8 things you don’t realize you’re doing that are making you lonely

For many years, I have considered myself a lonely person. Even though I was surrounded by family and friends, I couldn’t seem to overcome this conviction. 

I thought it was the fault of people around me who didn’t get me. 

While it is true that changing this state required changing some of my social circles, the largest portion of work needed to go inward. 

I have realised that I’ve been unconsciously making myself feel lonely. 

However, one thing I wasn’t alone in was the tendency to do it. Many of us do things that make us feel lonely without realising it. 

Here are eight things that I believe are the most common and easiest to overlook.  

1) Over-relying on digital connections

We live in a hybrid world where online and offline connections merge and exist interchangeably. 

Social Media is admittedly a great tool for forming new connections all over the world. However, over-relying on online ways of starting and maintaining relationships can cause an effect opposite to the one intended. 

A study shows that over-reliance on digital platforms can lead to social anxiety and a feeling of loneliness, which impede our ability to have genuine and deep connections with other human beings. 

One year ago, I decided to limit my use of Social Media, including going off Instagram for a year. Among many benefits, I have noticed the improved quality of my relationships with family, friends and even my dog. 

It’s important to remember that we are made of more than just heads studded with eyes for reading text messages. In order to establish genuinely fulfilling relationships, we need to “face” other people.

2) Not prioritizing face-to-face interactions

While forming new relationships online can be easier and more accessible to some, physical presence plays a crucial role in bonding and our general well-being.

The main factor here is the famous oxytocin, often called the “love hormone” or “bonding hormone”.

An interesting study found that oxytocin increases generosity and trust in humans. Physical touch, such as hugging or handholding, can release oxytocin, emphasising the importance of face-to-face interaction over online-only connections.

Another study showed that the brains of two individuals can become synchronised during face-to-face communication. Such synchronisation wasn’t found in other forms of communication. This might indicate a deeper or more direct form of connection when people are physically present with one another.

While face-to-face interactions require some effort and schedule management, their benefits still outweigh the potential struggles. 

To maintain healthy relationships, we might sometimes need to change our old behaviour patterns…

3) Being a passive friend

Many of us tend to wait for others to make “the first move”. Whether it is due to our insecurities, fear of rejection, ego or honour — it’s easy to assume that if you feel this way, the other person might be thinking similarly, too. 

The result is that neither of you reach out, and what could’ve been a nourishing and beautiful relationship fades away. 

The truth is friendships, especially in adult life, require effort. I have many friends all over the world and in different cities, but we make it work by frequently and actively checking in on each other or visiting whenever possible. 

It’s important to recognise our blocks against making “the first move” and not let them come in between us and our friends. More often than not, both of you will benefit from you making the first move. 

And when you do, there’s something that can greatly improve or hinder your communication…

4) Avoiding vulnerability

When was the last time you allowed yourself to truly open up to another person? 

Self-reflection paired with vulnerability are crucial skills in forming strong and fulfilling relationships with ourselves and others. 

A series of studies have been conducted to better understand the role of vulnerability in interpersonal relationships.

Among them was the famous 1997 study by Arthur Aron. It shows that allowing vulnerability in conversations leads to greater and long-lasting bonding — even within 45 minutes. 

Are you afraid you might overshare or accidentally put too much weight on the other person? 

In that case, it might be helpful to check in with yourself before you speak. Be mindful of your boundaries and communicate clearly when you’re not comfortable sharing something. 

Similarly, you can ask them if they feel capable of hearing you out and encourage them to gently stop you when they feel overwhelmed. 

If you keep these simple tips in mind, your decision to open up will benefit both sides and nourish your relationship.

Lowering our guard can thus enable us to form more fulfilling relationships while gaining a clearer outlook on those which don’t serve us anymore.

5) Holding on to unfulfilling relationships

giving relationship a break 8 things you don’t realize you’re doing that are making you lonely

It is completely normal to change your social circles and outgrow some relationships over time. We all grow and change, and we might find ourselves struggling to connect with people we used to be very close with. 

Of course, it is wholesome to try and revive those relationships. However, if, despite these efforts, you keep drifting away from your old friends, it might be helpful to accept it as a natural part of being a human and gently move on. 

Holding on to unfulfilling relationships might make you feel lonely even when you’re surrounded by people.

After all, the feeling of connection doesn’t come down to only the physical presence of others, but, most importantly, it results from the mutual ability to understand and relate to each other. 

To better examine your present relationships, it might be beneficial to make time to sit with yourself and your emotions. 

6) Overloading yourself with work or hobbies

Do your days tend to be so busy that you hardly ever have the time to sit with yourself and your feelings? We often keep ourselves excessively busy to evade unpleasant emotions.

A feeling of loneliness, in general, can be a sign that you have some unaddressed emotional needs. 

Before you seek to patch them up with various activities or even social interactions, it’s essential to stop for a moment and connect with yourself. 

Oftentimes, you will find that you are able to address some of your emotional needs by yourself, making your relationships with others more enjoyable and less co-dependent. 

Spending time alone can be scary to some of us, and it is understandable. However, it is also essential to recognise the importance and meaning of solitude. 

7) Misunderstanding solitude for loneliness

Spending time by yourself is one of the most energy-replenishing activities we can engage in. Yet, so many of us do everything we can to avoid spending even 10 minutes alone. 

This is often because we fear our minds will flood us with anxious thoughts, sadness, stress or loneliness. 

While there’s no way to escape these emotions, and we shouldn’t try doing it, there are ways to help them heal. 

Giving your undivided attention to what’s happening in your mind and hear, will allow these emotions to release the energy they are holding, and thus pass sooner. 

If it’s scary, try doing it bit by bit. It is important to sit with yourself daily and be present with your emotions — even if just for a moment. 

Mindful solitude can be truly healing.

We seek to make up for our loneliness by connecting with others, but I’d argue that oftentimes, the greatest source of loneliness is disconnection from ourselves. 

Nobody can give us the same amount of love, understanding, support and fulfillment as we can find within. 

It is worth making some time to check in with your mental and emotional state frequently. 

Sometimes, you might recognize that loneliness was just a story your mind was telling you…

8) Telling yourself you are lonely 

Loneliness can be a mental construct. The way we perceive the world can largely impact our emotional well-being. 

Some people see others as fellow humans, focusing on the underlying similarities we all share. At the same time, some choose to look at superficial differences and, as a result, feel estranged from those around them. 

“To feel abandoned is to deny the intimacy of your surroundings.”, as David Whyte once wrote in his poem called Everything is Waiting For You.

We have the power to change our perspectives and improve how we feel. Sometimes, all it takes is a little warmth and compassion while interacting with “strangers”. 

Conclusion

Self-awareness is a starting point to understanding ourselves and the world around us. 

Feeling occasionally lonely is inevitable, but it’s important to remember that we can subconsciously do things that exacerbate it, and analogically, we can learn how to prevent this from happening.

Moreover, much loneliness can come from our disconnection from ourselves that we try to patch up with excessive activities or ad-hoc relationships with others. 

Whatever the root of your loneliness, it is a good idea to always start by having a look within. 

Justyna Cyrankiewicz

Justyna Cyrankiewicz

I’m Justyna Cyrankiewicz, and I write about the simple things for overcomplicated minds. After overcoming a 6-year-long depression, I reframed the way I live and think. I've incorporated a long, uninterrupted meditation practice into my daily routine. Seeking deeper clarity, I strive to simplify every aspect of my life. Through my writing, I aim to share insights and practical methods to help us find greater happiness and peace. If you’d like to read more from me, consider subscribing to my newsletter: Justyna Cyrankiewicz

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