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How to Beat Feeling Lonely or Depressed

Updated on December 13, 2012

It is important to understand how loneliness is a very different thing to feeling alone. Anyone can feel alone in different situations such as those who choose to live alone but have a workplace or college where they interact easily and are happy to do so. Even though they play an active part in the social sense, there may be brief moments whilst in their home when they feel alone, because they are!

These types of aloneness are fleeting but true loneliness is about feeling and being disconnected from people generally over a long period of time. So, the person who lives alone but who has a social life may also suffer from loneliness if he doesn't choose to interact at work or college and feels isolated. It’s clear then that loneliness is not all about not being around people, it's how you perceive being around those people.

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Loneliness and depression can both result from the other and are often seen side by side in terms of suffering. Both promote alienation and the isolation that results becomes a big part of a self-perpetuating cycle. It can be difficult for a doctor to distinguish whether loneliness is causing depression or the other way around. The depressed state can feel very lonely with withdrawal from people being very common and loneliness can be a result of this.

Symptoms of Loneliness and Depression

  • Having little or no emotion
  • Self esteem issues
  • Anxious, irritable and impatient
  • Strange or disturbing thoughts
  • Insomnia or sleeping too much
  • Low appetite or comfort eating
  • Hopelessness
  • Confidence issues
  • Low motivation level
  • Feeling unworthy

These are just a few examples of how both loneliness and depression can present.

Causes of Loneliness and Depression

We know that depression itself can cause loneliness but there are many reasons a person may feel a chronic sense of loneliness and depression such as:

  • Bereavement
  • Being bullied
  • Divorce or separation
  • Isolation through mental and physical illness
  • Social anxiety
  • Shy, introverted personality or lack of social skills

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

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Why We Need to Socialise

Whilst writing about motivation, psychologist Abraham Maslow introduced the concept of a hierarchy of needs during life (see illustration on the right). This starts with basic needs but as you can see from the diagram, once we get older it is accepted that people have a need for social interaction, a connectedness and sense of belonging. Once we have this sense of belonging we may acquire the mental tools to build on our self esteem, to explore with confidence and feel good about ourselves.

If Marlow is right and it is a reputable theory, then you can see how loneliness and depression can stop us in our life from growing as people and reaching a sense of fulfillment or our true potential.


Tips on Addressing Loneliness and Depression

Positive thinking vs. Negative Thinking

We simply can not rely on other people alone for our happiness so it is important that we like or love ourselves in the first instance. Addressing how we think or feel about ourselves is very important. If you feel unaccepted by people generally ask yourself why that may be. Is it even a realistic belief? No one can force us to feel lonely or depressed but our perception of why we feel we should isolate ourselves plays a huge part. Write down all your personal negative beliefs and personal statements and look to how you can replace these with more positive optimistic statements. See the reality of what your negative thinking is causing. You need to want to change things in your life with enthusiasm. Seek out the help of a therapist if you find this difficult to tackle alone.

Hobbies and Interests

Depressed, lonely people tend to want to do little. They lack enthusiasm and often feel like failures. If you have dropped a hobby you once enjoyed try your best to pick it up again. Perhaps find a new hobby and preferably one that would involve interaction with other people. Gardening, relaxation, reading, writing, pilates, cookery and religion are some examples of interests that usually hold groups or classes that you can join . The list is endless.

Make a list of your interests and see if you could join a club or group locally where you would have something in common with other people. You will have to make the first step in making this happen, and though difficult, it is a great way to beat both loneliness and depression.

Family and Friends

Sadly it is a fact that people tend to shy away from others who are depressed or appear repressed but this can be overcome with effort on your part. Try to avoid talking of the way you feel when with family and friends and show interest in their lives. Being a good listener makes you a valuable person and sometimes you may not be aware of how tough a time others are having also. Invite them round for a coffee or better still arrange to have lunch with them.

Call friends you haven’t heard from for a while and join a social networking site. Although the internet is never going to be as good as actually meeting up with people it can help reduce loneliness and hence depression too. Get a headset for your PC so you can actually chat to people around the world but please do not isolate yourself further by doing this and this only. It’s an added option but not a substitute.

Offer to help someone less fortunate who may also be lonely or depressed.
Offer to help someone less fortunate who may also be lonely or depressed. | Source

Helping in the Community

When you offer yourself voluntarily to the community, this often has the advantage of you being in control of how much or how little help you want to give. It will make you feel in control of something in your life which will give you a feeling of confidence and importance.

There are other groups in society that may be prone to become lonely and depressed such as the very sick, the elderly, those who are mentally or physically impaired, single parents, those recently widowed and so on. Really consider this fact. You would be in charge of how much you feel able to take on but simply doing something like reading to an aged person or chatting to them a couple of times a week would be an extremely valuable thing to do for both of you!

Perhaps you could take someone shopping once a week or help out at a local charity shop. This kind of work will give you back some self esteem, relieve boredom, gain respect from others and give you purpose. Look up local voluntary organizations in your area and take the plunge!

A healthy way to combat loneliness and depression.
A healthy way to combat loneliness and depression. | Source

Exercise

Exercise can help both loneliness and depression. When we exercise we release endorphins which give us that ‘feel good’ factor. Natural sunlight and fresh air can help in making us sleep and eat better. People meet up to ramble together in the countryside, walk their dogs, go hiking or fishing for example. You would be amazed how much richer your life would be by taking up such pursuits. This is a great chance to meet people and get a little healthier in the process.

Note: If you become very depressed or do not feel able to attempt any of these suggestions you should always seek the advice of your doctor.

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    • krillco profile image

      William E Krill Jr 4 years ago from Hollidaysburg, PA

      Excellent Hub!

    • meloncauli profile image
      Author

      meloncauli 4 years ago from UK

      Many thanks krillco.

    • leahlefler profile image

      leahlefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      I love your ideas here, meloncauli! They are fantastic! I always get out in the sunshine or go for a walk when I'm feeling low - exercise is one of my favorite coping tactics.

    • spartucusjones profile image

      CJ Baker 4 years ago from Parts Unknown

      Very informative and practical hub! I also like your note at the end, because in cases of clinical depression further help may be needed.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Very informative with great suggestions. Well done!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 4 years ago from San Francisco

      All these methods have done WONDERS for me, and I've been pretty depressed at times! Also, switching up my life (e.g. moving, changing schedules, etc) seems to help a lot.

      Thanks for the great tips and helpful info. Also, yay for Abraham Maslow's hierarchy of needs! I have always loved looking at that pyramid for some reason. Hahaa.

    • Angela Brummer profile image

      Angela Brummer 4 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

      Great hub! I love the aspect of giving to others!

    • Riverfish24 profile image

      Riverfish24 4 years ago from United States

      I like the tips suggested meloncauli. If only more people simply made use of them. useful hub!

    • catgypsy profile image

      catgypsy 4 years ago from the South

      Great hub meloncauli! It's very easy to fall into that trap of depression and loneliness these days, with most people facing hard times right now. Great advice.

    • meloncauli profile image
      Author

      meloncauli 4 years ago from UK

      @ leahlefler. Thanks. Everything is always worse when you sit at home thinking about it isn't it?

      @spartucusjones. Thanks for your comment.

      @billybuc. Thanks very much.

      @Simone Smith. Thanks, I think Maslow's pyramid is pretty solid!

      @Angela Brummer.Thanks. Yes, it's often the last thing we would feel like doing but helping someone else would certainly be helping yourself also.

      @Riverfish24. Thank you.If one person reads this article and decides to put some of it into practice, that's job done!

      @catgypsy. Thanks. Yes, I suspect both loneliness and depression has increased somewhat in recent times.

    • Om Paramapoonya profile image

      Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago

      Nice hub, meloncauli! I like your practical tips on how to overcome loneliness and depression. I think exercise not only makes us feel better but sometimes can also help us make new friends. For example, I have become good friends with some people from my yoga class. Now when we don't go to the studio, we sometimes practice together in a public park. It's always more fun to exercise with friends. :)

    • meloncauli profile image
      Author

      meloncauli 4 years ago from UK

      Thanks Om Paramapoonya. That's a great idea. There are so many opportunities to mix exercise with socializing.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

      I can relate to the feeling of disconnection. Thanks for the tips.

    • FreezeFrame34 profile image

      FreezeFrame34 4 years ago from Charleston SC

      Great tips. Sometimes it can be hard to differentiate between loneliness, sadness, and depression.

    • meloncauli profile image
      Author

      meloncauli 4 years ago from UK

      Thanks for your comment MsDora. Hope it was of some help to you.

    • meloncauli profile image
      Author

      meloncauli 4 years ago from UK

      Thanks for your comment. You are so right! It is hard to see where one starts and another ends. Sadness can be interpreted as depression at times but there is a difference of course.

    • Ebonny profile image

      Ebonny 4 years ago from UK

      Listing the smyptoms and reasons is very useful as sometimes I don't think people actually recognise their condition. You explained why people need to feel connected which is also very important. All this topped up with great practical suggestions equals a simply fantastic hub. Deservedly given the thumbs up etc. Thanks for sharing.

    • meloncauli profile image
      Author

      meloncauli 4 years ago from UK

      Thanks for your comment Ebonny! Many people sadly will assume it will achieve little, and that's half the battle - getting people to actually face their depression head on. Depression can make us feel lethargic, disinterested generally , and pessimistic. Thanks for the thumbs up.

    • profile image

      Ben 3 years ago

      God is certainly to blame for this the way that i feel, and he shouldn't put people on this rotten earth if we weren't meant to have a love life like most other couples have with their families. Gee, how rotten can God really be?

    • meloncauli profile image
      Author

      meloncauli 3 years ago from UK

      You sound very angry Ben. Some people do have a harder time than others, but always believe there is something better around the corner. Stay positive and be hopeful because often fate deals us a bad hand to teach us a lesson.

    • MichalWrotter profile image

      Michal 21 months ago from Czech Republic

      OMG when I came cross to your article I felt like I got all the symptoms. Hmm, yeah I can relate to all What you write here. It is a great article with great ideas. Thank you so much for sharing it.

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