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Overcoming Loneliness

Starting college can cause many feelings for students, from happiness and satisfaction, to isolation and loneliness.
Karlie-Barcot
What is loneliness?
Being lonely and being alone aren’t the same thing. You can be surrounded by people and feel lonely, or feel happy being alone. Loneliness is a subjective feeling that you’re lacking the social connections you need. Human beings crave connection, and loneliness can affect anyone. You might feel lonely when:

  • You have a lack of quality interactions with those around you
  • You see people doing fun things on social media and you weren’t included
  • You don’t feel like your social reality is living up to your expectations
  • You feel that the relationships you do have aren’t what you want them to be
  • You feel that nobody understands you
Lady working on a computer.
Loneliness and Your Health
Loneliness isn’t inherently a bad thing, and is actually pretty normal. It’s important to remember that loneliness is a feeling, not a fact, and you can take steps to change that feeling just like any other emotion.

However, chronic loneliness can have a huge impact on health, as it places the body in a state of high stress. Based on a *variety of studies, the impact of social isolation and loneliness on longevity equals that of smoking 15 cigarettes a day and exceeds the risks associated with obesity and lack of exercise.


*See The Potential Public Health Relevance of Social Isolation and Loneliness: Prevalence, Epidemiology, and Risk Factors

A BETTER WAY TO COPE

But all is not lost. Loneliness isn’t a defect, but a temporary, common experience that can be overcome. Remember, loneliness can be a signal that your need for social connection isn’t being met, so you can change your behavior to get the connection you need.

Here are some ideas:

  • Get involved on and off campus. Pay attention to ward, campus, and community activities. Check your ward directory for your ministering assignments. Attend ward activities. Check the campus calendar for events.
  • Interact purposefully and meaningfully online. Reach out to friends. Play games online with others. Chat about something you care about. Share your real life and not just the perfect photo ops.
  • Stay connected with friends and family at home. Whether that’s by e-mail, through video conference, phone calls, or letters, stay in contact with those that care about you.
  • Reach out to and serve others. There are plenty of opportunities in your ward and on-campus. You can also check out justserve.org to search for other service options.
  • Get to know and love yourself. Continue to develop your talents. It's important to care for yourself and meet your other needs. Make sure to exercise, eat nutritious foods and get plenty of sleep. Develop and practice hobbies. Find activities you enjoy when you’re alone. Practice positive self-talk. Be as kind to yourself as you are to others!
  • Rethink how you spend your free time. If you feel lonely, you may want to withdraw further, which can reinforce the cycle. Try to be social sometimes, even if you don’t feel like it. Scheduling social time into your calendar can motivate you to do it even when you don’t want to.
  • Be brave. Talk to a stranger. Invite a classmate over to study together. Chat with someone who is sitting alone at a restaurant. Sit by someone you don’t usually sit by in class. Ask your cashier about their day and truly listen to their answer.
  • Avoid addictive behaviors. There are some behaviors that reinforce and encourage loneliness and self-isolation. Be aware of what these things are be taking a close look at your life. Seek the aid of professional resources if you need help with this.
Students listen in an accounting class
ONE STEP AT A TIME
So, you've set a goal to build meaningful relationships--now what? When interacting with others, these tips may be helpful:

  • Remember that many others feel alone and disconnected too. What do you wish others would say to you? Try doing that for others.
  • Focus on the similarities you have with those around you. It can be easy to judge others when you focus on differences, making it harder to befriend them.
  • Be sincerely interested. Ask questions to get to know others, rather than focusing solely on yourself.
  • Express your feelings. It can be scary to be vulnerable, but that’s how true connections are made.
  • Remember that building relationships takes time, effort, and energy. It will likely take repeated efforts to build lasting friendships, so don't give up.
  • Avoid rushing into close friendships by sharing too quickly or expecting immediate intimacy.
  • Have reasonable expectations. Just as friendships don’t develop overnight, feelings of loneliness may not go away immediately.
  • Value each friendship and relationship as unique, and focus on quality, not quantity.

RESOURCES*

College Students Coping with Loneliness

Psychology Today

The Social Connection Planner

Web of Loneliness

Conference Talk - None Were With Him

Loneliness by Kurzgesagt – In a Nutshell

Losing Ourselves in the Service of Others

Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection by John Cacioppo & William Patrick

Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World by Vivek H. Murthy


Get Help ASAP

If it feels like there's no other option--please know that there is! Don't wait, there are people who can help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). They also offer a chat option through their website, suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/ .

*Please note that selecting any of these outside links will redirect you away from Ensign College's website. Because websites are constantly changing, Ensign College does not endorse or guarantee the accuracy of this information.

HAVE QUESTIONS? WANT TO TALK TO SOMEONE?

The Student Success Center is here to help! Please contact us with any further questions at 801-524-8151.

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