“Some party, eh?”
“What’s that?” Rick could barely hear his buddy, Andrew over the music.
“I said, ‘Some party!’” replied Andrew, motioning to the boisterous crowd.
“Yeah,” Rick said and nodded. “Some crazy party crowd, all right.”
“I’m going to mingle,” said Andrew, slapping Rick on the back.
Rick felt like a fool. Here he was in the midst of a happy, laughing and dancing group of colleagues and he felt completely, utterly alone. A lonely man in a room filled with people.
Loneliness is not measured by the number of people we interact with in a day. I’ve been in a busy, bustling office and felt lonely and depressed. It’s an odd paradox that I have also felt content and at peace while going for a walk in the forest – far from any human contact. I came to realize, many years ago, that there is a vast difference between solitude and loneliness.
Solitude is choosing to be alone. It is creating a quiet space and time where we can unwind, reflect and find peace. Loneliness is a form of longing for companionship and support that we don’t feel we’re getting. We feel lonely when our world is not unfolding in the manner we’d prefer. Of course, there are obvious reasons for feeling lonely: loss of companionship, the passing of a loved one, the ending of a relationship, a new job, a move or children leaving home.
Sometimes, loneliness exists as a generalized feeling of disconnect or stems from a feeling of not being understood or appreciated. This can lead to depression which can intensify feelings of loneliness and create an even deeper sense of detachment and despair. And like Rick, seeing others enjoying apparently happy connections can actually compound our anxiety.
If you are feeling lonely, start by doing a little self-assessment looking for obvious reasons why. Examine your motivations and determine if fear is a prime motivator in your life. Is fear of being vulnerable prompting you to withdraw from interactions? Is a feeling of unworthiness sabotaging your best efforts to build connections with your fellow human beings?
Here are a few suggestions that may help you cope with feelings of loneliness:
If your loneliness is the result of constantly reflecting back on the past, then turn your focus to the present. Whenever you find yourself longing for the past, stop and bring your attention back to the now. You can’t revive a dead relationship, you can’t be twenty again but you can look for happiness and opportunity in this moment.
l Be yourself. Stop trying to be someone you’re not or longing for talents that you do not possess. Strive to be your very best and let others get to know the real you.
l Learn to welcome solitude. Don’t look at being alone as something to be dreaded or avoided. Look at it as a time to enjoy your own company, to reflect on past experiences and to strategize ways of becoming a better, more positive individual.
l Explore your talents and find purpose for your life. When you direct your life toward an important goal, every experience is significant. It is much more difficult to feel lonely or detached when you are engaged in activities that further your personal vision.
l Be of service to others. Volunteer your time and energy to help others. Do things that make the world a better place. You just may come to realize that you really are one of the fortunate ones. Helping others is a great way to build self-esteem.
l Become a pet owner. Adopt an animal or help out at a local animal shelter.
l Join a local group and share your interests. I met some of my favorite people when I joined the local writers group. Get out there and share your passion.
l Get physically active. Join the gym, go walking or take dance lessons. You’ll feel better when you’re active and you’re ensuring a healthier, less stressful existence.
l Crank up the tunes. Listen to music that makes you feel happy. Dance and sing along.
l Open the lines of communication and be willing to share your thoughts, ideas, desires and expectations with others — have the courage to be completely honest.
Certain types of loneliness can be triggered by poor self-esteem and distorted by fear. If loneliness has devolved into a form of depression, you may need professional help to get back on track and become motivated to meet new people and enjoy new experiences. If you need help, seek it out. There are plenty of great people out there just waiting to lend a hand.
Finally, here’s a simple yet powerful piece of advice my mother offered me years ago: when you’re feeling down, smile. Take a deep breath, turn your face to the wind and smile. As my mother used to note, no-one wants to hang around with someone who’s miserable. Even if you’re not feeling 100 per cent upbeat, put on a happy face and be positive.
“At the innermost core of all loneliness,” declared Brendan Francis Behan, the Irish poet and playwright, “is a deep and powerful yearning for union with one’s lost self.”
I read once that man is the only creature who recognizes that he is alone. That’s an interesting piece of information, don’t you think? If true, it stands to reason that man – having recognized his aloneness – is the only creature that can actually do something about it. If you’re feeling lonely do something about it. Own your loneliness, get out there and mingle.