A Guide To Feeling Less Alone In This World

Thank you once again HealthToday Malaysia for the interview for July 2021 issue.

We can be surrounded by people and still feel lonely, for example when on the subway, in a classroom, and even among our family members.

Growing up as an only child, I frequently felt alone and lonely, especially at night. Though I developed new friendships over the years, I still felt lonely in crowds.

Reflecting on my journey up to today as a counselor, my journey evolves through significant inner reflections on myself. Now, whether alone or in a crowd, that feeling of loneliness is mostly gone. So, what changed?


To be alone is a state of being—a fact—while being lonely is an emotional response—a feeling—to one’s circumstance.

When you feel lonely, it is because something has activated a memory of that feeling in you. It’s not because you are isolated or alone.

Hence, it’s important to remember loneliness can—and does—affect anyone, of any age.


Loneliness is defined by a person’s level of satisfaction with their connectedness at any point, or their perceived social isolation.

In my younger days, I had low self-esteem. I felt lonely even though I was among friends, because it was difficult for me to trust other people.

A sense of constant doubt perpetuated my distrust; I questioned whether my friendships were genuine, and perceived that my thoughts and opinions mattered very little to other people. Furthermore, I believed I was just taking up their time and attention by being in their presence.

This cycle perpetuated my view that no one cared about me, and that I didn’t deserve to have friends. This in turn deepened my loneliness—ultimately, “I am all alone” became the crux of my younger days.


The situation improved as, over time, I put in more effort to build my sense of self. My self-esteem turned healthier; I am now comfortable enough that I can be alone without feeling lonely.

This is because, with my improved self-esteem, I now see my friends differently. Instead of assuming that they are always judging me, disliking me—like I tended to do in the past, I am now aware that I am surrounded by people that care for and are there for me when I need them. With a strong support team to reach out to, they bolster my confidence that I am worthy of being cared for, loved, and thought of; my problems are worthy of the attention they deserve.

The people in both my past and present have not changed—what has changed is my perspective of them. With this change of perspective, I also experience an important epiphany.

I can be alone, physically, but I am not alone where it counts the most.


You can feel a constant sense of loneliness even when you are surrounded by people, and such chronic loneliness can be torturous and painful.

It may even lead to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, if left to fester, and in extreme cases, depression, self-isolation, and suicidal behavior.

What defeats you, in the end, is not your perception of yourself, the world, or the future. Instead, you can lose yourself to a profound sense that your mental pain cannot be tolerated a moment longer.

Hence, being socially connected to other people is widely considered a fundamental human need, crucial to both your well-being and survival.


People can feel lonely because of many reasons, so a one-size-fits-all kind of intervention will not work.

Researchers believe that interventions that focus inward, to address a person’s negative thoughts and the sources of their loneliness can be more effective than those designed to improve their social skills, enhance social support, or increase opportunities for social interaction.

So, if you are feeling alone right now, I want to encourage you to re-focus on yourself, your needs, and on what makes you feel good.

Take time to identify people that add value to your life and reconnect with them, or make new connections.

Also, think of the hobbies you want to pick up and get to know people along the way that have the same interest as you. Establishing a new hobby puts you among like-minded people, and can be a great mood booster as well.

Make a list of people you can call, text, or visit when you feel alone.

Many people also successfully overcome feelings of loneliness through therapy. Therapy can help anyone, if they are physically and mentally healthy individuals. You always stand to learn something new about yourself or uncover reasons for old patterns of behaviour.

Even if you’re feeling lonely now, that doesn’t mean you’ll always feel lonely. Each person is the architect of their future. Ultimately, you’ve just got to start, to go out and make changes on the course of your life.


Being alone allows you to drop your guard and allow you the freedom to reflect on your thoughts, energy levels, mood, and even hunger.

When you are alone, you can be more attuned to your thoughts, ideas, feelings, dreams, and frustrations. This helps to build a stronger sense of life, which is essential to cultivating a well-rounded and grounded outlook on life.

Being alone can be challenging to get used to, at first. Nevertheless, with small steps, such as going to public places by yourself, sitting in a coffee shop or a park without the distractions of a phone, and integrating pen-and-paper journaling into your daily routine, you can ease into positive and productive spaces of solitude in healthier ways.


Older adults are at higher risk for social isolation and loneliness due to physical changes such as those to their hearing, vision, memory, and mobility, as well as the loss of family and friends.

Such changes can leave impact on their routine and social interactions, generating anxiety and fears. They may even lead to physical and psychological health issues if left untreated. In the West, where it is more common for the elderly to live separate from their children, the sense of loneliness may set in faster due to physical separation from family members as well.

Elderly family members are more likely to feel isolated and alone when they are bored. You can help them combat those feelings by helping them re-engage in society in ways meaningful to their interests. One way can be to assist them in joining local community activities such as line dancing, Tai Chi, or chess, which can keep their minds active.

Another way could be to encourage them to give back to the community by volunteering, either by mentoring young people in a specific hobby or skill or by using their talents to help with administrative tasks in charities or public organizations such as local libraries.

Depending on their overall health and mobility, they can choose to learn a new skill such as navigating computers or smart devices. This could be to their advantage as well, as they can make calls or texts to family and friends.

In addition to providing professional counselling, Faith Foo is also an author of motivational books for both adults and children. She weaves her advice through relatable anecdotes, parallels to real life, and metaphors as well as allegories both amusing and poignant. Scan the QR code or visit www.faithfoocounseling. com to find out more.