Let’s Talk About… Loneliness and Belonging

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Most people will feel a sense of loneliness at some point in their lives. It is common at times to question if you can rely on the people in your life for support. These experiences can be particularly poignant for university students who may be getting used to living away from home, living in a new environment, living around new people, or having to make new friends. While it can be important to learn how to accept loneliness as a normal part of life, getting past loneliness or getting unstuck can sometimes be quite difficult. Hopefully some of the following information is useful for anyone who might be experiencing loneliness.

Remember to stay connected with the friends, acquaintances or other important people whom you may not have contacted in a while. People can quickly make assumptions about why someone has not contacted them or why reaching out may seem silly. Consider what happens if both of you are thinking it is too late or too early to reach out. Neither person will contact the other, and then both may be lonely.

Face your fears and anxieties about putting yourself out there. Loneliness is a feeling that is telling your body and mind, “Hey, I think we need a friend right about now.” Pay attention to all of your feelings to better understand what you might need in that moment. Listening to your needs and acting to have them met, or accepting that you might have to wait for a moment, can be an important motivator to overcoming the fears of rejection.

Sometimes it is useful to pay attention to your own thinking when it comes to making new relationships. Humans are great at quickly evaluating everything in their environment, but this can sometimes lead to assumptions that are unhelpful when beginning to explore new relationships. Try evaluating some of your expectations about situations, about what others think of you, and what you think about yourself. A useful way to think about this is trying to whittle down your thoughts to what you know to be one hundred percent false. For example, while it may be true that you do not have close friends at the university now, it is impossible to know that will last forever. Try reframing assumptions like this into something slightly more positive, “I don’t have friends now, but if I make an effort I can start to make friends,” or “My friend didn’t message me back. They must be busy doing schoolwork or taking a nap.”   

If you are having trouble meeting compatible people, it is helpful to think about the things you like to do and search for groups that support those activities. Whether you enjoy sports, gaming, religion, advocacy, knitting or anything else, see if you can find a group that engages in similar activities either on or off campus. Although it is not a guarantee that you will meet people you like, at least you can go in knowing that they share your interests. The Life at Pacific tab on the university’s website can be a good resource for numerous activities on campus. You can also check out websites like Meetup.com for gatherings around Forest Grove and the surrounding area.

Keep trying to engage in the community. Cultivating a community of belonging can take time. Occasionally, things get particularly difficult and you may feel that you cannot handle it alone. In moments like that the Student Counseling Center can be a great resource as well. Call 503-352-2191 for an appointment. The center also has walk-in hours at noon on weekdays. Change can be hard, but is worthwhile.


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