By psychologist Jane Dodding
We all feel lonely at times. Sometimes, we can even feel lonely surrounded by people.
The best thing you can do when loneliness strikes is to acknowledge it, and then be kind to yourself by shifting your thoughts. Dwelling on loneliness helps no one and solves nothing.
Easier said than done? Perhaps - especially around Christmas time when we think the rest of the world is ecstatically happy (that's a myth by the way).
If you're prone to loneliness, here are some ideas that might help...
Make the most of your alone time
There is a difference between loneliness and solitude. Loneliness is when you are unhappy to be alone. Solitude is when you are happy to be alone. Alone time can be enjoyable and useful. Take advantage of this time, it’s an opportunity to think about, plan and do things that you want to do. Enjoy it.
Loneliness is a feeling, not a fact
Loneliness is how you feel, so get to know and understand what thoughts trigger this emotion. Write them down and look for alternative perspectives.
Have realistic expectations, as loneliness is often a mismatch between your ideal and what you actually have at that time.
You are where you are right now. Accept it for what it is, make the most of it and don’t struggle thinking about how you think it "should" be.
Make a plan
If you know you feel lonely in particular circumstances, make a plan of what you are going to do to look after yourself when it happens. If you're working away and missing a special event, that might include planning a holiday later in the year or nice dinner together when you're reunited with your family - this can help to keep loneliness at bay.
What can you do to take your mind off feeling lonely? Do something that you can immerse yourself in. Watch your favourite TV show or movie. Buy yourself a favourite treat to eat. Avoid drinking alcohol though, as it's a depressant and can actually have the opposite effect and leave you feeling more lonely.
Others might be feeling lonely too, so suggest activities you can do together.
Focus on others
Helping other people can help us to feel better. Think about how can you help others less fortunate than you.
We offer a free email Q&A service with our psychologists, so just click here to ask a question about relationships, parenting or your career. Please allow one week for a personal email response. Please also note that Q&As may be published on the Mining Family Matters website to help other families coping with similar challenges, however all names, locations and identifying information will be removed to ensure your anonymity.
Mining Family Matters aims to break down the barriers of isolation and the stresses of living away from family and friends. Although this website provides general advice from a psychologist and practical tips from mining families, the content should never be regarded as a substitute for professional health services or crisis services. Always speak to your doctor or specialist provider for advice on a specific medical condition. If you are depressed and require urgent assistance, call 9-1-1 or visit the Canadian Mental Health Association website at www.cmha.ca.
Jane Dodding is a highly experienced psychologist based in South Australia. www.mindsplus.com.au.