Posted by Pascal on October 22, 2020 at 10:26
Despite an evermore connected world, more people than ever wake up one day and wonder: why do I feel so alone?
Maybe you are one of them. Loneliness is so prevalent these days that it would hardly be surprising if you felt that way.
Yet, our human desire to connect and form bonds with our peers is just as strong as it has ever been.
These days, there seems to be an increasing disconnect. A widening gap between our natural longing for connection and the feeling of being alone all the time.
And that can be painful. Indeed, loneliness is physically painful. Scientists have established that it entails medical consequences and that our brain perceives loneliness the same way it does pain. So, if you are suffering from loneliness, you are actually suffering from a real, tangible pain.
No wonder you want to stop feeling alone. It’s like having a gaping hole in your life that you need to fill, something missing.
Fortunately, there are some steps you can take to alleviate this feeling of always being alone. Some are obvious, others might surprise you. All of them take some work but are well-worth the effort.
And vice versa.
Some busy people, surrounded by friends and acquaintances, can still feel lonely. Sometimes the relationships they built do not fulfill all their needs. Or they feel isolated even if, on the surface, they do not appear to be that way.
On the other hand, some people are perfectly content being alone. They are satisfied with the amount of interactions they have with others and do not get stuck in negative thoughts.
Why is that?
How come we sometimes feel alone in a crowd yet comfortable by ourselves in a cabin in the woods?
Well, there are several things at play here. First and foremost, this means that loneliness is not necessarily dependant on the number of relationships in your life.
Sure, you can busy yourself with social events and outings, but at the end of the day, the quality of your interactions is what’s most important. Without good, meaningful relationships with others, the feelings of loneliness will persist. It doesn’t matter how much you try to fill that empty hole in your life with social activities.
But even that is hard to do, especially if you are having trouble meeting people. So, you can even push this reflection a bit further: work on yourself first.
See, you are feeling lonely because you are hoping that relationships with other people will make you happy. And they don’t. That’s why being alone hurts.
But you can learn to fill your life in a way that satisfies your emotional needs and ambitions. And do so without the need for external relationships; at least not as much. By not depending on others for your happiness, you won’t feel as lonely. By looking inwards, you will find peace. And ironically, you will also attract more people into your life.
It all starts with learning to be alone without being lonely.
Here’s how you can do that:
The quickest and easiest way to live a more fulfilling life is to figure out your dreams and passions. As mentioned, it takes some work, especially if you’ve put them on hold for a long time.
What dreams have you put on hold? Are there any things you used to enjoy, yet haven’t really had time to get into lately?
Maybe you’ve always wanted to write a book. Or perhaps you baked, or played the piano to help clear your head, but for some reason, you have stopped.
Whether you are a big fan of train rides, bird watching, yoga, salsa dancing, cooking, or even cross-country skiing, start putting it on your calendar again. Plus, whatever it is you love, there are dozens of communities dedicated to that specific subject. That means as many opportunities to meet and connect with people who share your interests.
And if you are not sure what your passion is?
Well, it just means it’s time to explore. Sign up to different classes, pick up a few books, or watch a few instructional videos. Sooner or later, you are going to click with a particular topic.
When you find what your passion is, keep pursuing it. Don’t put your goals on hold; work towards them.
In an ironic twist of fate, most people feel lonely. In fact, in North America, over 60 percent of men and women report feeling alone. So, if you are one of them, you are in good company.
While that is a worrisome figure, there are two bits of good news for you here:
You might feel alone, but in reality, you are not.
From the coffee you pick up in the morning to the watch on your wrist, everything around you is here because of other people. You are surrounded by others, whether you feel like it or not.
But you are not sat outside watching the world go by. You are an integral part of it. You have a place right here on Earth, along with everybody else.
So when you try to connect, don’t feel like an outsider. You already belong to the club!
To break the cycle of loneliness, you need to find ways to connect with others.
But how can you do that if you don’t believe you have anything to bring them?
Approaching someone, talking to a stranger, asking a girl out on a date, all of that is tremendously harder when your confidence is low.
To get around that, you need to learn your worth. To trust that, no matter who you are talking with, they will be happy to spend time with you. That you do bring something to the table.
And to get there, you need to start by loving who you are. Loving what you stand for, your values, and what you bring to the table.
There are a few ways you can do that:
You can, for example, stop comparing yourself to others. Your objectives and goals should not be identical to theirs, so why should it matter if you achieve different things from them? You are on Earth for a reason. You have a role to play. And if you follow other people’s idea of success, who will be there to step into your shoes?
Rather, try to fully embrace who you are and what you stand for. Relax around others and let your authentic, natural self shine through.
Who you are is already unique and interesting to the right people.
Happiness comes from within.
So, if you feel lonely, there’s only one person you should turn to: yourself. You can’t rely on others to feel less alone. First, you’ve got to develop habits that ground you and help you connect with yourself.
Journaling, for example, can help you not only set ambitious goals that you can achieve, it is a great way to self-reflect and measure your progress day by day, week after week.
In that journal, make sure to include a line or two of daily gratitude. The simple act of mentioning something you are grateful for can help you feel happier, with a more positive outlook, while building stronger and healthier relationships. Shifting your focus from negatives to positives will improve your mood and emotions.
And that’s not the only habit that can help you achieve greater mental and physical well-being:
Connecting with nature and doing sports are two of the most underrated (and underused) antidepressants in the world. Why not combine both by taking a walk in the woods once in a while?
Plus, you get the added advantages of a stronger immune system, more energy throughout the day, and a generally better mood. A positive outlook and higher levels of energy are just two ways sports help you meet and connect with others.
It may be hard in the beginning but it’s like a wheel going downhill. The more you do it, the easier it gets, and the higher the benefits.
Even when you feel always alone, small blessings happen around you that make your day a little better.
By training yourself to notice them, your perception of the world will gradually improve. And the more you make note of these good things, the more you find them in your day-to-day life!
But you can go even a step further than this. On top of being aware of little benedictions in your life, you can also learn to notice your own emotions. Being mindful of how you feel both physically and emotionally, and of your thoughts, isn’t easy. It will take some effort.
But it is so worth it.
Increasing your level of mindfulness helps you accept yourself. Instead of judging yourself for reacting badly to an event (e.g. “I feel so alone in life, I am doomed to stay single”), you can learn to make a note of how you feel, and why (e.g. “Oh, I feel alone right now. Maybe I expected too much of this party. I’ll try to avoid going with too many expectations next time.”).
It’s a simple, subtle shift in mindset. With time, you will notice a lower level of anxiety, more control over your emotions (including more resilience to depression), a higher ability to regulate your emotions and healthier and more stable relationships, and the skills to adapt to changes faster.
And the best news is that you can start practicing right now.
As with most things worth the effort, these five tactics will take some time to master. Your progress won’t be straightforward, you might see improvements, then get stuck.
The important thing is to keep working on it.
Keep trying to improve your outlook on life, to follow your passions.
Open up to others. You won’t click with everyone, but you can try. Every encounter is a chance to connect with another human.
Be someone you personally would like to meet. And have the confidence to show that person to the world. A true, authentic you, not afraid to let others know what you are all about.
From staying active to being mindful of your own feelings, every step you take towards change is going to help you feel better. Even when you are all alone, you won’t be lonely.
The step after that is getting out and being social. When you have been disappointed by others time and again, it’s all too easy to avoid social situations altogether. But that doesn’t help you connect with people in real life. No one is going to aggressively pursue you, it’s up to you to step out of your comfort zone and seek the company you want.
If you need some help along the way, you can always talk to a therapist. Sometimes having an external “bird’s eye” view on your situation can boost self-reflection even further.
And here is the best thing: when you become your own point of reference, when you work on yourself first, ironically, that’s when you will attract other people into your life. By learning to be happy alone, you also will learn to not be alone.
And it all starts with you.