For introverts, loneliness is not a need for people — it is a need for connection.
“I am lonely.”
Although everyone feels this emotion sometimes, openly admitting it can make us feel ashamed. In fact, society discourages us from talking about it, as it makes us feel as though something’s wrong with us. And, as a result, this can heighten our sense of isolation.
This past year was when loneliness hit me the hardest. Working from home, day after day, away from friends and family, was crippling. However, like many others, I couldn’t just say, “I am lonely — help me.” I’m an introvert, so I think people imagine that we’re content on our own, all the time, enjoying our solitude. The truth is, while we introverts do enjoy a certain amount of alone time, there comes a point when “alone” can become “lonely.”
However, I’ve found several ways to fend off loneliness as an introvert, and perhaps they will help you too.
How to Fend Off Loneliness as an Introvert
1. When it comes to spending time with people, go for quality over quantity.
When I have bouts of loneliness, I realize that I’m not craving small talk, but a deep, scintillating conversation with someone who “gets” and understands me.
Simply put, loneliness is not a need for people; it is a need for connection. Making small talk will not satisfy this need, and this is why we introverts focus on the quality of conversations over quantity.
If you are feeling a need to connect with others, consider joining groups or meetings where the common thread is a passion or hobby of yours. I am an avid reader, but sometimes I need to share my love of reading beyond my usual small friend circle. So I’ll reach out to my local community — via Facebook groups and word of mouth — and in no time, I’ll have a new book club. Connecting with strangers over a common passion is like a balm for my soul.
The number of people in it is small — four readers at the most — but this suits the introvert in me. I’m no longer staring at the walls by myself or chatting about the weather with the delivery person — I’m having deep, meaningful discussions about things that matter to me!
No matter what you like, sharing your passion with someone like-minded can help ease the loneliness. By their very nature, some hobbies — like writing, photography, and painting — attract other introverts, which makes it easier to bond.
2. Get a change of scenery.
The quiet space of your home can feel oppressive after a while, especially if you have to be indoors all day. Going out to cafés and coworking spaces helped me get a change of scenery. No matter where you go, the idea is to be around the hustle-and-bustle of everyday life. It was soothing for me, a shy introvert, especially since I was not being forced to interact with anyone and could just observe (which is what I do best!).
You can also go visit other places to self-soothe, depending on what you’re in the mood for. For me, anytime I get overly stressed, I find it comforting to visit nurseries, gardens, or parks. Being outdoors among nature helps calm my troubled mind.
In fact, even if you are stuck inside now due to cold weather, you can invest in growing green spaces around you. Research has shown that tending to plants, trees, grass, and flowers can have a healing impact on people and help with anxiety and depression. Plus, spending time with plants gives us a sense of connection to something greater than ourselves, which helps ease loneliness. In addition, getting fresh air will help you breathe through these difficult days.
Getting a change of scenery out of the house helps, but if you are unable to leave, consider moving to a new location inside your home. You can work or relax in a different room or move furniture around to keep your environment fresh.
3. Focus on people who make you smile.
As an introvert, I prefer a small, intimate circle of friends, and battling loneliness showed me how important it was to stay connected to them. I’m sure you can relate: These people cheer you up when you’re down and cheer for you when you can’t do it for yourself! It could be family, colleagues, or a small, select group of friends. They “get” you, love you unconditionally, and do not judge or shame you for being you.
One of the best things I did was to reach out to my inner circle for support. Communicating my dark thoughts was challenging, but I am so glad I did it. So tell your circle when you are struggling and need their support. Sharing can help you feel that you are not alone, whether it’s via text, on the phone/video chat, or in person.
4. Get a pet or borrow a friend’s.
I swear by this one: Pets are great stress busters. Studies show that adopting a pet can decrease your blood pressure, increase opportunities for socializing, and give us unconditional love and companionship.
Adopting a pet not only gave me someone to speak to, and share space with, it also changed my mental focus. I was no longer stressing about my troubles since I was now responsible for someone else.
While getting a pet is great for introverts, you should make sure to choose the right pet for your lifestyle and responsibilities. If you are not able to own a pet long-term, look at fostering animals from a rescue group or shelter — or volunteer to walk a friend’s dog (which is a pet + nature in one).
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5. Exercise, whether it’s taking a walk or going to a dance class.
Science has proven that exercise can have long-lasting effects on both physical and mental health. And one of the most effective ways to fight your lonely feelings is to enlist the help of a friend. Maybe join them for a long walk or a quick run around the block and hold each other accountable to do so a certain number of times per week.
This past year, I forced myself to go walk by myself for 30 minutes a day. Getting out of the house helped me feel better by taking me out of my head.
Another thing you can do is group classes for activities you have always wanted to try. I started doing yoga at my community center. As a shy introvert, I find it difficult to start conversations with strangers. But being among others in the class helped make me feel like a part of something bigger.
6. Actively engage with others.
Often, we think we are engaging with others, yet it’s passive engagement — sending emails or commenting on or liking their social media posts.
Yet social connection is the best antidote to loneliness, but it must be through active engagement, like calling someone or meeting for coffee.
When I was feeling lonely, I actively engaged with new people by sending out feelers in my neighborhood’s online group for a sport I enjoy, badminton. Catching up with new acquaintances over a game has now become a weekly fixture in my life.
As an introvert, I hate small talk — so the game prevented that and became a lifesaver. I could speak to people without too much awkwardness (when in doubt, we would discuss game strategies!). Over time, it has resulted in new friends, and at the same time, pushed me to exercise more (which also helped, see point #5).
If you have to be indoors, try online communities (like Introvert, Dear’s Facebook group). Join a film club or virtual coworking space. The good thing about online meetings like these is you get to decide how much time you want to put in. This can be a fun way to meet new people and share ideas.
Another way to engage actively is to volunteer via digital platforms. Here, you can offer your time and skills and be part of a cause, which can boost your sense of social connection and purpose.
7. Reach out and ask for help.
Sometimes, no matter what we do, our sense of isolation is unbearable. When this is the case, it is important to reach out and ask for help. Yes, it’s hard for some of us introverts to ask for help, but sometimes we must!
If you choose to see a therapist, luckily, it does not have to be in person — these days, you can speak to a professional in many ways. BetterHelp is one example of an online therapy platform where you can get help via calls, video meetings, chats, or email.
An outside source can help you understand why you are feeling lonely and isolated, and help you identify triggers so you can address the issues at a deeper level.
Introverts, what tips would you add to the list? Feel free to share them in the comments below.
You might like:
- Why Being Lonely as an Introvert Looks Different
- Even Introverts Get Lonely. Here’s How to Deal With It.
- I’m Not Lonely, I Just Like Being Alone: Life as a Single Introvert
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