What is loneliness? Loneliness does not necessarily mean being alone. For instance, you can feel lonely when you are in a class with twenty other students, in the middle of a party, or at a sports’ event with hundreds of screaming spectators.
Loneliness is a painful and disturbing awareness that you are not feeling connected to others and important needs are not being met. We are inherently relational being. So, loneliness may be a signal that an important basic need is not currently being met … such as the need to develop a circle of friends, a special relationship with someone, or, perhaps, a relationship with self. Mutual relationships are essential to your health, but so is a relationship to self. If you are lonely, you feel the need for warmth, understanding and long to share your feelings and thoughts… then, you maybe need to reach outside of yourself and connect with someone, but do make sure that you have spent some time developing and nurturing a relationship with the “you”.
Loneliness can mean:
- Feeling that you are unacceptable, unloved by those around you, not worthwhile, even if others don’t share these perceptions;
- Feeling alienated from your surroundings; lack of the attachments that you had in the past
- Feeling that there is no one with whom to share your personal concerns and experiences
- Feeling that you are alone and have no other choice. You may find it difficult to make friends or go beyond mere acquaintances.
- Feeling an emptiness in your spiritual life, distance from god or disconnection from your faith
What can you do about it?
Good news!! The antidote for loneliness is simple —- CONNECT!!! Connecting with others and with yourself is the best way to beat the loneliness blues. It starts with recognizing that loneliness is a common experience. Here are some suggestions for what to do when you are feeling lonely:
- Actively look for situations that enable you to get involved with others.
- Learn to be assertive. Join in discussions… learn to say “hi” to someone and start a short conversation.
- Develop your social skills. Learn to use verbal or nonverbal cues to let a person know you are interested in getting to know them. A simple way to start is by eye contact. We are talking connections here… not necessarily life partners… just put the “oh, dear, I need a relationship” on the back burner… and just develop connections….
- When you are alone, use the time to enjoy yourself. For example, listen to music, do something creative, or just hang out and watch your favorite TV show.
- Be patient with yourself. Recognize that being alone doesn’t have to mean being lonely. Take small steps to extend yourself to others each day.
- Take care of your other basic needs like good nutrition, regular exercise, and plenty of sleep. Strive for BALANCE among all the hats you may wear.
The important thing to remember is that the solution starts with you!!! Learn to be comfortable with and even enjoy your time alone. When you feel loneliness creeping in… reach beyond yourself to take a few risks to develop new connections or deepen your current ones.
There are times when all of us feel lonely… even those of us in long-term relationships… when I feel that way, I “go into” the loneliness and just feel it… but for most of the time… Loren and I spend “alone” time together… Sounds strange, but it works for us… for now, I am enjoying my alone time in a very quiet living room… sitting solitarily at this computer… but, alas, my friend, the “coffee” is waiting in the kitchen to greet me…. Think I will go join “him”…. (Loren is still sleeping…. So I embrace my aloneness…)