Are You Lonely Tonight? How to Cope With Being Alone

Feeling lonely is normal – no matter what our life situation is. Single, married, divorced, widowed, childless, child-laden, doesn’t matter who or where we are. We all struggle with loneliness sometimes. And feeling lonely isn’t just sad and painful, it’s actually bad for your health!

After I wrote Hope and Help for Living Alone After Your Husband’s Death I discovered a professor’s statement about the health effects of loneliness, I decided it was time to gather tips on how to cope with being alone. “Loneliness is a greater risk for morbidity or mortality than cigarette smoking,” says Nicholas Epley, Assistant Professor of Behavioral Science at the University of Chicago. Research also shows that loneliness can accelerate aging, increase blood pressure, and create anxiety.

Life coach and author Martha Beck describes three types of loneliness: 1) Separation loneliness, which results from being physically distant from family and friends; 2) Absolute loneliness, resulting from the belief that nobody understands – nor do they want to; and 3) Existential loneliness, “a bedrock fact of the human condition: the hollowness we feel when we realize no one can help us face the moments when we are most bereft.”

One of the best ways to stop being lonely is to figure out which type of loneliness you’re struggling with. For instance, I’m often existentially lonely but rarely feel separation loneliness. What about you?

Stop being lonely by reaching out to people

Basic human contact – such as chatting with the barista in a coffee shop – can help with separation loneliness. Connecting with kindred spirits or close friends could ease absolute loneliness. Gardening, music, or any type of artistic connection may reduce existential loneliness. Different types of lonely need different tips for overcoming loneliness.

Pet a robotic doggy – or get a real live dog

Though Aibo (not pictured) is a three dimensional robotic dog, he wags his tail and responds when people call.

tips for coping with being alone

William Banks, professor of geriatric medicine at Saint Louis University, monitored Aibo and a live dog called Sparky in elderly nursing homes, then assessed feelings of loneliness and companionship. “The most surprising thing is that they [Sparky and Aibo] worked almost equally well in terms of alleviating loneliness and causing residents to form attachments,” said Banks.

Anything that creates a connection can help stop you from being lonely. Walking my dog every day helps me overcome loneliness because I am getting to know my near-and-far neighbors.

Consider getting a dog. I wrote Should I Get Another Dog? after I adopted one and had to return her to the shelter. It was awful – but we adopted another dog and love her so much! She definitely helps reduced my feelings of loneliness.

“Anthropomorphize” your loneliness away

Research shows that giving pets or things (such as plants) human traits offers powerful psychological and physical benefits. Dr Epley from the University of Chicago found that the objects don’t even have to be yours to increase feelings of connectedness. This explains why Tom Hanks’ character in Cast Away lived for four years on an island with only a volleyball called Wilson for company. Without Wilson, he probably wouldn’t have survived with his mental and physical health intact. A creative way to stop being lonely is to make friends with objects…but don’t let that become a substitute for real people!

Pick a project – it’ll distract you when you feel alone

Almost everyone has a list of things they’ve always wanted to do, but they never have the time. Organize your CDs, go through old photos and put them in albums, clean out your closet, plant some flowers. Projects like these may not stop you from feeling lonely, but they can distract you from your feelings.

That’s why setting and achieving goals is so important! A sense of purpose and achievement can alleviate feelings of low self-worth, which sometimes accompanies loneliness.

If it’s the holiday season, read Lonely This Christmas? 9 Ways to Overcome Loneliness on my New Beginnings blog.

Push yourself out of your comfort zone

The adventures in your city range probably range from open mic poetry nights to wine tastings to Bingo fundraisers. There may be laughter yoga, volunteer opportunities for special events, museum or art gallery lectures, or “Teasersize” dance classes. Don’t worry about going alone – it’s better if you participate in these activities alone because you’re more approachable and open to conversations with new people. Learning how to make conversation with people will help you feel less awkward.

Are you lonely because you get anxious in new situations? Read How to Overcome Shyness, Social Anxiety for College Students – maybe it’ll motivate you to go back to school, which will help you cope with loneliness!

Decide if you’re an introvert or an extrovert

People with introverted personality traits enjoy solitude and socializing with one or two others (crowds drain them). Introverts may have a more difficult time making small talk. People with extroverted personality traits are energized by people – the more, the merrier!

If you’re an introvert struggling with existential loneliness, going to a boisterous bar or kickboxing class may increase your discomfort. If you’re an extrovert wrestling with separation loneliness, gardening alone may not be effective. When you’re figuring out how to stop being lonely, consider your personality.

If you struggle to make small talk, read How to Make Conversation for Introverts – Tips for Small Talk.

Tell someone they have a cool hat

“The best method to break out of solitary confinement is to seek to understand others, and help them understand you,” says life coach Martha Beck.

To connect with a new person, compliment them sincerely and ask a question. “Cool hat. Where’d you get it?” Share information about yourself, such as your reluctance to wear hats because they make you look fat. This is a creative tip for loneliness because it forces you to interact!

Start a group

If you enjoy walking, baking, or writing, spread the word. “A friend and I started a book club because we felt isolated, and we knew people who felt the same. Now we meet regularly at someone’s home, keeping it casual and inexpensive,” says Donna, a freelance writer in Australia. Starting a group gives you a focus and connects you with like-minded people.

Just be lonely (a surprising tip on how to stop feeling alone)

Not all uncomfortable feelings need to be overcome, expressed, or fixed. Sometimes you’re lonely or sad – and that’s a healthy part of being human. Simply sitting with negative emotions can be the healthiest thing to do. After awhile, your lonely feelings will go away.

If you find it difficult to make friends, read How to Find New Friends After Moving to a New City (even if you haven’t recently moved to a new city!).

What do you do when you feel lonely? Comment below – it’ll help you feel less alone.


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28 thoughts on “Are You Lonely Tonight? How to Cope With Being Alone”

  1. I don’t think your authors have any experience whatsoever of being lonely. All of this “advice” is imutter bunk.

    1. Ya I have to agree, if it was easy then why do millions of people struggle with it?. I take some comfort in knowing am not alone however, just one day at a time right?

  2. Actually I smoke pot and drink to cope with being alone, and go to the movies. I’m 51 and that’s the way I cope, and call a good friend that’s 10 years older, it gives me a perspective on life at his age and mine.

  3. Dear Sad,

    I’m sorry you feel lonely with your family around. Sometimes it’s even harder to cope with loneliness when you’re around people who don’t understand you. We think our families should understand us, but they’re often the ones who don’t understand us at all!

    My prayer is that you find ways to reach out and connect with people who understand you, who help you feel understood and loved. May you find ways to keep yourself busy and fulfilled, especially as the holiday season approaches.


  4. I live with two children and husband but respiration for communication feeling alone ignored heard but not acknowledged or told my feelings r all in my head loosing sight or reason

  5. Dear Listener,

    Thank you for being here, and for commenting! I’m aware of the study you mentioned, and I believe it’s 100% true that all human beings who don’t receive physical touch and emotional love wither and die. Maybe not a literal death, but like you said: an inside death because of loneliness.

    One suggestion I have for you is to be honest about your feelings of loneliness with your friends and family. Sometimes we’re all so wrapped up in ourselves, we don’t realize that others feel lonely – or that they need a hug.

    I’ve said to people that I need a hug. Have you tried that?

    I believe that one of the best tips on how to stop being lonely is to be vulnerable. Say that you’re lonely, that you need a hug, and that you need someone to lean on.

    What do you think?

    Stay true to you,

  6. I like the idea of starting a club, i am usually an out going person, but i feel lonely in the sense that I lack physical interactions with people. I rarely get a hug from someone, or I’ve never held someone’s hand and walked down the street, i feel romantically lonely. I am a listener to my friends problems (mostly relationship related) and a helper, but not many people help me, there are some who do listen but my problems are usually solved over time by myself, or I ignore it or slowly get over it, i feel like it would be nice to have some support with someone I love, i ask for hive fives a lot because that’s the only physical contact I have with people on a normal basis. I read once that there was an experiment between a group of new born babies, one batch was held and treated with love and affection and the other was just given the necessities like food and water a change in diaper, and in the end of the experiment some of the babies who were not loved died, i feel like those unloved babies I have my necessities, but I’m dying inside.

  7. Thanks for your comments, Bruce!

    About volunteering – I think I should write an article with a list of FUN things to do as a volunteer. I always think of volunteering as a major sacrifice, but it can be so fulfilling and exciting. Like my weekly visits with my Little Sister :-)

  8. Volunteering can really help with meeting new people and just getting out there with a reason to do something different. I used to volunteer twice a year with a local garden and it became very enjoyable to see the same people year after year. A few events like that can fill a few voids.

  9. Dear Catherine,

    Thank you for being here! I lived in Africa for 3 years, and felt very very alone most of the time. I taught at an American school, and my fellow teachers were nice and supportive…but I really missed my family and friends back in Canada. The loneliness was pretty bad sometimes.

    I don’t know how long you’ve lived in your new place, but I think you’ll eventually find friends and things to do that will help you feel less alone! It takes time to connect with people. I connected with ONE fellow teacher at my school, out of about 20 of us, and she was my lifeline. I spent time with the others, but only really connected with the one woman. I also got counseling, to help me deal with other issues.

    Anyway, I’m glad you have the internet, and I hope you know you can come back here anytime! It helps to write how you feel and what you’re coping with.

    And, here’s an article that might help you:

    8 Tips for Overcoming Homesickness for Women Traveling Alone

    I wish you all the best, and am sending warm positive vibes your way. And, I’ll say a prayer that you find at least one friend to help you feel less alone!


  10. I recently moved abroad to a new city, and whilst I have friends that live about an hour away I know no one in the city itself. I am an au pair and whilst the family are lovely I am struggling with the loneliness. I miss my family a lot and wish I could see more of the friends that I do have in the country already. It is still early days for me in this job so I hope this feeling will go, but not being able to just ring my family right now is really not helping. I have cried about 5 times today and just needed to tell someone about it. I know it will get better once I am used to my new situation but for now I feel so lonely and trapped and have no one to turn to, to talk face to face. I hope tomorrow is better.

  11. Loneliness comes to all of us, no matter what our age, gender, marital status. I find it reassuring to know that in most case it’s a temporary situation and it does go away.

  12. M-O-V-E is a great way to rise above loneliness – thanks Mae!

    I’m happily married, yet every so often I feel profoundly lonely. I agree that some of us are wired for loneliness in some way. Existential loneliness is what I call my bouts of feeling lonely.

  13. I am 65 years old, have a full and happy retired life, I have a happy disposition and laugh alot. I have had felt great loneliness my entire life, even as a child amongst 7 siblings. I think some people are wired to have this emotion and there is no fix for it. It passes, thankfully, and we move on.

    I think we are too quick to try to fix everything with pills, therapy, alcohol, street drugs, sex, etc just to make this “loneliness” go away. The best cure is a four letter word M-O-V-E, something, don’t wallow in it. Learn to rise above it.

  14. Hello, I m too feeling lonely and unable to interact with any one. I always remain isolated and dnt even know the reason. Anyone who wana give me company or we equally share our sorrows and happiness, I am there to support and be supported.

  15. Dear Betty,

    Thank you for sharing about your life. I’m with you – I’ve been married for almost 7 years, but still feel very lonely sometimes. One person can’t be everything to us. It’s too much to expect, and unrealistic.

    It’s funny you mentioned your massage therapist. I recently stopped going to a massage therapist I really like, because she told me too much about her life. She talked about her marriage, kids, her kids’ love lives, her mom, her abusive father…it was too much. I couldn’t relax and enjoy my massage, because we were chatting like deep, serious friends. I like her alot, but I want to be massaged in peace and quiet, so I can focus on how great it feels. You mentioned boundaries – I think that’s what my massage therapist and I overstepped. And you can’t go back to holding hands!

    About having other meaningful relationships outside of your intimate relationship: if something happens to your partner, it’s good to have a life and friends to fall back on. I think I’d be less lonely if my husband died (God forbid) if I had built an interesting, dynamic, fulfilling life outside of my marriage.

    Anyway, thanks for your comment, Betty!


  16. I think you are right Laurie. We are all lonely and it is so sadly true that the reality of life in todays world is that we focus on the necessity of surviving, paying bills, shopping, whatever we need to do to just exist from day to day but we put so little time into our relationships. Partners tend to depend only on each other, and that get’s stale after a time and singles really may live a vibrant life of parties and cookouts and other social activities but when it all comes down to really needing a spiritual companion we are often left high and dry.

    Until recently I was living an existance that I thought was satisfying and then I began massage therapy and was introduced to the relaxation and a deeper spiritual feeling that was within. Unfortunately, that professional relationship ended badly because I wanted a friendship with the therapist that she could not deal with. She apparently has severe issues with boundaries and was afraid that what I wanted would be more than friendship (it wasn’t) or that she couldn’t deal with friendship in conjunction with a professional relationship. Anyway, I am now struggling to get past the feeling of abandonment and also realizing that something is missing from my life. It’s the something I think we all miss when we don’t have close interactions with others. And I have a life partner of 30 years! And we get along very well. But one person is not enough in anyone’s life I think and we need a diversity of human interaction, which I think is a rare thing these days.

  17. Thanks for your comment, Michael…you inspired me to write my first article about staying sober!

    8 Different Ways to Stay Sober – From the Easy Way to Lists

    What you said about feeling empty really resonated with me. I call it “existential angst”, and cope with emptiness and feelings of futility all the time. I wrote about it in the article about staying sober.

    All good things,

  18. Michael Patterson

    Hi Laurie….thanks for your words of wisdom. If their were more responses here, I would give my 2 cents. I was actually searching for alternative ways to stay sober, & to not feel so empty.

  19. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    To overcome loneliness, you need to try to figure out why you feel so alone. That’s why the first tip from Martha Beck is so important!

    My tips on how to stop being lonely may not work for you — it depends on your personality, lifestyle, habits, hobbies, and interests. Sometimes you have to push yourself out of your normal realm. For instance, I recently started playing the flute and want to join an orchestra in September. This I think will help me feel less lonely.

    And, I’ve applied to be a Big Sister. Volunteering is a great way to stop being lonely and start meeting people!

  20. I am lonely all the time and none of these solutions helped me! im lonely becqause everyone in my family ignore me. when i reach out, they just ignore! they always say theyre busy, even when i hear them say earlier, i donjt have anything to dO! HELP

  21. I’m 21 years old I have a 4year old son.. I’m not in a relationship and don’t have family or friends around me.. I’m quite outspoken and don’t have any problem with talking to strangers.. But no matter what I try to do I can’t find a way to stop feeling like this.. Its starting to affect me quite abit.. What shall I do?

  22. I broke up with 2 very very close friends. They said they did not want to be close with me anymore(they were really close). 2 friends. I’ve never felt lonely as much as now. I always wanted to know from them simple things, how I look(if it is good) or like, I like that guy over there alot(i’m gay) how can I start a conversation with him… But i never really dared to start one. I always got scared about the fact that they might hate me for saying to them that i like them. And i’m also scared about the fact that if he might like me on the outside. I really hate what the 2 friends did to me. So i don’t want to count on them anymore. But I dont even dare to go alone to school without shaking my legs off. Always scared of people and what they think about me. I really only want to hug a guy and wrap my arms around him.

  23. it aint easy being alone it has taken my class work being single and alone is a nightmare If i focus on work where do i find persons 2 interact with ur site has provided a little help which I will use still every situation is different still struggling my only way out is work work work how will I cope in a relationship think it has led to relationships dying in a way. Now I am a catholic single and alone hope this works the sooner I recover from this the better its keeping me back from reaching the level I wish to reach in life

  24. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen


    If you’re lonely and you know it — you’re not alone!

    This article is read dozens of times a day, and the words “how to stop being lonely” are searched for thousands of times a day!

    I think we’re all lonely, even those of us who seem not to be lonely at all.