Most people feel lonely at times. Even those of us who don't feel the emotions typically associated with loneliness probably experience it in other ways. It makes sense; everyone needs deep connections with other people, but nobody seems to have them. Vulnerable, constructive relationships are extremely rare, yet they should be one of the staples of life.

How do you deal with loneliness? I would argue that the best way is not to frantically search for new friends. After all, most people aren't interested in someone who wants them merely to assuage their sadness. Relationships may be what ultimately deals with loneliness, but strong connections take time. Part of that journey is learning to work with yourself long before you have any real friends at all.

4. Understand what it means

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Loneliness isn't entirely bad. The goal can never be to get rid of it altogether, but rather to "deal with it" in a constructive way. It can actually serve as a great motivator. Loneliness is a longing for something, most often a deeper connection to those around you, but it can also be a search for meaning in other areas of life. When you recognize it as a desire for something good, the feelings that accompany it won't hurt so much.

As hard as it is to say this, not everyone is in a situation where friends are readily available. That's why I didn't write "just get some friends" as step 1 and end it there. Learning to live with loneliness, not as depression and isolation, but as an indicator of something missing in your life, can motivate you to steadily work towards becoming whole. To consolidate...

...learn that loneliness is an indication that you're missing something. Don't spend too much time worrying about WHAT it is you're missing. Just understand that you aren't complete in yourself.

Next, accept it. It's OK to be hungry, so it's alright to be lonely, too.

Take some time with spending time alone. Get to know yourself a little, and remember God is always reaching out to you. This is where you begin to understand what it is you're longing for.

Understand it as a calling. Let it motivate you. Begin to work towards fulfillment.

5. Limit things that replace real relationships

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This might be similar to step 2, but it's a bit deeper. Once you've gotten past distracting yourself from loneliness, you are presented with a problem: now that you're aware of the feelings, you have to deal with them somehow. You have to fulfill the longing.

Unfortunately, there are multitudes of imposters that parade around claiming to be the very things you need. Various forms of entertainment (social media, dating sims, TV, novels) act as "friendship simulators," tricking you into feeling like you're putting effort into fruitful relationships, when in reality, you're just staring at a computer screen, drinking in the dopamine.

Some people put all their time into dating, but they get so lost in the physical side of things that they forget to treat their significant other like a person, not to mention that they've long forgotten their other friends. (Refer to the article "10 Easy Ways To Replace People" for a full list of common ways we jeopardize our relationships.)

These replacements for real people may feel good for a while, but they are merely another vicious cycle, leaving people lonelier than before. It may be hard to deal with, but you don't want to settle for anything less than true friendship.

Identify what you're replacing relationships with and replace those things. Give them a taste of their own medicine!

Cancel your daily gaming session and eat out with a real live person. Take a day off work to hang out with God.

Dump your girlfriend (if she hasn't already dumped you for being a jerk,) and get together with your long-lost high school BFF, OR just start treating her like a person instead of an object! If you must watch TV, invite others over to enjoy it with you.

Try steps 1-4. If you're so afraid of your feelings that you try to satisfy yourself with a temporary fake, it's probably because you haven't come to an adequate understanding of loneliness. Be patient and live with the uncomfortable feelings for a little while. Developing real friendships is a long process.

6. Ask

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When it actually comes down to making connections with others, it's not as hard as it seems. Well, it may be as hard, or harder, but it surely isn't as complex. Just ask! The rest will come naturally. You don't have to be anyone you aren't. Just be yourself (you'll know how to do that once you've spent sufficient time alone with God). Here's how to ask:

Identify the person you want to know better. Approach him or her. Next? ASK. OK, you're rightit isn't easy, but it should be. Think about it. Most people are really lonely. Even if they aren't, that probably means they value relationships and would at least be willing to entertain the possibility of a new one.

Try things out. Be a little experimental. Try conversation. Figure out what you have in common and do some things.

Be persistent. People are busy (you'll know that if you tried to clear your schedule.) Just because they aren't constantly getting back to you doesn't mean they dislike you. Every friendship needs effort from both sides, but at first, you may need to take initiative in order to get it going.

Trust them to be straight-forward. This is from the bottom of my heart: don't assume they don't like you if they give you a weird look, or say something confusing. Keep being yourself and trust them to be honest. That's the least you can ask for.

Obviously, there's a lot more to relationships than this, but when it comes to dealing with loneliness, learning to do these things is the only way you're even going to make it. Good luck, and if you ever want to be MY friend, just ask (unless I get around to asking you first.)