Doing Life Together

lonelyWhen you want to be socially engaged and yet are finding it difficult to do so, you can feel lonely. And when you feel lonely, you tend to isolate and interpret peoples’ actions as negative towards you. The brain actually goes negative and believes it needs to guard you against social threats.

The key to combatting loneliness is to do what Drs. John and Stephanie Cacioppo, psychologists at the University of Chicago, suggest based on their loneliness research. They tell us to retrain the brain using a technique called social cognitive retraining. They developed an acronym to help us learn how to do this. It is called EASE:

Extend Yourself: You are lonely and don’t feel like pushing yourself to go out but do it anyway. Invited to that party? Accept the invitation and go! Asked to participate in the food drive, do it. No matter how negative you feel about actually putting yourself out there, do it!

Action Plan: Develop one rather than sit there and feel bad about being lonely. If people are not coming to you, go to them. But you need a plan of action.

Share good times: Your plan involves finding people with similar values, interests and beliefs to share with socially.For example, find a church group or hobby. If you like to cook, take cooking classes. Want to teach in your church, talk to leadership about a role you could play.

Expect the best: Change the negative thinking from, “I don’t know if they really want to be with me” to “I’m glad we had a chance to be together.” Make the glass half full vs. half empty. Stop looking for reasons why people may not want to be with you (this is your brain guarding you against perceived threats) and shift your thinking (retrain the brain) to positive expectations.

Changing your behavior and your thinking changes the feeling of loneliness. Sitting back, feeling sorry for yourself, canceling plans because you aren’t sure of self or others, will keep your feeling lonely. Retrain the brain by pushing yourself to engage and think positive. You can do this!

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