How to Work Through Feelings of Social Isolation

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Feeling socially isolated can be just as devastating as experiencing physical pain. With social isolation comes negative critical thoughts and a tendency to focus inward. Beat these feelings by focusing outward and refusing to listen to that negative voice inside your head.

Avoid Critical Thoughts

Over time, social isolation can lead to negative, self-critical thoughts -- the critical inner voice -- as noted in the article "Isolation and Loneliness" on PsychAlive, an online psychology resource created by the Glendon Association. This internal enemy can cause you to increasingly become more isolated. If you feel that you are unlikeable or awkward, you may behave in ways that drive others away. Refuse to listen to your critical inner voice. While at first this might feel uncomfortable, over time that voice should become quieter. Realize that this voice is not rational, but rather self-destructive and self-limiting. If you normally are too afraid to ask to join your coworkers for lunchtime, quiet the voices and take a plunge.

Avoid Seclusion

Just as spending time alone can multiply negative critical thoughts, spending time with others can help to reduce them, notes the PsychAlive article. Ideally, being with others who value and care about you will have the greatest impact on reducing feelings of social isolation. Call your mother, brother, aunt, neighbor -- anyone who has ever shown an appreciation for who you are -- and ask to meet for coffee or have lunch. If you don't feel like you have anyone in your life to whom you can reach out, spend some time in public around others. At the very least, being in a crowd may make it harder to feel alone and less likely that you will spiral downward into a pit of self-pity and loneliness.

Get Some Exercise

Spending time with others generates a positive mood. However, if you don't have the option of being with others, getting some exercise can have the same effect on lifting your spirits, as noted in the American Psychological Association article "The Pain of Social Rejection." Go out for a walk around the block, spend some time at your local YMCA/YWCA or do some yoga in your pajamas at home. After a bit of exercise, you may even feel that your mood has lifted enough to reach out to others and make plans to get together in the future.

Be Thoughtful

Given that feeling socially isolated can leave you focused on yourself and wallowing in self-pity, one of the best antidotes to your feelings is to start thinking more about others, as noted in the American Psychological Association article "Friends Wanted." Smile at strangers, be the bearer of good news, volunteer to help those less fortunate -- in general, be generous toward others with your time and goodwill. Gradually, you may find that your feelings of social isolation lift, both because you are less focused on yourself, and because you have given yourself opportunities to connect with others in your life.