“The eternal quest of the individual human being is to shatter his loneliness.”
– Norman Cousins
Loneliness usually has a pretty negative connotation.
There are many ways to define the feeling, but people tend to think of loneliness as being sad, disconnected – and no one wants to be that kind of lonely. Even those who crave ‘alone time’ don’t want to feel sad or desperate.
You probably have a free-spirited friend who doesn’t mind (or even enjoys) eating at restaurants by herself, and you wonder how she does it. Maybe instead of wondering, you should try it out.
It’s likely that she seems so happy and content because she has learned how to embrace being alone.
What’s so bad about being alone, anyway?
Whatever it is, it’s a big deal! According to a survey conducted by Lifeline Australia, 60% of Australians often feel lonely. Of the 3,100 respondents, over 33% said they do not have anyone to confide in through times of loneliness. With these numbers, it is critical to find ways to take away the negativity that is often associated with being alone.
How can we be more like that solo friend of ours at the restaurant?
People who are content being alone have often changed their perception. For them, being alone does not have to be (and often isn’t) lonely.
Maybe our friend actually does wish she had someone to join her, or maybe she couldn’t care less. Either way, she owns her loneliness, and that in itself can take away the ‘lonely’.
What’s more? Being alone might even feel great! But how do we embrace loneliness?
Become the Leader of a REAL Social Network
Use your alone time to become a social leader. We’re not talking about creating a new and improved Facebook account, but forming a network of people whom you can openly communicate with and have genuine conversations.
This network can be comprised of friends, family, co-workers, neighbours, or even those people you see on a regular basis at the gym or café (whose names you may or may not remember). You’d be surprised by how many people want to develop their own network of friends and associates but don’t have the confidence to ask people to hang out. Show them how it’s done!
Plan Activities for You and Others
Being alone gives us the opportunity to focus on the things we consider to be important. Planning simple events and activities for yourself and others allows you to own something that’s bigger than your loneliness. When you create something by yourself that others can appreciate, you don’t need anyone around to validate your success.
A planned activity can be as simple as a weekend stroll, cooking a new dish, listening to music or learning something completely new.
This is a great time to think about anything and everything that is (and isn’t) occurring in your life. When alone, you don’t have to worry about anyone distracting you while you sit back, reflect, contemplate and consider all the ways you may want to improve your life. Believe it or not, it’s OK to choose to be alone. But, if you’re bothered by your loneliness, this is a chance for you to change your situation. Whether that means physically putting yourself out there more, or mentally changing your perception.
Think Outside the Box
When you have no one around to judge you, you won’t be judged! Consider the things you’ve always wanted to do (but for whatever reason, haven’t) and figure out how to do them by yourself. Let’s say that you’ve always wanted to travel a new continent. If you go alone, the only schedule you have to worry about is your own. No else can interfere with your plans, so if you decide to change your mind about going somewhere, or take a detour, there’s no pressure at all! Take advantage of your alone time and start ticking things off your bucket list.
Don’t Believe the Hype
In the world of social media, it’s easy to get caught up in friends’ and followers’ pages. It’s also easy to become envious of the perfect lives they portray based on what they post online. I know that it isn’t always the best feeling to be alone, but don’t get caught up in the idea that everyone’s life is perfectly occupied because that’s simply not true. What you see online is not necessarily reality. What you hear is not necessarily all true. Take advantage of your loneliness and occupy your time with whatever you want to do—even if you decide to do nothing at all.
Remember, You Are Not Really Alone
Remember those statistics we mentioned earlier? Loneliness is not uncommon. If you’re loneliness is affecting you everyday, or if it is too difficult to manage right now, reach out. Humans are social beings, and some of us crave social connection more than others. Ever heard of Meetup? It’s an online platform that allows users to connect with new, like-minded people and attend various events of interest. Simply select your location and browse through activities and events in your area.
Friends, family, neighbours and pets may provide great support systems. Or, if you’re seeking professional support, your GP is often the first point of call. And lastly, if you need immediate support, Lifeline Australia is available on 13 11 14.
If you reside in the UK, you can reach out to The Samaritans on 116 123. Or if you’re in the US, call Lifeline on 1-800-273-8255 24 hours a day.
Take ownership of being alone and embrace the opportunities that come with it. With no one serving as an additional obligation in your life schedule, you’re free to do whatever you want, whenever you want. Considering these ways to embrace your loneliness may give you a newfound appreciation of yourself, as well as a better understanding of how much freedom life has to offer. Although not everyone will enjoy all of the additional time spent with herself or himself, it is still a good opportunity to reflect on transforming the circumstances of loneliness.
Best of luck on your journey.
“In solitude, the mind gains strength and learns to lean upon itself.”
– Laurence Sterne