What is loneliness?
Loneliness is a subjective feeling that arises when the social situations and relationships in our lives do not conform to our expectations. That feeling is described as subjective because it is not necessarily associated with actually being alone.
Those who feel lonely often feel like they are not recognized, understood, respected, and needed. Behind loneliness, there is often a lack of self-esteem. Many studies have shown that millions of Germans feel lonely, regardless of their age, gender, and social background.
Loneliness does not always have to be negative. Learning the ability to be alone and looking forward to those days is not easy. In this article, you will learn how to obtain the ability to be alone.
What leads to loneliness?
Commonly, there is not one single reason for a feeling of loneliness. There can be a range of different factors that lead to feeling lonely. Here are a few examples:
- Low-quality social connections e.g., loss of friendships, loss of contact within the family
- Bad experiences e.g., big disappointments, bullying, violation through others
- Societal circumstances e.g., economic crisis, war
- Critical life stages e.g., breakups, disease
Feeling lonely after a breakup
Regardless of whether you and your partner have broken up in agreement, your partner has broken up with you or you with them, whether you are happy or unhappy about the breakup, one fact remains: Separation means change. A joint everyday life with mutual friends, hobbies, and possibly a shared home vanishes.
It is completely normal to feel lonely during this huge change. You have to arrive in your own new everyday life first and learn how to exist without your partner to not feel lonely anymore. This moment can also present a big chance for you.
Take your time to deal with your inner self and ask yourself questions that oftentimes fade into the background:
- What makes you happy?
- What are my strengths and weaknesses?
- What do I want to work on within myself?
- What are my goals?
- What do I want to learn?
By answering these questions, you learn to get to know yourself as a new single and also explore how you want to use your time in the future.
In our article “Loneliness after a break-up: What to do?”, you can learn more about this topic.
Lonely despite partner
You should not feel bad about feeling lonely despite being in a relationship or a marriage. The feeling of loneliness has many faces and facets and can appear independently of your people’s behavior.
It is an interesting phenomenon that feelings of loneliness do not occur rarely, but even when one is in social interaction with others. That is because loneliness is an emotion that comes from within. It is important that this kind of loneliness is differentiated from loneliness stemming from social isolation that is driven by external factors.
The most important step is that you recognize your loneliness and work on it. So don’t worry, you already made the most difficult step and can look forward from now on. There are many different ways to escape loneliness.
Lonely despite family and friends
Loneliness is a feeling that is driven from within. That means that it is completely normal to feel lonely despite having friends and a loving family.
The first and most important step is that you do not feel bad for feeling this emotion. It is important for humans to be having interpersonal relationships and if that is not the case, social isolation reduces our quality of life. But loneliness – not to be confused with social isolation – can be worked on from within.
Even if the first impulse for overcoming loneliness is to look for social contact with others, it is important that you deal with yourself. Only in this way, you can find out why you feel lonely and alone without – or even with – social contact.
Lonely in various situations
Loneliness is a growing topic in Germany. Out of 41 million households in Germany, 17 million are single households. So, you are definitely not the only one with feelings of loneliness. It is a feeling with many different faces and facets that is influenced by external factors but is strongly driven from within.
The good news is that emotions and feelings that come from within and are guided by intrinsic motivations are easy for you to work on. The most difficult step is admitting to yourself that you need to work on your loneliness to improve your quality of life – You have already done that! You have to learn to be alone and be comfortable with that – there are multiple ways you can learn that.
Lonely without friends
You feel lonely and would like to be more socially integrated? It is incredibly strong that you can admit that to yourself. Humans have a strong need for closeness and connectedness, so it is completely understandable that you long for it in your everyday life.
It is important that you deal with the causes of your loneliness although that process might be painful. That means that you might have to go into new social situations to get to know more people. But it can also mean that you have to deal with yourself at the same time because being alone does not automatically mean being lonely.
Lonely at school / at university
Dear Likeminded team,
half a year ago, I started my studies in Berlin. But I actually am from a small town in Bavaria. I often felt lonely at school and always hoped that this feeling would go away with the new start in my studies. But now I still feel lonely like before. I do have a few new friends in my studies, but I am struggling to open up to other people. What should I do?
*The name of this user was changed for their privacy.
thank you for your email and your openness. Oftentimes, we connect new situations and places with hope but forget that we still remain the same person in that new situation. It is great that you want to explore yourself in the context of meeting other people and establishing social contacts.
It is a great idea that you want to work on your feeling of loneliness with different approaches. Explore yourself and your self-esteem, your social abilities, and your ability to be alone. Being alone does not necessarily mean being lonely. When you find calm within yourself and can appreciate yourself, not only your appearance, charisma, and social abilities will be improved, but you can also be alone easily without feeling lonely.
Good luck and all the best for your studies,
Your Likeminded team
Lonely in old(er) age
At the age of 20-30, you might have felt lonely only occasionally – there was always something going on and you were always on the go – with only barely a pause to breathe. The older you get, the more often the feeling of loneliness creeps in. The daily schedule becomes calmer during old age, most friends live in partnerships and with friends and the spontaneity is reduced compared to one’s twenties.
From the twenties, one primarily knows the emotion of passing loneliness, which was an emotion of short duration and one that you detached yourself from quickly. But from the thirties on, loneliness, as a reaction to certain events (e.g., divorce or breakup), comes more often. Loneliness, as an emotion driven from within, is good to work with and to reduce in experience.
It is not only important to work on social abilities to get to know more people, but also to address self-worth, self-love, and mindfulness so that being alone is not automatically equated with being lonely.
Exceptional situations in life in which loneliness plays a big role
There are special situations in life that not only catapult you out of your everyday life completely, but that make you feel so lonely, that it physically hurts. This kind of loneliness is mostly situational.
Situational loneliness is a reaction to particular events, such as a divorce, a breakup, the loss of a close person, or a depressive phase. The days are long and one gets the feeling that time just does not pass.
Give yourself some time first until you have understood and begun to process the situation, that has destabilized you like that. It is important that you always remind yourself that you are able to overcome this exceptional situation and this loneliness. Here, it is also very important to talk to people in similar situations.
What to do when you are lonely?
Tools against loneliness
There are many things one can do to overcome loneliness. Most of them need us to become active. Becoming active may take strength and a little courage at first, but it usually pays off quickly.
Here we have collected some tips that can help against loneliness:
- Structure your day through a fixed routine. Even if you only stay within your own four walls. Set your alarm for the same time and plan your days the same way as you would do in your normal everyday life!
- Make plans with your friends and family for set times to stay in contact regularly. Skype, Zoom, or other digital solutions can be options.
- Take on a long overdue project. Did you always want to do yoga, learn a new language, or paint the walls in your hallway? Now is your time!
- Set yourself a new goal every day. Daily goals do not only increase your productivity but also give you a little feeling of success every night!
- Tire yourself out with some physical activity – go running or do a YouTube workout. Physical activity does not only release happiness hormones but also works wonders against cabin fever!
- Seeking help
If you are looking for further tips, have a look at our article 7 tips to overcome loneliness.
The exchange with like-minded people helps a lot when feeling lonely. There are a lot of large forums, in which you can exchange with others concerning a specific topic. Loneliness can have different causes; whether you find yourself in a new environment (e.g., new studies), having issues getting to know people in old age, or being stuck in a depressive episode.
In loneliness forums, you will find a lot of like-minded people. Maybe you have to try out a few different forums until you find the perfect exchange for you. Don’t give up!
If you don’t want to actively engage in an exchange with like-minded people or professionals yet, literature can already help you a lot in overcoming your loneliness. There is a lot of literature on loneliness and personality development. There is no right or wrong, there is literature that some people might find appealing, but others might not find helpful. Just start to browse a little.
Our 3 Likeminded recommendations:
- Stop Being Lonely (Kira Asatryan)
- The Child in You (Stefanie Stahl)
- Self-Compassion (Kristin Neff)
Professional help with psychological stress
There are different kinds of professional help to seek when you are experiencing psychological stress. Here, you can find information about the different options:
Generally, you can always approach your general practitioner when experiencing psychological stress: Not only can they give you an initial assessment of your symptoms and how you are feeling, but they can also prescribe a referral for outpatient psychotherapy.
Psychotherapy is the treatment of psychological disorders with the help of a psychotherapist. This treatment may be performed only by a person with a university degree in psychology or medicine. Psychotherapy can be provided in an outpatient or inpatient setting. You can find further information here:
In Germany, there are self-help groups concerning a range of complaints, emotions, issues, burdens, and topics. Talking about these topics openly and without judgment and sharing experiences can be an enormous relief in everyday life. You can find further information here:
Health care in Germany is of a very high standard. Nevertheless, it is unfortunately not so easy to get the necessary help for psychological stress immediately and one often has to reckon with long waiting times.
However, there are now digital solutions that can not only bridge the wait but are also a great alternative for milder issues. You can get self-help online through a variety of providers - through 1:1 coaching/therapy sessions, group sessions, or digital exercises. Here are a few examples:
Mental health solutions through your employer
Many companies have now established offerings to improve the mental health of their employees. For example, through an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) or a digital mental health platform like Likeminded.
If you don't know whether your company offers such a service, you can check the company intranet. Often you will find information in the areas of workplace health promotion or employee benefits. Alternatively, you can also ask your HR manager.