overcrowded areas actually increased feelings of loneliness.

The quality of your interactions often matters more than the number. That’s why you might feel lonely in a large group of casual acquaintances but fulfilled by a quiet evening with your closest friend.

How you spend time with others can make a big difference, too. Sometimes, you might just need some company and feel fine watching a movie with a friend or sharing space while working or browsing social media.

When you feel the need to connect on a deeper level, try to find ways to make your interactions more meaningful:

  • Share emotions and personal experiences.
  • Ask questions, and really listen to what your loved ones have to say.
  • Talk about things that matter — work, creative projects, mutual interests.

It’s hard to entirely avoid talking about current events, and you might want to stay informed about what’s happening in the world. Even so, it may help to center your conversations around things that bring you both joy rather than dwelling entirely on distressing news.

A change of environment can distract you and help dull the ache of loneliness. Getting out of the house can put you in the path of others and remind you that you aren’t alone in the world.

Time in nature can also help ease emotional distress and boost your overall wellness.

A few ideas to try:

  • Visit your favorite park. Try to identify different birds — both birds and birdsong can have a positive impact on well-being, according to recent research.
  • Take a walk around your neighborhood. Explore streets you’ve never visited and greet neighbors when your paths cross.
  • Plan a scavenger hunt with friends.
  • Visit and support local businesses, if possible.

Getting out on foot (or bike) can also tire you out, making for good sleep.

A research review from 2020 suggests that loneliness may be linked to worse sleep quality and insomnia, but the effects don’t stop there. Sleeping poorly can affect daytime functioning, which might, in turn, increase your sense of isolation.

Emotions tend to gather under the surface and intensify when they go unacknowledged. Expressing your feelings out loud, however, may diminish their power to cause distress.

Telling a loved one you feel lonely can make it easier to get important emotional support that helps loosen the grip of loneliness.

Talking about difficult emotions can also help empower your loved ones to share any feelings they might be struggling with, making it possible to explore coping strategies together.

Sharing painful or unwanted emotions with others can feel difficult, especially if you aren’t used to talking about your feelings. If you’re not feeling up to it, journaling offers another way to express and sort through feelings privately that, research shows, can promote well-being.

Creative pursuits like art, music, and writing can help improve mental health. If these activities bring you joy and help you feel more connected, they may also help reduce feelings of loneliness.

Creation can also leave you with a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction, emotions that might challenge a prevailing mood of loneliness and sadness.

Find your flow

Another key benefit of creativity lies in reaching a flow state. Flow, often as a sense of being “in the zone,” can happen anytime you challenge yourself with an activity you’re passionate about.

Finding your flow means reaching a point where distracting sensations and emotions (like loneliness) temporarily fade away, allowing you to fully focus on your art, music, or anything else.

A 2020 study during COVID-19 lockdowns in China found that participants who reported reaching flow also experienced more positive emotions and less loneliness.

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While a fresh canvas or blank page may not completely erase loneliness or keep it from coming back, art offers another area of focus, one where you can harness your emotions to create something permanent and moving.

Animals may not be able to talk (unless, of course, you have a vocal bird), but they provide companionship all the same. The presence of another living creature can comfort you, and their antics can help lift your spirits and relieve stress, as thousands of pet videos on the internet can confirm.

Research also suggests pet ownership can improve both mental and physical wellness. As another bonus, having a dog gives you a reason to head outside on a regular basis.

If you don’t have a pet of your own, consider looking into volunteer opportunities at local shelters. This may have a dual benefit, as research indicates that spending time volunteering may reduce loneliness.

For a quick fix

If you love dogs but can’t have one, consider visiting your local dog park. If anyone asks why you’re there, just explain that you love dogs but don’t have one of your own. Everyone there is likely already a dog lover, so chances are they’ll understand (and maybe even let you toss a ball to their dog).

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While social media often seems like an appealing way to maintain connections with loved ones, it can sometimes increase feelings of loneliness.

A loved one’s happy, carefree post can give the impression they don’t miss you quite as much as you miss them. When you’re alone, seeing others spending time with romantic partners or family members can also sting.

Of course, social media never shows the whole picture, so you can’t really know what your loved ones feel without asking. It’s also worth considering some of those posts might serve as someone else’s approach to countering loneliness.

Research also suggests that comparing yourself to others on social media may be linked to increased loneliness.

In short, it never hurts to close those apps and connect with a phone call or text instead.

Loneliness can occupy your thoughts to the point where it feels difficult to think about anything else, including the things you usually enjoy.

Still, favorite hobbies can fill the time until you’re able to see loved ones again. Doing things you enjoy or that are meaningful to you — from yoga to video games to baking — may also ground you and help you find inner calm.

Don’t forget that hobbies and relaxing activities also benefit mental health, according to research, which plays an important part in overall well-being.

However overwhelming it feels, loneliness won’t last forever. Acknowledging that fact can sometimes bring some relief. Know also that the feeling is widespread, so you’re not alone in feeling this way.

Sometimes it can take a little time and effort, but it’s always possible to reach out and strengthen existing connections or forge new ones.

If loneliness leaves you feeling low and hopeless, you might need a listening ear or extra support to get through a moment of crisis.

You can call the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline or text the Crisis Text Line 24/7 to get free, confidential support from a trained counselor. They’ll listen to whatever’s on your mind and help you explore strategies to find some relief.

Here’s how to get in touch in the U.S.:

When waves of loneliness crash over your head, there’s a lot you can do to ride them out.

If loneliness doesn’t seem to improve and you feel low more often than not, talking to a therapist can help.

In therapy, you can:

  • Get more insight on what might be going on.
  • Learn skills to manage distress in the moment.
  • Explore strategies to help more effectively manage loneliness in the future.

Crystal Raypole has previously worked as a writer and editor for GoodTherapy. Her fields of interest include Asian languages and literature, Japanese translation, cooking, natural sciences, sex positivity, and mental health. In particular, she’s committed to helping wedecrease stigma around mental health issues.