Dan Buettner, founder of Blue Zones, challenges people to live longer and happier lives states, “Loneliness can lead to depression, suicide, and poor health…lonely people can expect to live eight years less than well-connected people do.” (The Blue Zones Challenge, 2021).
Why are you feeling lonely?
The death of a spouse. A sudden rift in a long-term friendship. Perceived fears. Loneliness affects married and single alike. Even the global pandemic–an example of forced social isolation–led to it because the world over sheltered-in-place for an extended period.
Signs of loneliness.
- Feeling isolated or completely alone
- Sensing sadness when you people in the company of others
- Thinking that you’re the alone in the world and unreachable
- Struggling with jealousy when seeing couples or groups in public or houses of worship
Examples of loneliness in Scripture.
When David was pursued by King Saul, he escaped to the desolate wilderness; he fled to quiet caves in order to preserve his life.
While hiding, David faced his loneliness by seeking God. When he became king of Israel, David wrote the very psalms we find in today’s Bible.
David prays, “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Psalm 63:1, ESV). In those desolate moments, David leaned into the living God for consolation.
Reaching for scriptures while feeling alone may not be sufficient because reading in itself is a quiet, contemplative activity.
In this circumstance, it is vital for you to actively pursue the company of others and begin to shift your mindset in order to deal with the emotions that loneliness can bring.
A paradigm shift for loneliness.
If you can slowly change how you view loneliness, you will gain insight when faced with this difficult emotion. How so, you ask? Begin with shifting your outlook on aloneness.
Notice how loneliness leads to introspection. A moment where you can quietly take notice of your mind and emotions. Ask God for guidance as you assess the magnitude of your loneliness.
Consider the following: Do feelings of loneliness arise during certain seasons or holidays? Does it occur more so in the winter than in spring? Is it a recent emotion or have you struggled with these feelings over a longer period of time?
Realize that loneliness can lead us towards intimacy with God and scripture. Gain comfort from this verse; “I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10, ESV).
Loneliness versus solitude.
Feeling alone may also mean you are struggling with solitude. Yet solitude can lead to boosts in serotonin because a contemplative life leads to awareness.
You need only take a hike or walk among the trees for cortisol levels to drop. Bathing in nature leads to more joy. When you are struggling with loneliness, a quiet walk where you try to practice gratitude can alleviate feelings of loneliness.
Practicing solitude allows your mind and soul to focus. Embracing solitude leads to the opening of one’s heart. It’s okay to lean into the emotions of loneliness. Ask God to open your heart and see loneliness as a way of embracing a quiet moment.
Alone time has benefits. A walk in the park amplifies your awareness. You can use your five senses: touch, taste, smell, hearing, or seeing. You become grounded in those senses, allowing the brain to refocus on being more alive and aware.
How social media amplifies loneliness.
Social media has done a number on amplifying loneliness. One need only check their cell phones and struggle with FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). You scroll through posts of people sitting around a table with wide smiles. Almost immediately, you feel like an outcast. Assumptions worm their way into your thought life: Why didn’t they invite me out? What’s wrong with me? Why do I feel so alone? Why do I feel sad?
But remember, social media gives you a one-sided view where wide smiles and airbrushed highlights live. But every coin has two sides: you see what’s shiny and bright, not the dull and mundane. It’s imperative to unplug if social media leads to negative emotions.
Stop loneliness in its tracks.
Let loneliness be your silver lining: who are you now? Who would you like to become? Where can you grow and develop?
There are ways to combat loneliness. Sign up for a free or affordable class at your local library. Try a yoga class. Partake in a book club. If it’s in your budget, consider a pet. Plug into a Bible study at church. You’ll meet new people, and maybe gain a new friendship.
We are social beings and fellowship is biblical. It may be hard at first, but reaching out when you feel alone is crucial.
Fellowship stops loneliness in its tracks. The writer of Hebrews explained this to the early church the importance of gathering when he admonished the early church by “not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another” (Verse 25, ESV).
A few ways to stop feeling lonely:
- Invite a friend or neighbor over for a meal
- Go on a nature walk
- Volunteer in the community
- Write in a gratitude journal
- Catch up with family on the phone or via video chat
Assess how you feel after you’ve tried any of the above suggestions. If they decrease your loneliness, keep practicing them!
Let gratitude override loneliness.
Gratitude dismantles loneliness. There is profound power when you practice thankfulness. Maybe you are grateful for a balmy day filled with sun. Laughter. A rewarding career. Your health.
Cultivating gratitude allows neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine to activate happiness chemicals within you. Strengthening these neurons helps you grow in gratitude leading to diminished feelings of isolation.
When feeling lonely leads to depression.
Christians assume we shouldn’t have feelings of sadness or overwhelm. But the Bible is filled with people who struggled with feeling lonely.
Yet be aware if after you’ve tried to engage with others. Or if you’ve changed your routine. Is loneliness still hanging around?
You don’t want loneliness to snowball into depression. If you have tried doing new things. If you’ve even made a new friend, but are still struggling, you may be struggling with depression.
God wants you to thrive through relationships. Don’t allow deceptive whispers tell you you’re alone or unreachable. You are not alone, even though your mind perceives otherwise.
Take heart, knowing that God promises to never forsake or abandon you: “Do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9, NIV).
Christian counseling for when you’re feeling lonely.
Do you no longer want to do the things you’ve enjoyed in the past? Does it feel as if you’re under a heavy cloud? Do waves of sadness overwhelm you? Is having company over no longer important to you?
Any feelings of depression are loneliness and sadness amplified. This is when you may want to seek a therapist. A Christian counselor can give you perspective and practical help when you’re feeling lonely. Feel free to reach out to me or one of the other counselors in the online directory to schedule an appointment.
“Feeling Dwon”, Courtesy of Durong Nhan, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Checking Messages”, Courtesy of mikoto.raw Photographer, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Bible”, Courtesy of John-Mark Smith, Pexels.com, CC0 License; “Friends”, Courtesy of Elle Hughes, Pexels.com, CC0 License