Feeling Lonely? Ask Yourself This
When we get hungry, our stomachs rumble. It’s the body’s way of saying, “Hey, eat something.” This signal developed out of an evolutionary reason related to our wellbeing — go too long without eating, and we can’t survive.
Like a stomach rumbling, the feeling of loneliness is an alarm bell. In this case, it’s telling us that we need connection. It might be a connection with somebody else, or a connection with yourself, or a relationship with life.
When your stomach rumbles, you know what to do: eat. But when you feel lonely, what’s the solution?
Questions to Ask When Feeling Lonely
There are three questions I like to ask when I think I might be experiencing loneliness.
Question #1: What’s going on here?
First, you have to figure out what’s happening. Sometimes, I’ll eat the entire contents of my kitchen cabinet before realizing I’m not hungry; I’m lonely. Or I’ll binge-watch three hours of a TV show when it hits me that I’m not bored, I’m actually lonely.
We have to kind of rewind the tape and feel into the body to recognize the signals and what they’re trying to tell us. Ask yourself: “What is this feeling? Where do I feel it?” You can try a mindfulness practice or journal to help you figure out what’s coming up for you. If it is indeed loneliness, move on to the next question.
Question #2: What does loneliness want?
Next, you have to ask what your loneliness wants. Start with the quickest answer. Maybe it wants somebody to talk to, somebody to spend time with, or somebody to touch. There may be one answer or many.
Stay there with that wanting, and dig deeper. Ask again, “What do you want?” There could be different layers to the wanting. For example, you may miss someone who has died and need to feel grief, or you might want to be seen. Sit for a few minutes with the questions of, “What does the loneliness want? What does it need? What does it yearn for?”
Question #3: What can I do?
The final question is this: “What can I do for you right now, lonely part of myself; what would feel nice, what would feel nurturing, what would feel caring?” Maybe that’s calling a friend, seeing whether somebody can go on a walk with you, or going to bed early and pulling the covers over your head. Do what’s right for you.
When we’re experiencing loneliness, it allows us to be kind to ourselves so that even if we’re still lonely at the end of the day, at least we haven’t abandoned ourselves. Showing up for yourself can be healing.
Moving Toward Connection
When you feel lonely, you might be tempted to ignore it or push it away.
Try to think of it as an alarm bell in your body as with hunger pangs, because that puts into perspective how important addressing loneliness is for your health and wellbeing. By answering these three questions, you can treat the cause of your lonely feelings, ultimately moving closer to connection.