Loneliness is a difficult emotion that can be challenging to overcome. It exists for various reasons. You may be living in isolation, such as working from home or traveling frequently for business. This type of loneliness can often be abated by joining social clubs, traveling with groups and connecting with co-workers more frequently.
Besides the physical circumstances that give rise to loneliness, there are sometimes unexpected life events that can trigger the onset of loneliness. Struggling with the loss of a loved one, divorce or relocation can make us all feel lonely. In these situations, it can be difficult to adapt to change when our old connections have been unexpectedly disrupted.
Beginning to understand your own need for human connection and how being around others addresses those needs can help. You can stave off loneliness by doing things you love and surrounding yourself with like-minded people. A yoga studio is a great way to meet new friends and build a community, much like that of a church or a volunteer group. Google Circles and Meetups are ways to connect with people as well.
For others, it may not be that easy. We may be in a crowd of people, even be the life of the party, but still lack a feeling of authentic connection and sense of belonging. If this resonates with you, begin exploring yoga in the areas of breath work, pranayama and guided meditation. Yoga nidra is especially helpful for soothing and comforting the body. Connecting with nature, writing in a journal and confiding in a friend can also make a difference. (Learn more in Why do we journal our thoughts that arise during meditation?)
The most difficult types of loneliness arise when we lack a deeper sense of connection to our inner self. Oftentimes, those of us who may be struggling with trauma, mental illness or drug addiction seek to disconnect as a coping mechanism. This emotional isolation can lead to relapsing into addictive behavioral patterns.
Yoga offers us hope. In yoga, we practice svadhyaya, which is a Sanskrit word meaning "self-study." It takes time and work, and sometimes the support of a counselor. In the long run, it helps by identifying when the onset of loneliness arises, what situations magnify those sensations and what memories trigger it. Becoming aware of those triggers will help us begin to manage our reactions. The physical practice of asana can move energetic and emotional blockages through the body. By connecting our movements with our breath and staying focused on the present moment, we can cultivate the skill of mindfulness and self-awareness. (Read more in Svadhyaya: A Lifetime of Self-Study.)
Finally, blaming others for your own unmet desires will seldom address the heart of the issue of loneliness. Being in service to others, on the other hand, by tapping into your innate gifts can help get you out of the isolation of the ego and connect you with something larger than yourself. This practice is called seva.
Yoga is powerful and can help in many ways, but is not a cure-all. If loneliness is ever too much, please seek assistance from a medical expert.