Parkin: College Loneliness 101


By Natalie Parkin

Loneliness is not uncommon among young adults, especially in college. It’s ironic that someone on a campus swarming with students can feel more alone than ever. It seems that social lives start over every semester, and, in a library filled with students, it’s difficult to make friends.

It’s a challenging part of life. There is no sugarcoating it. Although, there are things that can help someone begin to overcome their loneliness.

1) Accept That These Thoughts and Feelings are Common

Everyone experiences loneliness at one point or another. With changes every semester, or sitting in classrooms filled with dozens of people that don’t talk to each other, one can and does often feel alone at some point.

You are not alone.

Accepting and simply being aware that you are feeling this way is the first step in healing. Leslie Becker-Phelps, Ph.D. says that “The healing agents for loneliness are awareness, acceptance, and compassion.” In other words, be aware that you are feeling lonely, accept that you feel that way and then demonstrate compassion toward yourself and others who feel the same way. Others experiencing loneliness walk on campus, too and more often than you might think.

It’s normal to feel alone right now.

2) Get Out of Your Dorm Room.

What typically happens when people feel lonely and/or depressed is they cut themselves off from others and try to hide how they are feeling. Keeping emotions bottled up is neither healthy nor helpful. In fact, this will only make you feel worse.

Surround yourself with people by getting out of your house/apartment, even if that means studying at the library instead of your dorm room. Simply being around other people will open up opportunities for you to meet others and start friendships. Sit by a stranger at the café. Introduce yourself to the person sitting next to you before your lecture. Keep your door open in your dorm so people can say hello. Creating opportunities to meet people and putting in the effort to create them will help you connect with others.

3) Get Involved

Joining a sorority, club or institute in college will definitely guarantee meeting new people, even lasting friends. It will also provide you with activities and service opportunities to do with those people. Joining a group on campus is a great way to feel included and a part of something bigger.

4) Bond With a Dog

Dogs are an amazing cure for loneliness because they are naturally friendly and loving creatures. They force you to get you out of the house, love you unconditionally and give you a living being to care for.  Pets such as cats, rabbits and fish are also helpful, though maybe less emotionally receptive. If you are not in a position to own an animal, volunteer at an animal shelter or help care for other people’s pets.

5) Lay Off the Social Media

Brain Primack M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Center for Research on Media, Technology, and Health at the University of Pittsburgh, did a study on social media and its connection to loneliness. Shockingly, after studying 1,787 U.S, adults between the ages of 19 to 32, he found that “people who reported spending the most time on social media — more than two hours a day — had twice the odds of perceived social isolation than those who said they spent a half hour per day or less on those sites. And people who visited social media platforms most frequently – 58 visits per week or more – had more than three times the odds of perceived social isolation than those who visited fewer than nine times per week.”

Interacting with people face to face is powerful. It’s not social media with its jealousy, unrealistic expectations and unhealthy comparisons we make. Put your phone down and interact with the world around you. Lasting connections happen in person, not after you hook up to the Wi-Fi.

6) Love Your Life

I cannot express this point enough — you have a choice in your life to either drag your own feet or skip to the beat. You have the choice to either be happy or sad and you make that decision every day the moment you get out of bed. No one can make that decision for you. You and you alone are in control of how you react to your own feelings and emotions.

It’s science that happier people are more attractive and more approachable. No one wants to go talk to a gloomy, sad looking student in the corner of the room hovered over their phone. They want to talk to someone who looks happy and comfortable in their own skin and who seems content with where they are in that moment of their life.

Overcoming loneliness is a personal journey. No one can force you to do any of the tips I’ve suggested, but I, personally, can tell you that if you make the effort to change your attitude toward your personal and social life, things will change. Maybe not immediately, but, with effort and patience, it will happen. Loneliness is nothing more than a phase. It will go away only if you focus your energy on overcoming it.

[email protected]