It’s not unusual for people to feel lonely every now and then. But feeling this way for an extended period of time can lead you to feel socially isolated.Feeling connected to a group of people is important for your health and well-being. People are naturally social beings, and those who have a strong support group are more likely to be happy and physically healthy. When stressful or upsetting things happen (like medical problems or other troubles), people often cope better and heal quicker when they have helpful support.
If you are feeling socially awkward, there are things you can do to develop more social confidence.Social skills can be learned. Things like how to start a conversation or how to join in a conversation, and how to listen well to others are all things you can learn to do. You may find it helpful to speak with a counselor or other mental health professional who can help you identify skills to develop and even help you practice those skills step-by-step before trying them out in new social situations.
Getting connected. It might be hard to connect with people. For example, if you live in an isolated location, far from a large metropolitan area, your social resources might be limited. At the same time, though, big cities can feel just as lonely. Here are a few ideas to help you connect with others, no matter where you are.
Talk to a family member, teacher or religious leader. Even though you feel lonely, remember that you don’t have to go at it alone. Start small. You don’t need to find a best friend or go out with people every night of the week. Just find something in common with someone, and share a moment.
Challenge your negative thinking. Chances are that you are your own worst critic. Try to look at each situation objectively to avoid being too hard on yourself. For more tips on how to do this, check out the Self-talk fact sheet.
Get outside. Try going to a park, a coffee shop or a library to do some people watching!
Join a club or a team. The best way to meet people that have the same interests as you is to join a club or a team.
Chat on the internet. Many people today find like-minded friends to connect with through the internet. The internet is a way to connect,but caution is always important.
Remember, you have choice. Sometimes what you do or think about a situation can change the way you feel about it. Consider your options. i.e., talking to a helpful friend for support, perspective, and to know you are not alone—can help.
Seek help. If you need immediate help and you aren’t sure where to turn, try calling The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Boys Town National Hotline at 1-800-443-2800.
Acknowledgement: This fact sheet was originally developed by youth and staff at ReachOut.com, a website that helps teens get through tough times.
Special Thanks: Michelle Sobel, LCSW CADC I
Licensed Clinical Social Worker Behavioral Health Consultant Portland Area Office/IHS