If you’re tired of feeling isolated and alone, say goodbye to these 4 behaviors

We all have periods in our lives where we feel isolated and alone.

Maybe you’ve been grieving the death of a loved one and you have no desire to socialize and you just want to cocoon yourself in your shell. Perhaps you’re healing from the break up of a relationship and you’re throwing yourself into your work as a way to get out of social invitations.

While these are natural things to do, sometimes the isolation can become unhealthy if it’s going on for too long and you’re shutting out life altogether.

This doesn’t mean that you’re supposed to automatically stop hurting and grieving, but getting back to the things and people you love (even in baby steps), can profoundly help the healing process.

You might see how isolating yourself is doing more harm than good, particularly when it comes to your mental health. 

Maybe you want to come out of isolation, but have no idea where to start.

If you’re sick and tired of feeling isolated and alone all the time, here are four behaviors that will help you get out of your own way.

1) Don’t be so busy that you don’t have time to bond with the people closest to you

Being isolated and alone doesn’t always mean that you’re holed up at home watching Netflix with no plans to leave the house, like, ever.

You can be a busy, busy bee buzzing through the motions: the job, the errands, etc. and still be isolated.

If you aren’t interacting enough with people—particularly those people who are important to you—then you could be feeling alone and isolated.

The problem with demanding schedules is that they can leave little to no time for meaningful connections with others, says Jodi Clarke M.A., from Very Well Mind.

“This can leave busy people feeling isolated and lonely. Those around them can also sometimes feel rejected or angry with the person’s lack of availability,” Clarke says.

She says that being pulled in multiple directions by our obligations can leave us feeling stressed and unable to engage fully with others.

“This makes it difficult to support and nurture healthy relationships with the people we care about most. Our relationships with friends, family, and spouses may suffer if we have an overextended schedule.”

This reminds me of an acquaintance I have who is a self-employed fitness coach. Before she started her own business, she owned a beauty salon and she sometimes shares on social media how the years she spent building her company meant sacrificing seeing her children grow up during their early years.

She says she would see her kids in the mornings and drop them off at their grandparents. By the time she finished work—usually 12 to 14-hour days—the children would be asleep. Instead of disrupting their sleep by waking them to take them home, they often slept over at the grandparents’.

She often felt isolated and alone and after years of this, decided that the success of the business wasn’t worth missing more years of her children’s lives.

So she took a risk and sold the business. Now, she has a business that is much more suited to the life she wants and she basically gets to pick and choose her hours. She has more time to spend with her family.

She says she can ever get back the years she lost with her kids (they’re teenagers now), but at least she made the change before they became adults when the regret would have been worse.

2) Being on your “high horse” will leave you isolated 

Annoyed and arrogant woman If you’re tired of feeling isolated and alone, say goodbye to these 4 behaviors

“Judge not lest ye be judged” sounds great in theory, but the truth is that it’s a hell of a lot harder to put into practice.

While being judgemental is human nature (that doesn’t make it right—especially if it borders on being discriminating), it can also be a hindrance to building relationships, says leadership coach Ty Bennett.

“[It can also] harm those relationships that we already have.”

Bennett says that’s because we often respond to a situation as though our judgements were true rather than just labels we’ve stuck on something or someone.

Releasing judgment can open up a whole new world. Making friends we normally wouldn’t be friends with can help us grow and evolve in ways we would have never thought possible.

Sometimes we isolate ourselves because we’re  bored of hanging out with the same old group of friends. They look “right” on paper: they come from the same culture, they have a profession that is similar in stature to ours; their family dynamic is similar to ours, etc., etc.

But if you’re not growing with them and you feel like a hamster on the wheel going through the same motions over and over again, the answer isn’t to become antisocial.

The idea is to think about what kind of people should be part of your tribe, and then work on attracting those souls into your life.

The best way I can think of to do this is to find something you’re interested in. And then go join that group, that class, that regular online Zoom chat, and so forth.

I did that when I got into journalism and it set me on a whole different path professionally and personally.

Remember: like attracts like. But not what is like you on the surface or what you think you should like. Like attracts like means that your spiritual self is similar to someone else’s. Not necessarily 100% like theirs, but similar.

When you get on that track, well then watch what unfolds.

In the words of Walt Whitman: “Be curious, not judgemental.”

3) Let go of the need to be so guarded

It’s easy to isolate ourselves when we’ve been burned in relationships, whether they’re romantic or friend-based.

Building relationships is awkward because most people get hung up on who to trust, says Rosennabb from Medium.

“But trust needs to be more balanced in building a healthy support system. Having healthy relationship boundaries protects you, not withholding trust or avoiding people.”

Rosennab says that the better your support system, the easier it is to find people you can trust when trust matters.

Think about it: “You need a different level of trust for childcare than buying a car. Most relationships are casual enough to require nothing beyond mutual respect.”

Say you’ve decided to join a Zumba class and you find yourself next to someone who seems nice and friendly. After a few fun sessions, they ask you if you want to go have coffee after class.

You don’t need to think about whether you can trust this person with your life. Unless you’re just getting a really bad vibe from them, what could it hurt to chat over coffee and see if you vibe as potential friends?

Let your guard down and let people in a little. If it doesn’t work out, you can put up a boundary with them. You don’t have to isolate yourself from other potential future friends because of it.

4) Don’t substitute social media for a social life

Social isolation is on the rise in our society for a myriad of reasons.

Yes, we can blame the pandemic, but it’s a bit more complicated than that, say researchers.

Other possible factors include a rise in adults living alone, decreases in marriage rates, and the number of children per household. There is also a decline in religious affiliations compared to generations past.

That’s why when it comes to social isolation, social media is both a blessing and a curse.

“Social media usage can help alleviate social isolation by connecting individuals because of their physical environment with others online,” says the social work team at Regis College in New England, Massachusetts.

“It can also facilitate the formation of support systems for individuals with rate stigmatizing conditions.”

But social media usage can also have a negative impact on social isolation because we can substitute it for face-to-face interactions, “or by exposing individuals to unrealistic or distorted portrayals of connections’ lives, leading to feelings of social isolation.”

Social media isn’t a bad thing, as long as it’s kept in check and it doesn’t stand in for real, in-person connections. 

Social isolation isn’t going to disappear overnight, but you can make the most of the interactions you do have

The odd time you do connect with people, even if these interactions are few and far between, it’s important to make the most of them, say Crystal Raypole and Erika Klein from Healthline.

Instead of small talk, share emotions and personal experiences. This can make the person you’re communicating with open up a bit more themselves.

“Ask questions, and really listen to what your loved ones have to say,” say Klein and Raypole.

“Talk about things that matter—work, creative projects, [and] mutual interests.”

Not only will these more meaningful social interactions tide you over better until the next time, they may lead to more frequent social occurrences.

You can also try the 15-minute rule, says Elizabeth Perry from BetterUp

“Spend at least 15 minutes per day talking on the phone to a friend or family member. This can be by phone, video chat, gaming, or face-to-face conversation.”

That seemingly small interaction every single day can make a world of difference in how you feel.

Before you know it, you might be upping the ante on your social game.

Wendy Kaur

Wendy Kaur

Wendy Kaur is a Toronto-based journalist whose work has been published by The Globe & Mail, ELLE USA, ELLE Canada, British Vogue, Town & Country, and others.

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