All people feel lonely occasionally, and this feeling is unique to every individual as it is personal. So when you have a friend who feels lonely, you tend to get confused about the right thing to do to help. This guide will help you understand loneliness and what to do to support a friend in this circumstance.

The Link of Loneliness to Depression

Loneliness is the feeling of isolation from the social connection. People tend to feel sad when alone, but being alone and feeling lonely is not always alike. Someone could feel happiness and contentment alone, while others could still feel lonely during a family reunion. When you don’t feel like being understood or cared for by the people around you, you might still feel lonely even your not alone. 

Even though loneliness is not a mental health issue itself, it negatively impacts mental health. And according to research, it is associated with the development of mental problems like depression. Even though not all people who experience loneliness will eventually develop depression, when the feeling of loneliness is unsettled, it could lead to other mental issues. 

What To Do?

A friend could play a vital role when it comes to helping people who are suffering from loneliness. Helping doesn’t require you to do a lot of things just to cheer up someone. Even small gestures and the right understanding of what things to do and not to are already enough to comfort a sad person. 

Acknowledge Their Feelings

Many people who want to help tend to talk more than listen. It’s because they thought that offering advice and inspirational quotes would help their friends relieve distress. However, most people who are sad simply want to know that you acknowledge their feelings and are not alone. Being a good listener makes the lonely person feel like they are being valued, and that’s the goal – to make them feel valued and boost their self-esteem.

According to research, Loneliness is linked to self-esteem and how lonely individuals rate themselves as having a poorer social than other people. That’s why recognizing someone’s feelings is essential. Because it not just shows your concern but also helps the lonely individual positively evaluate his/her self-worth. 

Small Gestures Could Help

A simple invitation for a walk or dinner, or giving the lonely friend his favorite chips are some of the small gestures that could actually help. This only shows that you are concerned and want to do something, even if it’s small to help the friend. However, keep in mind to be sincere and approach without making the lonely individual feel pitied. 

Also, there are times when lonely people just want to be silent. It’s OK not to talk about things just to prove you recognize their distress. Simply being by his side in times like this can actually help him feel that he’s not alone. Showing physical affection is helpful; just know how much physical affection is needed. 

Stop Minimizing Their Pain To Cheer Up

Most people are unsure of what to say to help those who suffer loneliness, that we start minimizing the problem to make it sound less painful. However, attempting to cheer up someone with this method may make you insensitive, insincere, and superficial in the person’s perspective. The problem might not be a big deal for you, but for your friend, it is. 

As the study shows, people who have low self-esteem are less open to reframing their experiences positively. In that case, it’s better to show more sympathy than cheering them up. Encouragement will be more useful to people who have high self-esteem.

Things Not To Say

It’s easy for someone to give encouragement and pieces of advice to someone who’s lonely. But it may not be easy for the sufferer just to accept all of that and moved on. Below are some of the things not to say to a lonely person:

  • “Just go out and meet people!”
  • “Have more confidence!”
  • “Why don’t you join some meet-up group or do thins you love?”
  • “You just think that you’re alone, but you aren’t.”

Reference: 

“About loneliness” Mind.org.uk, July 2019 https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/loneliness/about-loneliness/

McKay, Brett. “How to Comfort Someone Who’s Sad/Crying | The Art of Manliness” The Art of Manliness 9 May 2016 https://www.artofmanliness.com/articles/how-to-comfort-someone-whos-sadcrying/

Bednar ’00, Kiley L., “Loneliness and Self-Esteem at Different Levels of the Self” (2000). Honors Projects. Paper 20. http://digitalcommons.iwu.edu/psych_honproj/20

Flaxington, Beverly D.,“The Least Useful Thing to Say to Someone Who’s Down” Psychology Today, 29 Sept. 2015, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/understand-other-people/201509/the-least-useful-thing-say-someone-whos-down

Khan, Asif, “4 Things You Should Never Say To Someone Suffering From Loneliness” Thought Catalog, 10 January 2017 https://thoughtcatalog.com/asif-ahsan-khan/2017/01/4-things-you-should-never-say-to-someone-suffering-from-loneliness/Shannon, Ashley, “Things You Should Never Tell a Lonely Person – P.S. I Love You” Medium, 29 Aug 2019 https://psiloveyou.xyz/things-you-should-never-tell-a-lonely-person-93d0d3680fa8