COVID has changed our society in so many ways. It is a global phenomenon and yet it has also been a very personal experience for everyone. It is a journey that continues with uncertainty. In the beginning, it isolated us like we had never known. It was strange. It was even relaxing. It was uncomfortable. It was lonely.

Many people still are confused by that beastly question: “Now what?” Our work lives have been dramatically altered. Our social lives are beginning to come back to normal, and yet “normal” is different.

Many people are struggling with the balance of comfortable aloneness, and loneliness. Do I want to be more social? Or do I like staying at home more than I used to? Am I wrong for wanting to be alone?

With alone time comes that dreaded list of “shoulds.” These destroy the comfortable alone time by constantly knocking on our head with all the things we “should” be doing: socializing, connecting to friends and family, curing cancer.

For some, “am I lonely?” is easily translated to “am I lazy?” or “am I crazy for feeling lonely and lazy?” And while you’re sitting there with nothing to do but create questions, “If I wonder if I’m crazy, lazy, and lonely, does that mean that of course I am?”

If there is one comforting thought that is absolutely true it’s that you might be alone in your home and your head, but you are absolutely not alone in this feeling. COVID gave it to millions. Always remember that there are many many people out there who would love to help you. That is the absolute truth.

You might feel lonely, but you are never alone.

Let’s briefly look at the other side. There are times when being alone is healthy. We all need to occasionally plug in our USB cable and take time to reboot. Many people love solitude. Contrary to what many might think, older adults who are alone several hours every day are often comfortable and content with solitude. They have come to a place in life to appreciate peace.

That statement triggers an eye-opening thought. Perhaps the opposite of “lonely” is “peaceful.” Studies show that the desire to be alone does not mean that you are avoiding people. Solitude is healthy. These older adults have become more emotionally comfortable. Emotion and intellect improve when we are alone, through reading, writing, thinking, creating, meditating, or praying.

It’s natural that younger people crave more activity and social connections. In today’s world of technology, that craving can become distorted. Posting on social media and texting are not social connections. A study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine found that young adults who spend over two hours on social media a day are twice as lonely as those who spend 30 minutes.

For all of us, being on our devices can actually trigger loneliness. Digital connections can very often be the inverse of true connection. As humans, we are designed for in-person connection. Social media can be a huge depressant. Scrolling through others’ bragging posts will only throw gasoline on feeling lonely.

Another aspect of loneliness comes from our family connections. 30 percent of people who are unhappy in family relationships feel lonely most or all of the time. That might be a call to explore and analyze personal relations and discover what you are missing, and where you might find new connections. This requires vulnerability.

Loneliness Essential Reads

Loneliness also doesn’t always mean being alone. Sometimes, being in a large party or event can feel lonely. It is devastating to feel like everyone else is connecting and having fun while you feel isolated.

What do I do if I’m feeling lonely?

One of the keys to combating loneliness is to focus on others’ feelings and needs. That is always the beginning of meaningful relations. Simply take your mind off of you for awhile and help someone else who might also be lonely. Listen and learn. Don’t connect on the phone or online. Meet in person.

If you’re at one of those large events and feeling alone, simply look for someone else who is standing alone or appears frightened. Introduce yourself.

Loneliness is not measured by the number of people around us. It is one’s perception of isolation. It is a human instinct to want to be part of a group and connect to other people. When we feel alone, it is that instinct inside of us shouting for the company of others. It is feeling hungry when our bodies need food. Or again, perhaps it is simply a signal to relax and learn to appreciate some quiet quality alone time.

Whatever your loneliness might be, the solution is just like any other mental struggle. Small steps. Don’t feel like you must take on the world and instantly become Miss Congeniality.

Here are a few simple ideas for small steps:

  • Call a friend and talk about it
  • Look online for a neighborhood club, organization, or event
  • Check out the many ideas on Meetup for social gatherings
  • Research volunteer opportunities
  • Start a game night with two or three friends
  • Explore a new community of people with similar interests, such as reading, cooking, dancing, or other fun ideas
  • Explore sporting events, theater, or festivals
  • Talk to a therapist.

What you’re hiding is probably one of your biggest strengths.


Source link