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Some think that loneliness is a problem confined to the elderly, but studies have found that high school and college students are often the loneliest.
...Many people think they're lonely when, in reality, they simply haven't learned how to have fun by themselves.
...A solitary trip to the museum can also be enjoyable, and you have the advantage of spending all the time you like at your favorite exhibits.
By Tim Arends
According to a New York psychotherapist, "Loneliness is a leading social problem of our times. And when people make no attempt to overcome it, the consequences are often stagnation, doing nothing, anxiety and depression."
Unfortunately, there are a number of misconceptions floating around about loneliness and how to overcome it.
Overcoming loneliness takes action, but the right kind of action. Many people think that the key to overcoming loneliness is through alcohol. Think of the problems that drunkenness cause our society. Look at the number of parties in which alcohol flows freely and heavily. In many cases, this is a sign that people are trying to drown their own loneliness.
Outsiders often look at frat parties and similar types of events in which booze is a major feature and feel left out of the fun. But quite often alcohol use masks a deep inner feeling of loneliness. After all, if someone felt so self confident and outgoing and popular, why would they need alcohol?
Others think that loneliness is a problem confined to the elderly, but studies have found that high school and college students are often the loneliest. Shyness often plays a role. Also, young people have to make the transition from youth to adulthood, and the replacing of companionship from family to outside friends is not always easy. Plus, being thrown into a new situation like college can be a major cause of loneliness.
Fortunately there is a simple five step plan that can help you beat loneliness.
1. Try to understand what is causing your loneliness. Is it shyness? Perhaps you have unrealistic expectations. Do you get out often enough in order to meet people in the first place? Or perhaps there are even things you're doing to drive people away from you.
Stepping back and examining your life can help you pinpoint the cause of your loneliness. You may find that while people are important to you, you haven't been taking enough time to cultivate friendships.
2. Stop thinking of your life in terms of loneliness and start thinking of it in terms of solitude. Loneliness has a negative connotation, while solitude is positive. Henry David Thoreau, the famous author, actively sought out solitude and it helped him focus his thoughts and become a great writer.
Solitude can be a force for good. No one should be around others all the time. Focus on your solitude and use it to bring you positive benefits.
3. Learn to enjoy your own company. Many people think they're lonely when, in reality, they simply haven't learned how to have fun by themselves.
Don't be afraid to go to a restaurant by yourself. A solitary trip to the museum can also be enjoyable, and you have the advantage of spending all the time you like at your favorite exhibits. Or you could join a tour group and make conversation with your nearest neighbor. Suddenly, you don't feel or seem lonely anymore.
Reading is a wonderful solitary pleasure. Reading, much more so than movies, was designed to be a solitary occupation. It is difficult for two people to read the same thing at the same time. Curl up with a good book and discover the true joys of solitude.
4. Start building up a support network. Find people you can call on from time to time, whether they be relatives, coworkers, fellow club members or associates. Call those whom you haven't seen in a long time and invite them to lunch. Keep gradually building a circle of friends and acquaintances you can call on to help you feel less lonely.
5. Understand that activity, not people, is a key to beating loneliness. So said Danilo Ponce, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Hawaii who interviewed 3000 people over 16 years. His conclusion is that non lonely people are busy people.
"There's a general misconception that when loneliness is a problem, you need the company of others. But that's not necessarily so," he said. When asked how they avoid loneliness, almost all the people he interviewed said that they "find something to do."
The real problem with lonely people, he found, is that they're bored. Quite often they know as many people as non-lonely people, but they don't keep as active.
So to beat loneliness, get involved in activities you enjoy. Don't even worry about whether you will meet new people. Push yourself and get started. It will take effort, but it will be worth it.
Tim Arends for over ten years has maintained the Internet Shyness FAQ, now at http://www.shyFAQ.com. Visitors to his site can obtain a FREE copy of his ebook, How To Remember People’s Names; The Master Key to Success and Popularity. Tim also offers his complete overcoming shyness system at http://www.shyfacts.com. This article may be republished in any website or newsletter, provided this message is included.