Loneliness and making friends

Loneliness does not necessarily mean being alone. You can feel lonely when you are with many others in a class, at a party or at a sporting event. Loneliness is a painful awareness that you are not feeling connected to others.

Loneliness is usually a combination of a state of mind (which you can change) and behaviours that compound the problem (which you can change). If you are lonely you may find yourself engaging in some of the following behaviours that can perpetuate the problem:

  • Do you make little attempt to get involved in social activities?
    If you are not included by others in their social activities do you become more withdrawn, angry and isolated from other activities? Monitor your thoughts. Accept invitations to participate in things. Look for activities you might enjoy and have a go.
  • Do you become self-conscious and worry about being evaluated by others? Are you falsely assuming that nobody likes you? 
    Don't make assumptions! Try to get out of your own head - think about things outside you rather than getting caught by unhelpful, self-hating thoughts. Think of someone in your life who you feel good with - it could be a friend from long ago, it could be a teacher or aunt or anyone. Think about how they would describe you. Hold on to those thoughts about yourself.
  • Do you depend on the people around you to build your self-esteem and to initiate activities?
    Write 3 positive things that you've seen or that have happened each day. Keep a tally of every positive little thing like, 'the sun feels good', 'Sally said hello', 'I felt really energetic' etc. Notice, and challenge unhelpful thoughts.


Do something about it!

Loneliness can be changed and overcome. It is a very common experience. If you are lonely, do something about it and try some of these tips below:  

  • Start small and notice small successes
    Say 'hello' to one person the first week, to two the next. Smile. Remember to notice your small successes. For example, if someone smiles back at you; or if someone says hello to you.
  • Learn to develop your social skills
    Notice what others do to make contact. How do they start a conversation? Imagine someone you admire, think about their behaviours and think about what's good and what you can learn.
  • If you see someone you like, make a move!
    Don't just sit there and hope that the person will come to you. Make the first move. Ask people about themselves - what course they are studying, how they like the lecturer... You don't need to entertain people, just be interested.

  • Volunteer, join clubs and societies, participate!
    There are so many avenues to meet new people on campus. Do some volunteer work through ANU+, join clubs and societies on campus, volunteer for Students Association, ask someone in your class to be your study buddy, join mentoring groups that host regular activities such as SET4ANU and many more.

  • No negative thinking!
    When you are alone, use the time to enjoy yourself rather than to think about unhappy things or worry. For example, listen to music or watch a favourite television show. Do not spend the time worrying about what someone said or what they may have thought. You will only increase the distress you feel and that will make it harder to make contact other people.
  • Avoid seeking an intimate relationship as a first step.
    If you are feeling lonely, being in a relationship is not a cure to loneliness. They take time to develop. Look to develop friendships as a first point and develop your social skills and a positive outlook.
  • Talk to people and get help if needed
    It's always a good idea to tell people how you feel. Talk to friends, family or someone you can trust. Seek help if you think you need one. As a first step, chat to peer educators at ANU Thrive. Book a consultation slot for a confidential casual chat.


Page owner: Wellbeing