The winter months are coming and the weather will be colder and often drearier. We’ll be inside more and we may have fewer opportunities to interact or engage in some of our favorite pastimes. Even in NYC, a city of millions with lots of things to do at any hour of the day, there can be times when you feel lonely. And if you are new to the city, you might not know anyone yet. So what can you do to overcome or cope with those feelings of loneliness?
Reframe and rethink
Loneliness is not a matter of having people around; you can feel lonely when you’re alone or in a crowd. Or you can be perfectly happy alone or in a crowd. You can feel lonely when you come home to an empty house after being at work with people all day, or even after being out with a crowd of buddies. So the first thing to do is evaluate what is making you feel lonely.
Is it a lack of quality relationships? A close friend? A romantic partner? Are you more extroverted and need contact with friends daily, or will one or two interactions per week suffice to eliminate loneliness?
Acknowledge your feelings, try to define their source, and then you can begin to address and solve them. But look to yourself, as well. A change of thinking can go a long way to help you remain at peace while you’re seeking those relationships that can help you feel more fulfilled.
First, practice gratitude. Take time every day, or even every time you start to feel sad, and start listing things you’re grateful for. If that’s hard, start with the things you take for granted and it will lead to others. For example: “I’m thankful for my eyes. I’m thankful for my hands. I’m thankful that I learned how to sculpt with my hands and can see my work with my eyes and feel them. I’m thankful for the sense of touch, too.” Etc., etc. One thing leads to another, and soon you may find that your thoughts are more positive.
Watch what you let yourself watch. By this I mean evaluate what media you are consuming. Is it making you stressed out? Is it making you wish you had a life more like someone else’s? These are not positive, emotionally helpful influences, so work to eliminate them.
Instead, fill your quiet hours with light, sound, and creativity – keeping in mind that the music or art or whatever you choose should not, as stated above, create negative emotions.
Find your niche
What do you like to do? Is there a group you could do it with? It could be anything: walking, softball in Central Park, mahjong club, or art museum tours. Find a group and try to develop friendships with people who have similar interests.
Exercise is really important for mental and physical health. Join a gym, take a class, and be around those who are also committed to fitness.
If you like animals, get a pet or visit a shelter. Volunteer for an issue you care about, keeping in mind the need to maintain a positive outlook.
Besides exercise and positive self-talk, consider other helpful forms of self-care: get a massage, start journaling, or develop a solo hobby. When you are taking care of yourself you might not feel that alone.
Get fresh air, eat well, and keep a healthy sleep cycle. All these things improve the mood, which in turn can lessen feelings of loneliness as you find your people.
Understand the “winter blues” and seasonal affective disorder
Sometimes loneliness can be an aspect of the winter blues or the more serious condition known as SAD – seasonal affective disorder.
Someone with winter blues may become sad during the fall and winter months, have trouble sleeping, and lack motivation. Someone experiencing SAD has these symptoms on a much greater scale, leading to depression and less ability to function normally. There has been a lot of research in these areas, suggesting a connection between light and how it affects the brain. Another thing to consider is the decrease in vitamin D, which is produced when we are exposed to the sun. Insufficiency in vitamin D has been associated with depressed mood.
Applying the suggestions above can help people dealing with the winter blues, and it could be all you need to overcome those feelings and return to a state of inner peace. If you think your feelings are more severe and you may be dealing with SAD, these suggestions will certainly help, but you may find it very difficult to implement them because of your feelings.
Please reach out for help. Your medical doctor may be able to recommend light therapy or vitamin D supplements in a sufficient dosage. You may also feel the need to talk to a therapist to help you develop more positive thought patterns and behavioral patterns. Give me a call to see how I can help you. We can work together to develop concrete changes that can improve your state of mind.