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I Was Feeling So Lonely. Until I Did This

What to do today to keep that awful feeling away.

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illustration of woman enjoying different activities to combat loneliness
Ana Cuna
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I talk about loneliness with a lot of my middle-aged friends. We are all almost in our 50s and doing things like helping our kids move out, taking care of older parents and wondering what this next chapter will bring. A lot of us are divorced and some who are still married (even if it’s pretty happily) say they are still lonely.

I believe them, too. Just because my kids are older, and I don’t have a partner, doesn’t mean I am any more lonely than they are. I remember many days when I was married, and my kids were crawling all over me, and I still felt lonely.

I’ve learned a few things about loneliness though. It doesn’t really matter if you are surrounded by a bunch of people; you can still feel lonely. But the most important lesson is this: If you are lonely, it’s your job to fix it. It’s not fair to assign that task to anyone else, and when you start taking care of your own needs, you will see that being lonely has a lot to do with you and how you treat yourself.

My kids are older and have lives of their own, and I am the only adult living in my house. I can honestly tell you that I am never lonely. It’s taken me a while to get to this place. I used to think the cure to my loneliness was in the hands of other people, but it’s not. It’s in my hands. And this is what I do to keep that feeling away.

1. Dance

I discovered this one night while I was putting away groceries. I was feeling down and sorry for myself and had gone grocery shopping just for something to do and to get out of the house. I came home feeling the same way but was in the mood to listen to some music. As soon as I started dancing around my kitchen as I put milk and bread away, I got an instant lift in my mood.

After about a half hour, I felt so happy, light and excited about making a nice dinner for myself and settling in front of the television. That night stuck with me, and whenever I am feeling down or lonely, the music goes on instantly. It has never failed me.

2. Listen to podcasts.

There are so many great podcasts out there. You can find something funny, great lectures on health, relationships or one of your passions. Listening to a podcast while cleaning or driving is a great way to feel like you are in good company. And a bonus is you usually feel calmer and more inspired after listening to one.

3. Take yourself out on dates.

As a single woman, I used to wait for a family member or friend to come with me to do certain things. And when I was partnered, I’d make a plan with them. Now, if no one can come to a movie or out to eat with me if I have a certain craving, I just go. In fact, I’ve started going without asking anyone to come with me, and I can’t believe how much I enjoy it.

I’ve also realized the importance of not feeling guilty about doing things like getting a massage, pedicure or my hair done. If I feel like I need some pampering and I don’t make a plan to do it, I start to feel like I’m neglecting myself. I don’t wait for anyone to buy me flowers, chocolates or nice-smelling candles; I grab them myself whenever I want.

4. Hobbies

Having hobbies that soothe your soul will always make you feel fulfilled. There have been so many hours of my life these past few years that have been soaked up by my hobbies, and I always feel blissfully happy while I’m painting, decorating or writing. There is nothing like refueling yourself by getting in touch with your creative side.

5. Exercising

You can join a gym to get some interaction, go to a local walking path, take a hike, join a running club, sign up for a fitness class, or get a workout routine going home. It doesn’t matter how you go about it because when you move your body and get those endorphins going, you are investing in yourself and giving yourself something no one else can. After exercising, even if I am doing it alone, I always feel so accomplished and proud of myself.

6. Journaling

Writing down thoughts and feelings has so many benefits. But they also make you feel seen, heard and validated. I find that especially when I am struggling with something, simply writing about it helps. It’s a great way to cope if you are going through a hard time and you aren’t ready to talk about it, or your closest friends aren’t available when you need them.

7. Telling someone if you feel lonely

There are times when we all feel neglected by our partners, kids or friends. And there’s nothing wrong with speaking up and saying you are feeling down and are craving some kind of connection. Oftentimes, people think we are fine, and everything is status quo. Humans aren't mind readers, and we have to ask for what we want. Sometimes, that means texting a friend, and instead of simply asking them to meet for a coffee, you tell them what’s really going on and you could use their companionship.

The next time you are feeling lonely, I guarantee that if you try one of these things, you will feel better instantly. And over time, you will realize your loneliness is a thing of the past.

What do YOU do when you feel lonely? Any tips for the rest of us? Let us know in the comments below.

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