I’ve had my fair share of loneliness, especially during lockdown. Since the Covid-19 virus emerged we have all had to change our behaviour and many of us have had to find ways to deal with loneliness. The patterns of behaviour we normally experience have been forced to change. We can’t socialise, we can’t hug and physical proximity has been reduced.
From speaking to others, I have discovered that I’m not alone in feeling lonely. It got me thinking about what we can all do to feel okay with our company.
Introvert or extrovert?
I am an extrovert because I get inspired by the energy of others. I enjoy talking to others and finding out about their life stories. Being around other people inspires me and I love connecting. I also enjoy time alone though and if I have too much going on in terms of being around others, I really need time out to reset.
When solitude is forced on me though and I have to deal with loneliness, I begin to get withdrawal symptoms and miss the connection with others. We are social creatures by nature, and eons ago – being part of a group was a natural part of our survival strategy. Being alone now happens due to the fact that community systems have broken down. There are far fewer communities where everyone knows your name and you feel a sense of belonging.
Loneliness is increasing
Despite an increased population worldwide, loneliness has increased – it’s a sad state of affairs. Cities have added to our feelings of isolation and unfortunately, admitting to being lonely, is for many, too intimidating. Learning how to deal with loneliness is a skill we can learn. The crazy reality though is that many many of us feel lonely but the stigma of admitting this creates barriers to connection. Hmmmnnn…it’s a messed up world. We are all human, we all feel sad and lonely at times but we often only show the good times (or pretend we are fine).
How to deal with loneliness
Loneliness is usually temporary. If this is the case for you – hang in there. You will find like-minded people. It will happen. In the meantime, use your time alone for self-development – exercising, eating well, losing weight, reading, and pursuing solo pursuits you have always wanted to. Lockdown is a good example of this. Instead of resisting the reality that you have to be alone – accept this and work on yourself.
Create feel-good music playlists, take a course you have been curious about, go for walks, read or take up a new hobby. resistance is futile and it creates unnecessary anxiety. Learn to accept is so powerful. When you accept, you can get on with the task at hand instead of focusing your emotional energy on how unfair it is.
I hate to sound harsh but life is inherently unfair – get on with it. You can do it. Deal with loneliness the way you deal with the rest of your life – problem solve.
- Create feel-good music playlists
- Watch TED talks and focus on the inspirational talks
- Don’t compare yourself to others. Stay in your bubble and work with what you have
- Do something that brings you joy – go for a walk, create something – paint, knit, weld, sculpt, write – whatever works for you
- Focus on self-care. Whatever it is that makes you feel good about you – do it. Exercise, try a new healthy recipe, change your hairstyle
- Play a game on your mobile phone, watch a movie or watch YouTube videos that interest you – these are a good way to spend your time
- If you are lucky enough to have a pet, be mindful and spend time with your pet – go for a walk, spend time focusing on the needs of your pet.
- Have a clear-out, declutter and organise your home.
All of the above examples will give you a mood boost and help you deal with loneliness. The above suggestions can stop you from sitting around and worrying or being ‘in your head too much”. When you are in your mind, you are in enemy territory. Our minds tend to default to the negative and our inner bully starts to bother us.
Enjoying your time alone is possible. If you feel that your loneliness will never go away – you can deal with loneliness by considering whether this is internal or external. If it’s external (situational), problem-solve ways to meet new people and get out there again. Avoidance is the worst thing you can do. Consider volunteering. If that’s not possible – look at online forums to help you connect.
Be creative and look at solutions instead of sitting with too many thoughts. There is such a thing as ‘analysis-paralysis’. Try new things!
If your loneliness feels internal (you might have people around you but you feel lonely), perhaps therapy could be good to help you identify thoughts and behaviours contributing to the lonely feeling.
The bottom line is that there are clever (and easy) ways to deal with loneliness. Loneliness doesn’t have to be permanent. Loneliness is temporary with the right strategies and solutions. Don’t focus on the loneliness – FOCUS on what to do with yourself when you feel lonely. You may need to push out of your comfort zone but it will be well worth it. It’s okay to feel lonely, it’s a normal part of life and pat yourself on the back when you deal with loneliness in life.