Lonely Lass

11 Mar

Letterbalm Lonely WomanDear LetterBalm: I’m in my first year of college, and I’ve never felt so lonely and alone. I’m 500 miles from home in a new place, and I’m missing my family and can’t make new friends here. I’m a shy person, so making friends and talking to people is hard for me. I’ve tried to make friends in my dorm, but everybody has their own thing going on. I need help to get out of myself. I want to make at least one friend this year, and I need to know what to say.

–Forlorn Freshman

In today’s world, loneliness can affect anyone at any age. Shrinks tell us to embrace your loneliness, acknowledge it as a natural feeling. Then, you can take steps to change it and turn it into a positive force. Ms. L.B. suggests you find a quiet spot, grab a pencil and paper and take notes. Identify the cause of your loneliness, whether life experience or psychological makeup. New surroundings? Reticence to engage with unfamiliar people? Sadness? Alienation? Loss? Self-doubt?  Enlist the help of a counselor through your campus health service. Be relentless – the more you know about your loneliness, the better you will know the steps to overcome it. Here’s a subsequent series of actions:

  • Learn to be alone with yourself. Solitude isn’t loneliness; understand the difference.
  • Learn to enjoy your own company and develop activities – reading, painting, gardening, knitting, stamp collecting, cooking – that foster this.
  • Reinforce your current relationships. Skype, e-mail, phone, text if they are long-distance. Make plans to get together and put the date on your calendar.
  • Get involved in new activities. Join groups that align with your current interests or develop new ones. Volunteer for causes close to your heart. Helping others makes you feel useful and good.
  • Stay engaged. Keep up with current events, online communities of interest, publications that intrigue you, political and social trends. You’ll have something to talk about as an informed person.
  • Reach out to new relationships. Ms. L.B. has long recommended that a big step in diminishing loneliness is to find someone alone in a group, approach that person, say hello and listen. Don’t expect people to come to you. Be proactive. Arrange informal outings. Don’t come on too strong, but don’t be reticent, either. Give other people the opportunity to express their opinions, even if they disagree with yours.
  • Stay upbeat and positive. Don’t unburden yourself of your problems or negativity. Don’t wallow.
  • Remember that feelings of loneliness don’t last forever. This, too, shall pass.
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