What to Do When You’re Feeling Lonely

Jordan Casteel, Love, 2023. Oil on canvas, 72 x 56” / 182.88 x 142.24 cm Art: © Jordan Casteel/ Courtesy the artist and Casey Kaplan, New York. Photo: Jason Wyche

Recently, I went through perhaps the loneliest period of my life. I was in Croatia, visiting my grandmother, when a close relationship of mine suddenly ended. I was far away from my closest friends, and the profound isolation I felt drowned out any comforts or distractions I attempted. After about a week of withdrawing into my loneliness, I tried going on a run and felt my first modicum of relief — it was the only thing that brought me back to my body. I kept running, and after another week, I spent a weekend at a hostel, where I was forced to interact with new people. That Saturday night at a local karaoke bar, as I sang along to ex-Yugo classics and Blink-182 with the rest of the room, I felt actual joy. Once I felt a little more connected to the new people around me, I was better able to connect with friends back home to make plans once I had returned. I’m still not in the happiest or most social season of my life, but I have discovered more ways of dealing with these feelings.

There are all kinds of reasons someone might feel lonely. Especially in the winter, when cold weather keeps us indoors and away from each other, and short days bring on the seasonal blues. But if all the loneliness statistics tell us anything, it’s that we aren’t actually alone in our aloneness. So maybe we should compare notes. Here are 14 suggestions from the Cut staff for what to do when you’re feeling lonely.

1. Go Shopping

As vain as it sounds, one of my favorite solo activities is shopping. There is something I love about wandering alone through a cute neighborhood, popping in and out of stores, chitchatting with salespeople, and maybe indulging in a little treat that will make me happy at home alone: a candle, supersoft pajamas, a fancy snack. It feels vaguely empowering to make financial decisions for me and only me, like being by myself is a luxury as opposed to a less-than-ideal state. —Danielle Cohen, blogger

2. Call Your Mom

I do not do well with loneliness. To be honest, I’m just now learning how to enjoy being by myself. But when fits of extreme isolation tend to hit and a walk around my neighborhood won’t cure it, I always turn to calling my mom. There’s something about the fact that I know I can just show up and she’ll meet me where I’m at to ask about my day, what I’ve eaten, and what my weekly plans are that reminds me that I’m important to someone other than myself, and that alone helps. —Brooke LaMantia, shopping writer

3. Volunteer

This might sound preachy, but volunteering is a great way to combat loneliness. I’ve moved to a new city twice in my adult life, and both times recurring volunteer opportunities — like helping out at a soup kitchen in New York — were a godsend. It’s a good way to meet new, local people you share common values and interests with. Even if your love and social lives are completely stalled out, your volunteer gig is a reason to get up, get showered, get dressed, and get out of the house. —Rachel Bashein, managing editor

4. Start a Mini Book Club

I text a friend and ask them to read the same book I’m reading — usually one that can be finished in a day or two — and then we talk about the book. It’s the lowest bar of social interaction when I don’t feel like getting a coffee or lunch but just need to connect. —Emily Gould, features writer

5. FaceTime a Loved One

If there’s a day where everyone is busy and I have nothing to do, I’m a big advocate of a long, lingering walk. No workout gear, no plan, just pick an area you like and wander. Maybe even put on some sad music or something fun to get out of your feelings and out of your head. If that doesn’t give you a new perspective or at least make you feel grateful to be back at home and sitting down again, there’s also the very long phone call or FaceTime. I’m guilty of mostly communicating over text, so it’s always nice to have a long call with someone I’d usually send a quick text to. —Chinea Rodriguez, shopping writer

6. Browse a Bookstore

When I’m lonely, I go to Barnes & Noble on 18th Street. I take the escalators up to each floor and mill about every aisle of books. Sometimes I’ll sit and flip through these niche magazines. It feels cozy, and it’s both a place with a purpose and one built solely on vibes. It’s a nice third place where I don’t have to spend money, even though I always do. —Danya Issawi, fashion news writer

7. Talk to Strangers

When I find myself feeling lonely, or realize I haven’t spoken to anyone all day (except maybe a barista), I take myself out for dinner or even just an exploratory drink. Sit at the bar, talk to the people around you. New York is good for that. The other night when I felt hungry and a little low on human interaction, I took a nice walk downtown to a wine bar I like, and went for a table at the same time as a seemingly nice pair of guys, who suggested we all sit together (that way, they explained, we could order more food). I always say yes to these sorts of things. By the end of the meal, one of the guys was offering me a connection to a free Airbnb situation in Barcelona. Not only was I no longer lonely, I had my next vacation planned. —Sasha Mutchnik, senior social editor

8. Just Make Plans

I stave off the loneliness with all the standards of coziness: Rather than fight it, I try to lean in, changing into pajamas and lighting candles with tea or wine and turning on some comfort television. Once I’m a little more relaxed, the loneliness feels more deliberate, which I find soothing. I might text some friends and make dinner plans for future dates, to allow myself room to process the feelings of isolation while also having something to look forward to in the future. —Bindu Bansinath, staff writer

9. Dance It Out

I do one of two things whenever I feel loneliness creeping in. I either embrace it and just listen to a playlist called “Mitski Ranked in Order of Sadness” (I like how by the end of the playlist the songs are “happier” so it helps me get out of the funk) or I play my Culipandeo playlist, which includes all of the old-school reggaeton hits, and I just dance the loneliness away. I’ve noticed that music allows me to approach loneliness as something that will come and go. —Bianca Nieves, senior shopping editor

10. Have a Self-Care Night

I’m not someone who suffers from loneliness much, mostly because I enjoy being alone — which probably has a lot to do with my growing up in New York as an only child. When I’m by myself, I indulge in self-care, lighting my favorite Nest or Glasshouse candles, applying a face mask and eye mask because skin care always makes me feel good, and watching a movie that brings me joy. —Asia Milia Ware, fashion and beauty writer

11. Gossip With Your Friends

I recently moved across the country to a city where I don’t know a lot of people, so I have been no stranger to loneliness as of late. I would love to say I have some kind of Brené Brown–approved coping mechanism for when I feel lonely, but that is just not true. Instead, I turn to my group chats and see if anyone has any gossip. Nothing makes me feel more connected to my friends thousands of miles away than hearing about whatever petty work/roommate/romance drama they have going on. It’s like we’re all hanging out in person (almost). —Olivia Craighead, news writer

12. Go for a Walk

Listen, everyone talks about hot-girl walks, but I say we should all acknowledge the potential that sad-girl walks have for helping one “get over” (or rather, get through) loneliness. Sometimes the walk is silent. Sometimes I’m listening to Lana Del Rey when I want to just let myself feel overwhelmed; other times I’m listening to something distractingly upbeat. It doesn’t cure everything. It might even make you a little sweaty, which is something else I’d love to find a cure for, but literally propelling myself forward instead of sitting a bit too still is often the only way for me to ground myself, focus on what’s really bothering me, and remind myself that I am actually not the only person in the world and definitely not the only person who feels alone. —Brooke Marine, culture editor

13. Take Yourself Out

I achieve maximum comfort by going out to a public place by myself. My preferred space to be alone is a restaurant or bar, where my company is my current read and the conversations in the seats that surround me. Even though I’m by myself, blocking out the noise is what truly helps me hone in on my book, and the energy of people’s evenings reverberating around me consoles me and reminds me of the great times I’ve had with friends and loved ones in the past and that I’ll have again. —Maridelis Morales Rosado, photo editor

14. Meditate

I experience loneliness when I’m feeling trapped in my own thoughts, not necessarily when I’m deprived of human interaction. For that reason, I don’t feel the need to immediately schedule plans with friends or immerse myself in a social setting. What works for me is going on a nice long walk while listening to this wonderful 15-minute meditation. It helps me connect with my breath and the five senses (it’s especially effective during walks because there is so much to observe on the streets of New York City). The calming narration reminds me that I’m never truly alone, and I always feel more present, grounded, and in tune with the world around me when it’s complete. —Hanna Flanagan, shopping writer and editor

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What to Do When You’re Feeling Lonely