How to meet people and beat loneliness

How to meet people and beat loneliness

Do you equate loneliness with isolation? In this past year with COVID-19 putting us into various stages of lockdown, solitude has become much more normal and many people have directly blamed the social isolation for their loneliness.

But if that were true, wouldn’t people in solitude always be lonely? Yet many of us ALSO seek solitude to reflect, learn about ourselves and rest.

People seek solitude to reflect, meditate, pray, and rest. Being alone is not what causes loneliness.

It’s been said that you can’t find a solution until you know the problem. If the problem isn’t being alone, then what is it?

Lonely in a room full of people

Feelings of loneliness come from the disconnect between our expectations of social interaction, and the reality of it. Ever been in a room full of people and felt MORE lonely than when you were alone? Even when you’re spending time with friends, or engaged in small talk, those feelings of loneliness can creep up.

If being with people doesn’t hold loneliness at bay, then what does? How can you stop being lonely?

One possibility may be the depth of your social interactions. Maybe chatting about sports teams and small talk don’t feed your social needs. If that’s the case, it may be time to turn to your good friends to talk in greater depth. It could be as simple as meeting one-on-one with a friend, admitting that you’re lonely and talking about it.

When it comes to feeling lonely, I guarantee that EVERYONE gets it!

It’s not uncommon to feel alone even while you’re with people.

How do I make friends?

If you’re trying to think of who you can meet with to talk to and you can’t think of anyone, then it may be time to make some new friends. Connecting with people takes more effort now than it did in high school, in part because we’re not all in the same location with our peer group, but it CAN be done!

It may also seem impossible to make friends when opportunities to meet feel so scarce. It’s not like those days of long ago (how we miss you, 2019!) when you could invite someone to a casual cup of coffee at your favorite local coffee shop and get to know each other. And making new friends over social media is rarely fulfilling. Without that physical, face-to-face connection, we seem doomed to be lonely.

Places to meet new people

Even in the time of almost-post-COVID, there are great ways to meet people. Many social clubs and organizations are starting up again. This is the perfect time to join and not be “the new person.”

Chapel Hill offers LifeGroups that are small groups of friends dedicated to doing life together. They often will be going through a book or another topic together, BUT they don’t always start out as friends. LifeGroups meet at various times throughout the week; some are in person, and some are still virtual. If you’re in the Gig Harbor/Port Orchard area and would like to join, email Rachel and she’ll get you set up (you don’t need to be a member of our church to join!)

With our LifeGroups, there are online and hybrid options as well as in-person groups.

Recovery from loneliness

Another program we offer at Chapel Hill is Celebrate Recovery (CR). This is the program that helped me with the debilitating loneliness I had felt for years. I was initially hesitant to attend because I don’t struggle with alcohol or substance abuse, but I quickly learned that CR addresses all sorts of issues, INCLUDING loneliness.

Because of CR’s focus on supporting each other in small social groups, they’ve created a place where being authentic and vulnerable is natural. It is a program that helps people form deep connections with each other. For me, CR was the first place I was ever comfortable enough to talk to people without worrying whether they would like me or not. Attending weekly is a vital part of my social contact plan to keep loneliness at bay. It’s not the whole program, but the friends I have made through it.

Having a few close friends has made all the difference. Much of the loneliness and social isolation I felt has started fading, and when it does rear its head, I have people I can call on. Of course, I have to call or text, as friends don’t know I’m struggling with loneliness unless I tell them!

If you’d like to try CR for yourself, come by the church Wednesday evenings. We share dinner at 5:45 pm, and CR’s program starts at 6:30 pm.

Could it be mental health?

Of course, loneliness isn’t always a situational thing. We can be quick to rationalize it away as a consequence of the pandemic, or as a character flaw, but if you find yourself regularly lonely, especially if it’s to the point of interfering with your everyday life, it’s time to really take a look at it.

If your loneliness is regularly driving you to tears, is keeping you from forming relationships, or is making you feel hopeless, it’s time to get some help. Chronic loneliness can be a sign of depression or anxiety, and there is nothing wrong with getting checked out!

Your mental health is as important as your physical health.

Your regular doctor can help evaluate you. If you don’t have a regular medical professional, call our Care Coordinator at 253.853.0291.

As always, if you are feeling despondent and think you might hurt yourself or someone else, please go to the nearest Emergency Room, call 911, or call the Suicide Hotline at 1.800.273.8255.

You’re never really alone!

I hate it when people tell me I’m not really alone, because I often FEEL that way. Some days I need to remind myself over and over again that because I FEEL alone doesn’t mean I AM alone. When friends don’t seem to be available, or I can’t quite bring myself to call them, these are the Bible verses I cling to.

Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9b

This verse reminds me that no matter how bleak or hopeless it may seem in the evening (when my loneliness hits hard), that there’s always hope in the morning.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. Psalm 143:8

And while it’s not traditionally a comforting verse, this verse reminds me that my feelings are often NOT a reflection of reality.

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9