Loneliness is a state of mind. Alone-ness is a state of being.
We feel lonely because of our thoughts around being alone.
And while we don’t always have control over being alone, we do have control over how we perceive that.
We do not have to feel lonely.
It can be tricky to make the shift, but we can choose not to feel lonely.
“A miracle is just a shift in perception from fear to love.” ~ Marianne Williamson
It can take practice (and it might just take a moment), but the shift is possible. To achieve it, we need to reframe our thoughts about our aloneness—and sometimes repeat that reframing on a repetitive basis until it sticks—and allow a sense of peace to replace our feelings of discontent or lack.
Of course, holiday time is particularly challenging for those who feel lonely. But we could also regard it as an opportunity to practice not feeling lonely. It might help to spare a thought for all those playing happy families at this time of year, who are actually craving time to themselves instead.
Let’s not assume that because other people’s lives look glitzy and shiny, outgoing and exciting, that they’re feeling at peace within themselves.
Some people are desperately distracting themselves from their inner misery, because they are too scared to sit with their feelings. And it might surprise you to know that 60 percent of lonely people are married—not “alone” as perceived by society.
If we don’t have loved-ones to share a special day with, it is normal to feel sad about that. But a more entrenched sense of loneliness arises when we become stuck in that feeling.
We don’t have to get stuck and we don’t have to define ourselves as lonely because we’re on our own.
It does, however, take some conscious awareness to move our energy and shift our perspective around the issue.
It helps to first honor any feeling of sadness—sit with it for a while. When we allow ourselves to feel our feelings, they dissipate in time. And after we’ve had a bit of a wallow (tears are a great healer and offer a release from the pent up feelings) then follow that up with an activity that nourishes us on a soul level.
I think, too, that a lot of our sad feelings around being alone are borne out of societal expectations. We are fed a diet of happy family imagery that—as well as not being the truth for everyone—can contribute to feelings of social inadequacy, if we allow ourselves to absorb this narrative.
We don’t have to buy in to this idea. And we don’t have to perpetuate it.
It is okay to be alone.
For many people, being alone would be a healthier option than remaining in abusive or codependent scenarios.
Instead of feeling bad or sad about being alone, we can learn to embrace it.
There are benefits to being alone that others cannot find the time or space to enjoy:
>>> We can do exactly what we want, moment to moment, not concerned about having to please anyone else or compromise.
>>> We have the time and space to sit with our feelings—truly feel them and then let them be on their way.
>>> We have the time and space to engage in ritual and other self-care practices.
(Meanwhile, those who have no time to themselves may find themselves suppressing their unhappy feelings. That does not mean they’ve escaped them—they are merely storing them up to deal with at another time.)
Another practical way to counteract loneliness (and, according to studies, essential for our well-being) is to have a minimum of 10 minutes interaction with others a day. Ideally, this would be face-to-face interaction, so make an effort to get out and about most days—even if it’s just to your local coffee shop. But modern technology now enables us to interact with others without leaving home, so it’s good to have this as a back-up plan (rather than our default strategy).
Over the long-term, the most important thing we can do for ourselves is to build relationships with people we truly connect with. It’s the quality of our relationships that matter, not the quantity.
We only need a few true friends. And if we nurture those relationships, connect with those soul friends on a regular basis and disregard the fake happy-clappy imagery we’re surrounded with, then we can be happily alone—free of the misery of loneliness.
Author: Hilda Carroll
Editor: Catherine Monkman