What You Need To Know About Loneliness
There is a lot of social pressure for people to be constantly and consistently busy, to always have an invitation to something or go somewhere. We are supposed to have people surrounding us at holidays, birthdays, and when we’re going through tough times. Some people attach their worth to the number of people around them or the number of reactions they get on a social post.
Just because people have thousands of friends or followers, however, does not mean they are escaping loneliness.
SEE ALSO: 10 Interesting Facts About Buddha
Loneliness is not about being alone
I am a card-carrying introvert. I enjoy solitary ventures, such as writing, taking long walks to collect my thoughts, going to a quiet cafe, and saying no to parties across town (with few exceptions) so that I can hang with my dog and a good book. But even a proud introvert can be pulled into the fray of social expectation. I have caught myself, more often than I’d like to admit, in a cycle of loneliness that morphs into a lonely-guilty maelstrom.
“I should be with … at …” my thoughts begin. “Everyone else is …”
We’re exposed to medical studies that warn against isolation and loneliness, noting that these things could lead to a myriad of problems, including death. Although it has been established that human interaction increases oxytocin levels, our built-in feel-good drug, do we have to be social butterflies at all times?
No. We need people, but we also need to be alone.
Meditation, spending time with a pet, or getting out in nature has also proven to kick our oxytocin into gear. It’s all about the mindset of the person, and the reasoning behind the solitude. Loneliness can occur when a person is surrounded by a sea of people, just as it can happen when one is truly by one’s self. If you are or feel alone, do not beat yourself up about it.
Moreover, If you manage to feel lonely even when you are around others, I have news for you:
Nothing is wrong with you
Did you read that right? Nothing. Is. Wrong. With. You.
Feelings of loneliness are normal, but adding guilt to the mix is self-destructive. I did this to myself for years, until I realized that there was a path back toward the understanding that I had to be present with myself. Only then, I could be present with others.
On days you feel lonely, the best thing to do is ask yourself why. What are you missing that could uplift you? For me, yoga and meditation are key, foundational practices. Occasionally, making a nice meal (or laughing at myself when I make a horrible meal) is the antidote. Other days, I truly feel moved to call a friend. Not out of obligation but in a genuine desire to connect.
Yes, we do need to be around other people and know how to work as part of a community and society, but if we are mired with lonely and sad feelings, we are not going to contribute much. Learn how to appreciate being alone. Indulge your interests. Dance to your favorite music in your bedroom. Go to an art museum. Settle into silence.
Enjoy your own company
Once you are able to do this, you’ll find you are all the more prepared to truly interact with others in a meaningful way, rather than out of obligation. Getting out there and engaging from a genuine, present place is so much more rewarding.
If you are not sure yet what nourishes you when you feel alone, sometimes taking a few mindful breaths will help you answer this question. I suggest square breathing. It can be done for 3 minutes, 5 minutes or 11 minutes. It will balance out your energy and bring you home. I also suggest you do anything that will remind you of who you are and what makes you happy. Creative ventures, such as writing, painting, or redecorating may help.
Once you are truly at home in your own body, you will see the entire world will open up in new ways. It may be a bit of a journey, but I can assure you, it is well worth it. When you are able to find true contentment by yourself, you’ve found presence, and once you find that, there’s no way you can feel lonely.
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