What if your whole life you thought you were an introvert and then in your late 30s you discovered you are actually an extrovert who is just terrible at socializing? That’s what happened to me in the last year, through a combination of being dumped and then going to therapy. Now I live by myself most of the time and my primary activity is thinking about how much I don’t like that.
I have, however, learned a little bit about what works and what does not work when it comes to dealing with loneliness, so I thought I would pass along some helpful tips for other lonely people.
1. Eat out at restaurants more.
Have you ever tried to cook a nice meal for just yourself? It doesn’t work. The portions in every recipe are meant for at least two people. Why do restaurants do this? I’ll tell you why: it’s because not having anyone to share that extra portion with will make you sad, and then you will try to eat your sadness away, and now the food industry has just sold you twice as much food as was reasonable for you to eat and they totally got away with it because you ate the evidence. Eating alone in a restaurant might feel a little awkward at first, but every now and then you will forget that your server is being nice to you out of professional obligation and it will be just like you’ve made a new friend.
2. Don’t listen to sad songs.
You’re going to want to. They will call to you like a… well, like a siren song. (Not a great analogy.) “Oh hey,” you will think to yourself, “I like to listen to other people sing about having the same sad feelings I have. It makes me feel like maybe my own problems aren’t so unique after all and there are other people out there in similar situations.” NO. Sad songs will make you feel sad. Listen to happy music instead and force yourself to grin all the way through it even if it kills you.
3. Get pets.
Cats, dogs, ferrets, hamsters, it doesn’t matter. GET PETS. Talk to the pets. Feed the pets. Pet the pets. Pay so much attention to them that they start to get a little creeped out. What are they going to do, leave you for being too clingy? THEY HAVE NOWHERE TO GO.
4. Don’t keep everyone at arm’s length just because you’re afraid that if you form any meaningful bonds with someone then that person will ultimately let you down or, even worse, feel let down by you.
It turns out that’s actually pretty counterproductive.
5. Temper your expectations when you do go out to socialize.
If you’ve gotten to the point where you’re so lonely that you’re reading a list of tips on how to deal with loneliness, you are probably at least a little bit socially awkward. It’s OK. You’re not going to hit a home run every time you step up to the plate. Did I do that sports analogy right?
6. Get into sports.
Don’t worry; I’m not talking about playing sports. Just learn enough to be able to intelligently talk about them to other people. I’ve learned that many people like sports, and thus not knowing anything about sports is a considerable social hindrance. For instance: you may make a baseball analogy and then be so focused on whether or not it made any sense that you fail to pick up someone else’s social cues, like that they walked away from the conversation 10 minutes ago.
7. Don’t drink by yourself.
I can’t stress this enough. I’ve exhaustively researched every instance of when a person drinking alone has led to something good and worthwhile, and here’s the tally: IT HAS LITERALLY NEVER HAPPENED. Here’s what WILL happen: it will make you sadder, every single time.
8. Go to the movies alone.
Like dining alone, it might feel a little awkward at first. But soon enough, you will be so annoyed by all the people around you who are loudly chewing their food, texting on their phones, talking back to the movie, kicking the back of your seat, and engaging in other similarly churlish behavior that you will be overjoyed to return to the solitude of your own home.
9. Probably don’t use the word “churlish” in conversation.
People will think you’re a real dweeb.
10. Call me.
I probably don’t have anything going on.