Many would agree that humans have become more isolated from one another. Even in our times of hyper-connectivity and social media, you could argue this is the loneliest time in all of human history.
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Loneliness is not confined to any section of society. People from all walks of life feel lonely at times. Younger people are the biggest group of lonely people in the UK. As we move from the familiar to new stages of our lives, the risk of loneliness increases. When we adjust to new circumstances and create new networks of support, our risk of loneliness subsides once more.
Loneliness is not only widespread, but it’s also less mild and harmless than many people think. The negative impacts of loneliness on both our physical and mental health can have lasting effects. Even so, it can be hard to describe or understand the feeling, despite it being so common.
We can feel lonely when surrounded by people. We can also be entirely at peace when on our own. The feeling of loneliness isn't attached to how many people we surround ourselves with. Instead, it relates to the quality of our relationships.
Someone with a few fulfilling and supportive relationships is likely to feel less lonely than someone with many superficial connections and no deep relationships.
Our dedicated loneliness section can help you understand its complex nature. In various articles, we explore the six symptoms of loneliness and how to manage them, ways that we can reduce loneliness, and ideas for overcoming loneliness as an empty nester.
We’ve also asked a couple of experts in this field for their thoughts on managing loneliness and handling these difficult and uncomfortable feelings. CBT Therapist Mandy Kloppers told us:
"You have the ability to choose your thoughts and focusing on problem-solving will bring you far greater relief than overthinking will. If you see loneliness as a negative state, your feelings related to loneliness will also be negative.”
Kloppers added: "Consider loneliness as a temporary phase that will pass and create options for connecting with the world around you. Loneliness is a part of life and we are all connected even when we are alone - we are all in this 'soup' together, as Jung famously once said. Loneliness is an opportunity for self-reflection and self-care, renewed energy, a sense of purpose and preparation for reconnecting with others."
Author and therapist Alexandra Massey told Health Times: "Loneliness happens when we can't connect with others. But, in learning to sit with the feeling of loneliness, without running away from it, we can dissolve it. Hug a pillow, lie on your bed or just sit with it and hang on. The feeling will not kill you. Give it a name and understand it, then it will pass."
Here are 46 quotes describing the nuances and intricacies of loneliness, solitude and isolation.
24 loneliness quotes to give you a new perspective in even the loneliest moment.
1. “If I could catch the feeling, I would; the feeling of the singing of the real world, as one is driven by loneliness and silence from the habitable world” - Virginia Woolf
Virginia Woolf, one of the all-time greats, wrote extensively about her battles with loneliness, or “seeing to the bottom of the vessel”. In A writer’s diary, Woolf discusses the intrinsic link between creativity and loneliness.
2. “I wonder how many people I have looked at all my life and never seen” - John Steinbeck
Famous for his novels, Of Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath and The Winter of Our Discontent, John Steinbeck's quote highlights how loneliness leaves us feeling invisible and unheard.
This quote turns our perspective inward. How much loneliness do we cause by allowing ourselves to become too wrapped up in our busy lives to see the people around us?
3. “Loneliness is my least favourite thing about life. The things that I’m most worried about is just being alone without anybody to care for or someone who will care for me” - Anne Hathaway
Actress Anne Hathaway voices a worry that many of us share - to be without someone to love, understand, and be there for us in times of trouble or pain.
4. “The eternal quest of the individual human being is to shatter his loneliness” - Norman Cousins
American writer, journalist and world peace advocate Norman Cousins came up with this excellent quote on loneliness.
Perhaps there is a good deal of truth to it as humans, after all, are social and gregarious creatures. This is possibly what Norman Cousins was alluding to - our innate desire to belong to those whom we value and who value us.
5. “Real loneliness is not necessarily limited to when you are alone” - Charles Bukowski
American author Charles Bukowski reminds us that loneliness is a feeling that sometimes has no tie to our environment or the people we share it with.
6. “What loneliness is more lonely than distrust?” - George Eliot
George Eliot was the pen name of Victorian author Mary Ann Evans.
This quote echoes that of those who describe loneliness on sites like Quora and Reddit today. You can find some of these descriptions in our article "What does loneliness feel like?"
Commenters here frequently describe loneliness as a disconnection from others and, at worst, a severance of trust. This can be genuinely isolating, and discovering individuals who can help us trust again can alleviate these uncomfortable feelings.
7. “The strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone” - Henrick Ibsen
Ibsen’s quote suggests that strength and loneliness often go hand in hand. However, as we become more aware of mental health and how to keep ourselves and others happy and confident, we’re learning that there is greater strength in numbers. Sharing our stories and vulnerabilities takes far more strength than standing alone.
8. “To live alone is the fate of all great souls” - Arthur Schopenhauer
Known as the philosopher of pessimism, Arthur Schopenhauer often voiced ideas that challenged society's views of the world and human existence.
9. “If you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it's not because they enjoy solitude. It's because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them” - Jodi Picoult
Best-selling author Jodi Picoult shines a light on some of the most common situations that can make you feel lonely. The quality of our relationships is vital to whether or not we experience feelings of loneliness often or persistently. When our connections are flimsy or hurtful, some of us may choose loneliness and solitude over disappointment and feeling we are not enough.
10. “Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty” - Mother Teresa
This quote underlines how loneliness strikes those in poverty but also how poverty strikes those in loneliness. We shouldn't forget how anyone, regardless of background or social status, can suffer from loneliness.
11. “At the innermost core of all loneliness is a deep and powerful yearning for union with one's lost self” - Brendan Behan
Irish poet and writer Brendan Behan was named one of the most important Irish writers in history by Irish Central.
He had what most would consider a deeply troubled life, perhaps adding some perspective to his loneliness quote. Loneliness can help us illuminate hidden traits, emphasising challenging yet important parts of our innermost personality.
12. “I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself” - Charlotte Brontë
Charlotte Brontȇ's quote reminds us of the importance of self-care, particularly when we feel alone, lonely or without the support of others. Viewing loneliness as a prompt to take care of ourselves with more energy, patience, and love can turn a negative emotion into a positive experience.
13. “Everybody has something that chews them up and, for me, that thing was always loneliness. The cinema has the power to make you not feel lonely, even when you are” - Tom Hanks
Tom Hanks became very emotional on BBC4’s Desert Island Discs when speaking of feeling lonely as a young man.
This is also a great example of how one can progress away from their feelings of loneliness over time.
14. “Life is loneliness…Yes, there is joy, fulfilment and companionship - but the loneliness of the soil, in its appalling self-consciousness, is horrible and overpowering” - Sylvia Plath
Famous poet and author Sylvia Plath took her own life in 1963. Only after her death was her work fully recognised for its groundbreaking nature in the genre of self-confessional poetry and prose.
15. “Life is full of misery, loneliness and suffering… and it is all over much too soon” - Woody Allen
Equally as cheery as Sylvia Plath’s quote, Woody Allen is known for his parody and romantic comedies with strong female characters.
16. “Solitude is pleasant. Loneliness is not” - Anna Neagle
A simple quote by British film star and actress Anna Neagle - Dame Florence Marjorie Wilcox - but a significant one in the context of modern loneliness. There are clear lines between the terms "loneliness", "alone", "isolation", and "solitude".
Many other great loneliness quotes about feeling alone highlight these same differences.
17. “There's a difference between solitude and loneliness” - Maggie Smith
18. “Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone” - Paul Tillich
19. “Loneliness is different than isolation and solitude. Loneliness is a subjective feeling where the connections we need are greater than the connections we have. In the gap, we experience loneliness. It's distinct from the objective state of isolation, which is determined by the number of people around you” – Vivek Murthy
It’s widely regarded that loneliness is the negative manifestation of social isolation and feeling alone. Therefore, loneliness should be treated with great respect, care and attention, and it’s something that we should try and look after in ourselves and others.
20. “We are all so much together, but we are all dying of loneliness” - Albert Schweitzer
Turn of the century writer, Albert Schweitzer, was also a philosopher known for his musings on the human condition.
21. “I was feeling lonely without her, but the fact that I could feel lonely at all was consolation. Loneliness wasn’t such a bad feeling. It was like the stillness of the pin oak after the little birds had flown off” - Haruki Murakami
A change in life circumstances can often cause us to feel lonely. This is entirely normal and, as Haruki Murakami notes, something that can even be a consolation. Loneliness may highlight how much we appreciate our circumstances while prompting us to take positive action from our feelings.
22. “There's a loneliness that only exists in one's mind. The loneliest moment in someone's life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly” - F. Scott Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald notes that our perspective has a significant impact on our emotional state. How we perceive a situation causes differing feelings to arise. Watching our circumstances change can cause excitement or cause us to feel lonely.
23. “The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain, it’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared” - Lois Lowry
American writer Lois Lowry puts words to the feeling of loneliness that comes with losing a life partner or someone we have held dear to us.
24. “Who knows what true loneliness is – not the conventional word but the naked terror? To the lonely themselves it wears a mask. The most miserable outcast hugs some memory or some illusion” - Joseph Conrad
Known for novels like "Heart of Darkness," Polish-British author Joseph Conrad reminds us that genuinely being alone is terrifying as we're social creatures reliant on companionship and security.
Is there a positive side to feeling alone?
Whilst it's tempting to think of loneliness as entirely negative and unpleasant, there is a plus side. It makes us aware that we need to make changes in our life. That and the fact that more of us are aware of loneliness is a significant step towards alleviating it.
Numerous people stand by their loneliness or even embrace it. Some see the feeling as potentially fertile, even inspiring, especially to the many artists, philosophers, writers, scientists and businesspeople who have battled and bathed in their own loneliness.
To try and bring some positive perspective to loneliness, try reading these positive loneliness quotes.
22 Positive loneliness quotes to lift you on a lonely day
Loneliness isn’t always a negative emotion. We can use our feelings to guide us toward greater happiness and well-being. These inspirational quotes about loneliness will help you to find the silver lining on a lonely day.
1. “If you learn to really sit with loneliness and embrace it for the gift that it is…an opportunity to get to know YOU, to learn how strong you really are, to depend on no one but YOU for your happiness…you will realise that a little loneliness goes a LONG way in creating a richer, deeper, more vibrant and colourful YOU" - Mandy Hale
Loneliness is not always a bad thing. Learning to feel our feelings and let them guide us to a deeper understanding of ourselves helps us to build more prosperous and more fulfilling lives than always being happy and content will allow.
2. “We need to remember to teach our children that solitude can be a much-to-be-desired condition. Not only is it acceptable to be alone, at times it is positively to be wished for. In silence, we listen to ourselves, and in the quietude, we may even hear the voice of God” - Maya Angelou
Poet, memoirist and actress Maya Angelou recognises that although loneliness may be a human condition we all experience at some point, it is not one we should always seek to avoid.
Rather than surround ourselves with bad company, seeking solitude and sitting with loneliness can provide us with an opportunity to reflect, grow and maybe even hear the voice of the universe calling us toward great things.
3. “If one’s different, one’s bound to be lonely” - Aldous Huxley
The English novelist and critic Aldous Huxley reaches to the heart of what it is to feel lonely. Our differences are our gifts and also often the cause of feelings of loneliness.
4. “Loneliness adds beauty to life. It puts a special burn on sunsets and makes night air smell better” - Henry Rollins
Punk frontman, writer, speaker and actor Henry Rollings has a point here. Loneliness can provide clarity. It helps us reflect on beautiful moments that hide under the surface when we're with others.
This inquisitive, subtle side of loneliness helps animate the positive experiences of those who engage in solo travel and similar exploits. This could explain why loneliness fosters creativity in some - it adds definition to the everyday beautiful things we often take for granted.
5. “When we are most alone is when we embrace another’s loneliness” - Mitch Albom
Known for his inspirational stories and encouraging themes that weave through his novels, Mitch Albom reminds us of the ironic shared nature of loneliness with his insightful quote.
6. “Remember: the time you feel lonely is the time you most need to be by yourself. Life’s cruellest irony” - Douglas Coupland
We can use our feelings to guide our actions. As the Canadian journalist and novelist Douglas Coupland’s quote suggests, feelings of loneliness should prompt us towards periods of self-reflection and care.
7. “Loneliness is the human condition. Cultivate it. The way it tunnels into you allows your soul room to grow” - Janet Fitch
Not all growth is enjoyable, and much of it can be painful. However, by leaning into loneliness, as the American author Janet Fitch advises, we can give ourselves the space we need to grow past loneliness and get to know ourselves and others more deeply.
8. “...loneliness is not a function of solitude” - David Foster Wallace
American author David Foster Wallace points out the curious nature of feeling lonely and how it differs from solitude and peaceful isolation.
9. “I have to be alone very often. I'd be quite happy if I spent from Saturday night until Monday morning alone in my apartment. That's how I refuel” - Audrey Hepburn
This quote shows that Audrey Hepburn would likely agree with the previous quote. Being alone is essential for creating opportunities for self-care and the space needed to nourish your soul.
10. “Negative emotions like loneliness, envy, and guilt have an important role to play in a happy life; they're big, flashing signs that something needs to change” - Gretchen Rubin
This is an excellent perspective on loneliness from American author Gretchen Rubin.
Many loneliness remedies focus on taking personal action. Not only does doing something take our mind off our loneliness, but it also creates new moments and opportunities that can alter the course of our lives.
Taking brave action to remedy loneliness by volunteering, travelling or joining groups or clubs are excellent ways to change your perspective on loneliness and can even help you leave it behind.
11. “I love in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity” - Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein spent many hours in solitude solving the mysteries of time and space. The quote about solitude reminds us that as we age, time alone is not necessarily something to avoid but rather something we can relish and use to create remarkable things.
12. “If you are lonely when you are alone, you are bad company” - Jean-Paul Sartre
French playwright, philosopher and novelist Jean-Paul Sartre highlights the importance of being comfortable with yourself. Not only will this enhance your well-being, but it will also help others enjoy your company more.
13. “We can all fight against loneliness by engaging in random acts of kindness” - Gail Honeyman
You would be hard-pressed to find anyone that disagrees with Gail Honeyman’s thoughts.
Random acts of kindness can change someone’s day, week, month, year, or even their life. Even smiling at others in the street has a potent psychological effect that can change your neurochemistry positively.
What’s more is that when you’re kind to someone, they’re compelled to be kind to others too. This creates social reciprocity and a ripple effect of kindness.
Who knows how long that wave of kindness lasts before it dissipates or how many you might impact with a random act of kindness that changes someone's day?
14. “When I get lonely these days, I think: So BE lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience. But never again use another person's body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings” - Elizabeth Gilbert
Author Elizabeth reminds us with her quote that even painful feelings can be worthwhile and are an integral part of our human experience. When we learn to sit with our good and bad emotions, we develop our resilience and learn to be comfortable in our own skin, no matter the circumstances.
15. “The whole conviction of my life now rests upon the belief that loneliness, far from being a rare and curious phenomenon, peculiar to myself and to a few other solitary men, is the central and inevitable fact of human existence” - Thomas Wolfe
Novelist Thomas Wolfe’s quote reminds us that the feeling of loneliness connects all of us. Paradoxically, although loneliness can feel isolating and individual, it's a feeling that connects us with others, a feeling that all of us will experience at some point in our life.
As Wolfe is also quoted as saying: "Loneliness is and always has been the central and inevitable experience of every man.”
16. “Pray that your loneliness will spur you into finding something to live for, great enough to die for” - Dag Hammarskjold
We can let loneliness push us into isolation and darkness, or we can choose to use the energy of lonely feelings to prompt us toward positive action. Dag Hammarskjold reminds us about the importance of passion and using lonely moments to find our purpose.
Hammarskjold was an inspirational leader who served two consecutive five-year terms as Secretary-General of the United Nations. His job was all-consuming, and although he was well respected, he was considered a lonely man who put his passion for his work and peace-keeping between nations before personal relationships.
17. “It is better to be unhappy alone than to be unhappy with someone else” - Marilyn Monroe
The famous actress Marilyn Monroe married three times, suggesting that this quote about being alone and unhappy comes from her personal experience.
18. “The greatest thing in the world is to know how to belong to oneself” - Michel de Montaigne
French renaissance writer Michel de Montaigne was one of the most influential philosophers in the Western world. He was also a great traveller and would have embarked upon many lonely expeditions around the globe.
De Montaigne’s quote highlights how being alone can help us understand ourselves, which might be one of the most important things we can do.
19. “One can be instructed in society, one is inspired only in solitude” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Loneliness and solitude are different things. Although they sometimes arrive together, solitude can also be an inspirational and enjoyable experience, as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the 18th Century German poet, scientist and statesman reminds us.
20. “What a lovely surprise to discover how unlonely being alone can be” - Ellen Burstyn
Actress Ellen Bursten highlights the importance of solitude and being comfortable in our own space while reminding us that the quality of our relationships has the most significant impact on our feelings of loneliness.
21. “Loneliness is the poverty of self, solitude is the richness of self” - May Sarton
Poet and novelist Eleanor Marie Sarton wrote under the pen name May Sarton and conveyed the many textures and colours of human love in her work.
22. “There is a pleasure in the pathless woods, There is a rapture on the lonely shore, There is society, where none intrudes, By the deep sea, and music in its roar: I love not man the less, but Nature more” - Lord Byron
To end with a poem, Byron here highlights how nature itself encapsulates the essence of loneliness.
The beauty of solitude lives all around us. When we immerse ourselves in nature, we find it's a powerful antidote for loneliness. It connects us to the present, where we most enjoy being alive.