Learn how to avoid feeling lonely wherever you are and actually begin to enjoy these moments of solitude.
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Loneliness is everywhere and affects us all. You don’t need to actually be alone in order to feel it. Sometimes, the loneliest experience you’ll ever have is when you find yourself surrounded by people who do not see you for who you are. KP Lovejoy will teach you how to avoid feeling lonely wherever you are.
KP Lovejoy is an expert in human relations, family life education, personal financial readiness, career transition, resilience, and violence prevention. She helps people move from broken to breakthrough in the areas where they are stuck (Vocationally, financially, socially, mentally, physically, and spiritually).
You were created for relationships. You were created for the community. It’s the human condition. Every one of us has a need for other people. Other people have a need for us.
Yet, every day, a war inside the culture screams one word – Independence!
Societal messaging from childhood trains us. Never let your guard down. Don’t let anyone get too close. You’ll be perceived as weak if you let them see how much you need them.
So you convince yourself that you don’t need anyone.
Allowing your vulnerability to be on display is frightening to most. It’s hard to let anyone else ever truly know of your intimately human need to feel respected, admired, appreciated, loved, valued, and seen.
And, like clockwork, right about the time when you let that guard down and begin to feel comfortable with your human need for connection, companionship, and community, it happens.
A friend. A coworker. A boss. A lover.
The stabbing pain reminds.
You were right. You don’t need anyone. You’ll be fine on your own.
Or will you?
Even when we choose to protectively lock our heart inside the casket of self preservation, isolation is still difficult for most of us. Never gone are the longings to be seen, to be loved, to be valued, to be appreciated, to be respected, and to be needed.
Where can you turn to silence the cry of every human heart?
How can you silence the belief that you were created for relationships?
Why does it feel so unnatural to feel like you’re all alone?
When You Live Alone
I live alone. I don’t even own a pet.
Many think that sounds awful. Others think it sounds glorious.
Could it be a mixture of the two?
Either way you look at it, being alone doesn’t have to equate with being lonely. Remember earlier? You and I are created for connection.
In fact, I came up with a few simple tricks. They result in a fun way to create and maintain connections — even when you live alone, even when you are socially isolated. You’ll have to wait until the end to learn more.
For now, ponder this much:
In his timeless classic, “Man’s Search for Meaning,” Victor Frankl talked about his experience in a Nazi concentration camp.
In the midst of the deepest suffering imaginable, losing his parents, his brother, and his pregnant wife, he found a way to make peace with the pain of his loneliness.
Frankl made a decision to focus on the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude. He mastered the art of cultivating a renewed sense of purpose by realizing a simple truth.
No matter what trials we face in life – we get to choose whether we will become victims or live as victorious overcomers. What he found surprised him. If you read the book, it surprised us all.
His quest began within. His answer was his choice to find meaning in the midst of the ensuing mayhem.
You see, loneliness can most often be felt when there’s something going on inside of you that feels unseen, unworthy, unlovable, or even unwelcome. When you don’t feel like you belong to a family, a group, a community, a religion, a society, or any gathering of people, you will likely struggle with loneliness.
In Frankl’s case, loneliness wasn’t about whether or not he was with the people he loved. He had no control over the sad reality that they were all gone.
He made a choice to cling to the beauty of what remained, celebrating gratitude, finding joy, searching within himself to find a new way to honor the depth of connection with the people who were still around.
It was impossible to feel any sense of entitlement when overwhelmed with the appreciation of all he had to be grateful for.
Like a magic pill, give gratitude a try and see what else shifts in your thoughts and feelings.
While the manifestation of loneliness may be subjective and personally expressed, the impacts on your quality of life are hard to deny.
Your lonely state of mind can lead to heart and other medical problems. In fact, a recent Harvard study found that depression, elevated stress levels, diminished brain function, increased drug or alcohol misuse, poor decision making, etc. are commonly linked to loneliness. Some even suggest loneliness can shorten your lifespan by many years.
Check Your Playbook
So how can you fortify your protective shield against loneliness?
Refer to your manifesto. You know, the contract you made with yourself? Whether single or in a family, your manifesto serves as a reminder of what you expect of yourself…and of others.
When was the last time you asked yourself if you actually loved yourself? If you deemed yourself worthy of value, love, kindness, and respect?
What type of values do you cherish? What faith and traditions have meaning for you?
What kind of treatment do you allow from yourself as well as others? What types of words can be spoken about and to yourself and others?
Your manifesto is a starting point to identifying the pain point of what may be causing feelings of loneliness.
If you haven’t answered these reflective questions, it’s very likely you’ll struggle with loneliness. Because the truth is, you can be surrounded by people and still feel alone.
Often, the most unlovable pieces of you are staring back in the mirror asking to quickly change the subject to something less threatening – like social media, the weather, work, other people, etc.
That distraction only turns attention away from your perceived shortcomings.
A Better Way To Connect
Remember the ancient wisdom that challenges us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves? How can you love a neighbor if you don’t even know if you like yourself?
Welcome to the beginning of your journey to end loneliness. Be true to yourself and you’ll be better at fostering the kinds of connections that protect against loneliness.
But, why is it so hard to embrace love for ourselves? Why is it so hard for most of us to be in solitude – alone with our feelings? Alone with the core of our identity?
We have the choice to open our eyes and to see the reality of the identity. What is our alone time teaching us? What blessings come from solitude?
What issues strike the core of identity? Perhaps there’s something I’m hiding from? Is it too painful? Maybe you were taught to play it safe and avoid going deep in connection? Perhaps you are more comfortable with what’s on the surface? Maybe this feeling of loneliness is an internal message that something inside needs to change.
What inner healing/inner work could be accomplished only when slowing down to a stillness and rest that allows being fully present with our senses, breathing, pain, meaning, and even our brokenness?
Have you considered that sometimes you and I can’t achieve our breakthrough until we are one with our brokenness? Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose? What is the meaning of life? How do I achieve that? What if I feel like I missed my shot? Why do I stay stuck? Who needs me to be here for them? Where do I go from here? What will my legacy be?
Once we know ourselves and have resolved to actually love ourselves, we can connect on deeper levels with others.
Feeling Lonely When Surrounded By People
Hold on…that’s a lot of introspective questions for someone who lives alone. What if I live with my spouse, children, parents, roommates, etc. How can I stop feeling lonely when I’m surrounded by people who I actually love being around?
While loneliness is best described by your subjective description of how you feel, it can also be classified as a dangerously fast spreading contagion. If I’m feeling lonely, there’s a high chance I picked it up from someone around me who’s struggling with their own loneliness. If you aren’t careful, you’ll pass it on to others and they’ll do the same.
Simply put, if you struggle with feeling lonely, all the negatives tend to be amplified. A self-fulfilling prophecy, when overwhelmed with personalized feelings of loneliness, you are likely to attract others who are in the same boat. Together, the loneliness epidemic spreads.
1. This is why it’s so important to find ways to seek out positivity and celebrate gratitude when feelings of loneliness seem overwhelming.
Literally hunt for human connections that are waiting to be discovered all around you. Even when you don’t feel like making the effort, do it. Even when you don’t feel a sense of belonging, force yourself to create one. Let others know they belong in your life so they have the opportunity to show you that you belong in theirs.
2. While on the topic of assessing your connections, it’s time to take a friend inventory.
It’s been said that comparison is the thief of joy. Scrolling social media to compare how many friends, likes, and comments you have versus your “friend” is not doing anything to cure the feeling of loneliness.
When it comes to friends, it’s important to remember to seek quality over quantity. I refer to my “who can I call when it’s 2AM and I’m in jail…again” test. If that person isn’t coming to get you, it’s likely they are not really your friend.
3. Find another way to connect with other humans who may be struggling with their own loneliness. Pick up the phone. Have an actual conversation.
It’s been said that in order to love someone, you have to know their story. When was the last time, you asked them questions about their dreams from the night before? Rediscover the people in your home, in your work, in your circle of friends. Get to know them – maybe for the first time. Invite them into your world on a deeper level.
4. Host a virtual tea party or happy hour where everyone gets to know each other on a different level than they would in the normal setting.
Focus on their words – take notes on what they say. Pay attention to the similarities and ask for more information on the differences. Even when physically separated, we can be present and be there for the people we care about. This invites them to want to do the same for us.
There’s a great book called “The Five Love Languages” by Gary Chapman. It shows how to break down communication barriers through the five different ways of expressing connection with others.
1. Using the concept of love languages, your loneliness can be countered. Even when it’s not possible to physically connect with another person, when lonely feelings arise, you can find ways to create physical connection.
2. Perhaps sending a stuffed animal scented with your favorite cologne or perfume will work as a temporary representation of physical touch.
3. Words of affirmation can be expressed via a letter, card, or even a voice message, phone call, or video chat across the miles. Even when you can’t be together, you can find ways to honor quality time by cooking a favorite meal with friends over your favorite video application.
4. If gifts are your thing, this could be a great time to showcase your creative brilliance through artistic expressions of music, photography, collage, paint, etc.
5. Finally, whether with strangers or friends, acts of service like mowing someone’s lawn unannounced, offering to watch someone’s children while they run errands, or even finding someone more lonely than you and coming up with creative ways to honor widows, orphans, the elderly, strangers, etc.
And, when you find a way to serve people you don’t even know, there is almost a 100% guarantee that follows.
When you take your eyes off your own situation or feelings of loneliness to love, serve, and give to others, you’ll actually find yourself in the place of receiving the blessing.
Why The Rush?
Prior to the pandemic, many of us were on a constant rush from one thing to another. How many of those things were really contributing to you being fully alive? Did they lead you to feel as if you were living as your best you?
What about the others in your home? Was everything contributing to your shared sense of purpose? Everything you did prior to the pandemic was in alignment with who you are, why you’re here, what’s your mission, purpose, calling?
Let’s start there.
One of my mentors always says that “what we focus on gets bigger.” If we won’t allow ourselves to slow down long enough to focus on self care and prioritize things that are good for us, we may become quickly engulfed by things that are less important.
We can train our brains to focus on what is true, what is hopeful, what is positive, what we are grateful for, what we’ve overcome in the past, what thriving connections we have, etc.
What are your priorities? What are you rushing to get back to? What can you slow down to enjoy and re-prioritize as a means of aligning your best you with the actions you take every day?
When you look back 10 years from now, is this going to be a mile-marker where you set your life on a new course to achieve the best plans and purposes you were created for?
If not, that may be the root of loneliness.
When was the first time you remember feeling this way? And why have you allowed that to become a comfortable place? What is keeping you from stepping into the fullness of purpose?
The old proverb says that where your time and your treasure are, there is your heart. As you spend time alone, ask what are you focusing your time and your money on.
Are they in alignment with the things you say you value the most in life? Are they propelling you on a path toward living as your best you? Or are they pushing you in another direction all together?
It’s possible the loneliness you feel is confirming that the people you’ve surrounded yourself with are stuck in a pattern that isn’t propelling you toward purpose.
Not only are we understanding the importance of who we surround ourselves with, science is teaching us more about the myth of multitasking. It turns out the human brain can’t effectively focus on more than one thing at a time.
If we have limited resources in terms of our brain’s capacity and our time, why not choose wisely?
Which sounds better for your well-being?
Complaints. Fears. Worries.
Entertainment. Shopping. Needless pursuits.
Rushing. Striving. Comparing.
Gratitude. Loving. Giving. Serving.
Peace. Rest. Reflection. Vulnerable to feel.
Inner healing. Self care. Down time. Whole person.
We can train our brains to focus on things that are productive to our mental, physical, social, vocational, financial, and spiritual well being as we minimize the negative effects of loneliness.
By choosing gratitude, we can ask ourselves what we have to be thankful for about this opportunity to slow down. Instead of racing down a negative path of catastrophizing, we can stop and take our thoughts captive every time we feel a downward spiral coming.
Start by asking “is this even true?” Follow with “what is the worst thing that can happen because of it?”
When we own our thoughts and address our feelings, we find they have less power. We know the reality is most of our worst case scenarios will never happen. Realize how much time and energy you are wasting on overthinking or chasing down rabbit trails instead of living fully in the present moment of the beauty that surrounds you.
And, adjust fire today.
Bringing It All Together
1. Be present. Be there.
2. Set aside every distraction and mark time on your calendar. Give each person or thing your undivided attention and ensure that nothing can steal the joy that comes from being fully present in what is happening here and now.
3. Invite all your senses to take part.
Feel the sun on your skin and the cool breeze through your hair. Smell the freshly cut grass with the morning dew still glistening in the sunrise. Taste the richness of your morning coffee or the water as your shower. See the sun peeking through your shades as you open your eyes at dawn. Hear the laughter of the kids secretly tiptoeing across the house as they try not to wake you.
Final thoughts on how to avoid feeling lonely wherever you are
At the beginning of the article, I promised some ways to combat loneliness. The law of reciprocity works in such a way that if I am there for you, it’s likely you will be there for me. The best way to make a friend is to be a friend.
1. So, when we struggle with feeling lonely, think of the first 5 people you would like to be friends with. Reach out to them in a way that invites them to want to reciprocate.
2. If it’s someone’s birthday, find a creative way to let them know you’re thinking of them. You don’t even have to spend much if any money at all.
This invites creativity which stimulates another part of your brain that combats the tendency to feel negative feelings like loneliness. Virtual singing telegram? Handmade birthday card?
3. Do you have pictures or magnets on your refrigerator? Find the pictures of five people you wish you could spend time with today. Who reminds you of the pictures of special places you have around your home?
4. Pick a letter of the alphabet and recall a special memory of someone whose name begins with that letter.
If you get stuck, start with the letter “L” and go through the list of names of friends that have names beginning with an “L.” For example, I miss my friend Lori and wish I could spend time with her today. She is in Massachusetts and I am in Colorado.
When I think about her, I ask why I miss her. What special memory comes to mind? Is there a conversation we’ve been meaning to have? Is there something she’s done that inspired me to be a better person? Perhaps she was there for me during a particularly rough time.
When I begin thinking of why I miss her, I don’t just stop at the surface memories. I want to go deep to the core of who I am and why I choose for her to be in my life.
Now, here’s the fun part. I call her.
Facetime, Zoom, Skype, Messenger, etc. I find a way to see her face to face if possible. I tell her the things I appreciate and admire about her. I remind her why I am happy she is in my life. I encourage her by speaking life into her spirit and showing her that yes, in fact, I do see her.
We laugh, we may cry, we share memories. We laugh again.
The point is not how we do it. The point is we started with our “Why.”
5. Sometimes the best way to discover a cure for our loneliness is to step outside of our comfort zone and be what we wish someone would be for us. Whether finding a way to be a friend to someone we’ve known for years or someone we just met, you’ll find the truth is…you truly do get what you give.
It’s been said that it’s more blessed to give than to receive. When it comes to being a friend to others in order to find a cure for loneliness, I agree indeed.