Overcoming Loneliness with Israa Nasir
This guest post is written by Israa Nasir, a New York City-based psychotherapist, speaker, and founder of the digital mental health brand WellGuide. Israa curates meaningful experiences through one-on-one emotional and mental health coaching, workshops and speaking engagements to further amplify the message of mental health.
Before the COVID pandemic, America was facing another invisible pandemic: loneliness. Studies have shown that 36% of Americans have reported feeling lonely. If so many of us are feeling lonely, how is it that no one talks about it? Loneliness comes with a lot of shame associated with it because we see it as a personal failure. However, loneliness, like any other emotion, is temporary. If you are feeling lonely, it is a sign that something in your life needs to change.
The antidote to loneliness is not to surround yourself with many people, because loneliness has less to do with being alone and more to do with feeling disconnected from others. The antidote to loneliness is having authentic connections.
So, how do you do that when everyone is so busy and the world feels so complicated? Here are five ways you can start working towards building genuine relationships.
Vulnerability is consciously choosing to not hide your emotions from others. Being vulnerable means being open with your emotions and knowing that it risks getting hurt. It is one of the most powerful, and perhaps significant, ways to connect with another person. Vulnerability deepens connections because it helps you understand each other better. When you are vulnerable, you invite the other person to be vulnerable too.
2. Genuine curiosity
A lot of times we focus on ourselves in an interaction; thinking too much about what we want to say or how we will say it, worrying too much about what the other person might think of us, or monitoring their reactions to things. These things keep our focus away from the person in front of us, and so we appear disengaged with them. Engage in active listening, listen to hear what they are saying, and pay attention to their body language and what they are saying. Ask questions and genuinely listen to their response. Expressing genuine curiosity about another person makes them feel seen by you. You also learn more about them, which helps develop a deeper relationship.
3. Getting out of your comfort zone
If you do the same things, you will get the same results. If you are feeling dissatisfied with the quality of your relationships right now or feeling lonely and disconnected from others, I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone. Go to a new bar in the neighborhood instead of your regular one. Go to a workout class alone and strike up a conversation with a stranger. Join a class where you can meet new people. We increase the likelihood of meeting new connections when we change up our routine a little.
4. Self-awareness and emotional intelligence
This one is really important. Self-awareness is an integral part of any relationship. Knowing your triggers and how to manage them, knowing what turns you off and what works for you, knowing how to communicate when you are angry or healthily express your needs, how you take feedback, how you disagree - all these are the cornerstones of having deep connections with others. A therapist can help with this if it's something you’d like to work on. Otherwise, a prompt journal can also be a good resource.
People need others who show up. Healthy and genuine relationships are built on a foundation of trust and reliability. It is too easy nowadays to blow people off, forget to respond to their texts, or just bail on them. However, genuine connections need to be nourished. Striking a balance between taking care of yourself and showing up for others is necessary when it comes to genuine relationships.
If you want to learn more about healthy relationships, adulting problems, and emotional growth, follow @well.guide on Instagram.