By: Terry A Rifkin L.C.S.W.

Loneliness is different from being alone. Being alone is when you are by yourself, mostly taken in physical terms. But loneliness is a state of mind. It does not matter whether you are all alone in a deserted place or in a crowded place; loneliness can affect you not only in the first scenario but also in the second.

Loneliness is often caused by feelings of dissatisfaction, of your needs and wants not being answered. Although it is a fact of life that we cannot have everything, loneliness comes when a person is unable to deal with that fact. Even an extremely popular person can be extremely lonely because even his popularity or wealth cannot meet certain needs. Loneliness is also caused by differences. People have different ideas and opinions, but most are always looking for another person to understand them in every way possible. Sometimes, they expect people close to them, especially spouses, to understand them and share their thoughts, which is not always possible. This often leads to feelings of loneliness.

In overcoming loneliness, the most important thing is to be content and at peace with who you are. You have to accept and like yourself. It does not mean being arrogant and narcissistic. You just have to know your strengths and your weaknesses and know that weaknesses are natural. If you don’t like yourself because you are not good enough, it causes loneliness because it makes you feel that other people cannot like you too.

Contentment with oneself is also important because it won’t send you looking for people’s approval. If you don’t expect to be liked and accepted, but already like and accept yourself, you won’t feel lonely even if other people do not agree with you, share your opinion, or understand your idea. If you are alone and you are happy, it means you enjoy your own company because you are at peace with yourself. But if you don’t like yourself, you can’t bear to be alone because you don’t want to hear your thoughts, which make you lonely and craving for companionship from others.

This is exactly what you need to avoid in overcoming loneliness: Dependency on another person. You cannot control people, so putting your happiness into other people’s hands means putting it in a place you do not have control over. Most of the time, whether intentionally or unintentionally, the people who hold your happiness will fail you, and that will leave you feeling lonely because you feel like you can’t trust even the people you expected would make you happy.

In overcoming loneliness, it is also helpful to channel your energy into other things. Do not sit around and feel sorry for yourself while waiting for someone to help chase your loneliness away. Instead, be proactive. Help other people, do good deeds, volunteer for charity work. Look for opportunities to join groups. Although you don’t directly deal with your loneliness, seeing the difference and significance you can make on other people’s lives will help you in overcoming loneliness.

Terry is an author and highly sought out expert on eating disorders, depression and anxiety. She frequently speaks to special groups and businesses in the Southern California area and can be followed on her blog at this link.