Far away from the safety of a trusted network of family and friends. The familiarity of your surroundings or the much needed shoulder to cry on, can feel very lonely at times. Expats take a huge step by leaving everything behind. Nothing prepares your for the emotional roller coaster that will hit you at one point of time. It might feel like one big adventure, but can be very lonely at times.

I have known loneliness as a child. We lived in a rural area, with few families and far in between. My little brother and I had just each other to entertain and that was hard at times. Times were I longed to have more friends to play with, to do the girlie things like go shopping or join a dance studio for ballroom lessons. We simply lived to far out for that kind of stuff. Even now I have moments were I can feel lonely, although I am surrounded by my family and friends.

The upcoming, early fall, can make us dread the coming winter months. With the leaves all ready dropping it feels rather omniums. I will share tips at the end of the blog, so that you can prepare and asses what you need. But before that I dive into the world of loneliness.

We humans crave connection

Connection is a universal human need. And where we all experience loneliness in life (it’s normal and part of our common human experience, a biological warning system, just like hunger, thirst and pain), it’s important that we listen to that painful, empty feeling of disconnection that we call loneliness and change our behaviour (seek out safety in numbers).

Loneliness vs being alone

Despite being how it is often defined, loneliness may have very little to do with being on one’s own (alone), or having few friends.

Loneliness is not social isolation, it is feeling socially isolated (alone in the crowd), which comes from lacking close connection to another person and/or to ourselves. When we then, on top of this, self-stigmatise and feel embarrassed about feeling lonely, it makes matters worse.

For an expat the lonely feeling can be emphasized due to all sorts of life events. If a close family member gets married, expecting a baby, or a death of a relative or friend in particular can be the main cause for feeling lonely. It also depends on how you became an expat; did you come here for your partner and did you gave up your life back home? Did you come together with your partner, then you have an  shared experience.

For an expat, it doesn’t matter why you came, when you get the feeling it feels extremely, even more then the usual loneliness that is sometimes hard to overcome and can potentially end up in a depression.

Aloneness or solitude can be a hugely inspiring and creative experience

Last spring (2022) I craved solitude and went on a self-imposed 2- month retreat to see if solitude would help me out. And boy, can I recommend it. See my other blogs what it was like for me.

I am well aware that not everybody can just step away to go on a retreat. But even a day or a weekend of solitude will pay it self-back. Or planning way in advance might help to build in some important alone time.

Enjoying time alone is a vital life skill

We are ultimately on our own, responsible for our life (no one can do it for us – even though many of us – me included – harbour a secret wish that someone will take us by the hand and guide us through life), therefore, being able to spend time alone is a vital life-skill.

How to feel less lonely – some tips:

Not all tips will work for everyone, they will very much depend on your personality type, for example, I have a preference for introversion which means I take my energy from having fewer but very close friends as well as spending a good chunk of time on my own reflecting. Others, with a preference for extroversion take their energy from having a broad range of friends and from talking things through with others.

  1. Dedicate time to work, study, hobbies or social activities

Loneliness is often temporary, something we experience when we go through a transition in life such as a relationship breakup, the death of a loved one, starting a new job or college or moving to a new place.

Even if we often don’t feel like it, when we feel lonely and cut off, it can be hugely helpful to reconnect with oneself and life. This can enrich life in a meaningful way, helping us to see that there is so much more to life than our momentary feeling of loneliness.

Try engaging in a pastime such as painting, playing or listening to music, making things, learning something new, spending time in nature (discover a new walk/area or watch birds).

2. Change your thinking to foster positive emotion

It’s worth remembering that loneliness is often temporary (although chronic loneliness can lead to serious health issues and needs addressing) and that we won’t feel like this forever. It’s also important to become aware of our habitual ways of thinking about feeling lonely, of any self-stigmatising, negative thoughts and to turn our thinking around. Here is how you can work with your thoughts:

“I shouldn’t feel lonely” turns into: “Who says? Feeling lonely at times is normal and human.”

“It’s embarrassing to feel lonely, other people will think badly of me if I share my feelings” turns into: “How do I know what other people think? I don’t. Other people feel lonely too and can understand my feelings.”

“Something must be wrong with me” turns into: “There is nothing is wrong with me. I’m only human after all and have a broad range of emotions, one of them is feeling lonely at times. It will pass.”

“I’m the only one who feels lonely” turns into: “How do I know? Everyone experiences loneliness at some point in their life – loneliness is a part of our common humanity.”

3. Talk to friends or family about your feelings

Many of us still feel that there’s a stigma surrounding loneliness and worry about other people’s reactions but it is worth remembering that often it’s our own judgement that we project onto others. In my experience, whenever I share my feelings with a friend, let them know that I feel lonely, they meet me with understanding and would often share their own feelings of loneliness. As soon as this happens, my feelings of loneliness dissipate.

4. Look for the good in every person you meet

When we have a tendency to feel lonely regularly, it can create mistrust in others because it creates a sense of separation, ‘them and me’.

When this happens, see whether you can detect some good qualities in a person, something you appreciate about them – whether you know them well or not. There is always something to appreciate about everyone. We just need to really look and see. When in need of time with a coach, go to my agenda and book a taster session. Cat’s Agenda

Taster Session – A 20 to 30 minutes walk, to get to know me and the way I coach, before really diving into the deep!