Recently, I was asked to share some thoughts about loneliness. I thought it was interesting to be asked about the topic. It’s funny to think about myself as an authority on loneliness. I am a people person. My energy tanks get filled by being around people. But I do know loneliness. I know the isolating thoughts of being alone in a room full of people.

In a time when everyone is on social media, loneliness can be excruciating. Moms and Dads, this article made me think about you and how you are  trying to help your kids and teens navigate in such a connected world. We are spending February talking about loneliness.  We need to  look at how we are really doing and how our kids are doing.  It’s important to take a close look at our feelings of belonging and loneliness because of their impact on our mental wellness.

Scrolling through social media brings about a mixed bag. I love seeing pictures of my friends and family. But I also recognize that for some, and even for me, from time to time, I can begin to feel less encouraged by what’s in my feed. When we compare our lives and photos with what we see, we can feel less than others. That comparison is not good for your mental wellness or mine. What comparison can lead to is deep feelings of isolation. And isolation is what compounds our feelings of loneliness.. 

There is a difference between being alone and being lonely.  It’s ok to have time alone to decompress, sit in silence, to rest. Being alone isn’t a bad thing. Knowing there is a difference between loneliness and being alone is the first step in staying emotionally well. There are three kinds of loneliness I want to talk about with you. 

Spiritual Loneliness

The root of spiritual loneliness lies in a distorted sense of identity. There are so many voices  distracting us from who God says we are. We are not created to be in isolation. I am a Jesus guy, and I do my best to live the way He lived. Yes, Jesus did take time to be alone. He spent time with his Father when He needed to. And He was surrounded by people. He chose that. He modeled that for us. We are created for community and connection. And we need to remember that isolation is the enemy. By living in isolation, we quiet the voices of our family and friends that remind us of Who we belong to. We need others to point us back to who God says we are and to remind us of who He has called us to be. By being in community with others, we can combat spiritual loneliness.

Emotional Loneliness

When I start to believe the lie that I am all alone or I begin to feel the darkness of loneliness creep in, I grab my phone. Waiting for others to reach out to me when I feel lonely is not the best decision. My friends and family can’t possibly know how I feel unless I share that information. It’s not easy, but being proactive is how I battle. Remember, feeling lonely is a reflection of isolation. We need to take a step and reach out to someone. Building a circle of friends takes time and energy. Join a small group, find a class to take, or join a book club. When you find something you enjoy, you will find people to connect with in those activities. 

Social Loneliness

The way to battle social loneliness is to find something you love to do alongside others. Take a step if you feel yourself pulling away from others or feel like you are not connecting with anyone. When I feel disconnected from people, I find something to do. What I have found to be the best combatant to social loneliness is to do something for someone you know and help someone else along the way. I start with my local church. There are so many opportunities inside and outside the walls of church buildings to serve others. If that isn’t where you want to start, try a local food bank or shelter. Decide to be proactive about breaking the cycle you find yourself in, do a little research, and you will find what you are looking for.

Loneliness is a byproduct of isolation. When we withdraw from our friends, our communities, and our relationships, we are left with our thoughts. The movie that repeatedly plays in our heads is never a highlight reel. It’s always a story of negativity, fear, and the like. I believe it is where the inability to have respectful disagreements, cancel culture, and the lack of basic skill development to have conversations with others is born. When we fall into the trap of believing, “I am better alone,” we suffer, and so does our society.

Loneliness is a mental health issue that impacts how young folks conduct themselves in job interviews and jobs. It affects their success in school. And it weighs heavily on the outcomes of their relationships. The outside world can feel harsh and threatening if kids retreat and fail to learn coping skills starting at a very young age.  So what about your kids? What are some things you can look for to see if they are battling feeling lonely?

  • Do you see changes in their sleep patterns/sleeping more or less than usual?)
  • Do you see their interest drop in activities they previously enjoyed?
  • Have you noticed a general lack of apathy?
  • Do you notice signs of ongoing fatigue?
  • Has the dialogue with their friend decreased?
  • Have you noticed a loss of appetite?

Kids get the blues. Kids can have off days. Kids can seem unhappy just like adults can. If you see your child struggling, check in with them. Spend time with them. They may pull away, but you go with them. Be aware of how much they isolate. Give them the needed space, but don’t let them disengage entirely. The real key to this is to spend time with them regularly so that when you have concerns, the rhythm of your relationship is to spend time together. Don’t wait until things start going south to spend time with your kids. Commit to spending time with your kids in their highs so that you can be there in their lows.  Listen to your kids. If they pull away, you go with them.

I believe that we can fight the epidemic of loneliness together. Click below to find tools that have helped me battle. I believe they will be good for you and for your family. We want to be here for you. You are not alone. And we have so much to learn together.