All of us feel lonely or alone some of the time. It is only when we seem trapped in our loneliness that it becomes a serious problem. Instead of letting that happen, cultivate it and embrace it. It is an opportunity to discover and develop your inner self. No one else can fill that void. If we are loving and valuing ourselves, then we can enjoy our solitude, and also more effectively connect with others.
Canadian novelist Douglas Coupland said, “The time you feel lonely is the time you most need to be by yourself.” It’s an opportunity for introspection and self-growth. Here are some tips for navigating loneliness and learning from it:
1. Accept that loneliness is just a habitual feeling.
Some memory or emotion may trigger a feeling of loneliness even when you aren’t alone. It can be an intense feeling, but it’s not necessarily based on reality. If you realize you’re dealing with an emotional habit, and that YOU are allowing yourself to feel that way, you become empowered to change it. The first step is to accept that you’re feeling lonely.
2. Respect yourself.
Recognize that you have a unique personality and accept your appearance. If you can (and want to) do something to improve it, choose a practical program that addresses your lifestyle and habits that can be maintained over the long term. A confident and positive attitude is always more attractive and appealing to others than any physical archetype.
There are times it’s absolutely normal to feel lonely — like after a divorce or an intense breakup. A life change like this can often lead you to question your self-worth. The solution is not to jump into a new relationship. It should be an opportunity to reconnect with yourself.
3. Develop yourself.
Failing to reach your potential (or worse — not trying) will absolutely leave you feeling empty and lonely. Choose any inspirational book or philosophical work (like The Enchiridion by Epictetus or Nicomachean Ethics by Aristotle) to start learning about yourself and the world. Question life and enjoy analytical thought for its own sake. Sure, you may not find all the answers, but it’s the activity of thinking and philosophical analysis itself that is important.
4. Be kind to others.
Choose a way that you can help others. This creates a sense of self-worth because you are making a practical, positive difference. Helping the less fortunate or ill has the added advantage of putting the blessings of your life into better perspective.
5. Express your feelings.
Create space for positive friendships. Talking to an understanding friend or professional can ease feelings of loneliness. Expressing your grief and knowing that positive memories are always with you will help alleviate feelings of isolation associated with missing someone who has died or left you.
6. Don’t rely on distractions.
Turning to various addictions like alcohol or drugs to avoid painful feelings, or making someone else responsible for your feelings does not work.
7. Notice your thought patterns.
Pay attention to self-denigrating thoughts and replace negative self-talk with affirming messages. Prayer, mindfulness, and meditation can also help you center yourself and get in touch with your thoughts and feelings.
8. Love yourself first.
Does loving someone else or being loved alleviate loneliness? Studies show that it does help, whether it is love for a partner, a family member, or God. But think about it: Is it because the other being fills that void or is it our act of loving that fills that emptiness? I think it is mainly the latter.
Your first act of love should be to love yourself, and only this will truly fill that void. While we are social beings, we are born alone and die alone. I don’t think this is a depressing thought. It teaches us that ultimately we are responsible for developing our own selves. Loving another is simply an offshoot of the ability to love. In other words, loneliness begins with you, and you cannot truly love someone else if you are exclusively dependent on others for love.