The Happiness Connection  

The pain of loneliness

I’m not sure if it is because of the time of year, but several people I’ve connected with this week told me they are lonely.

Loneliness is a universal emotion that has little to do with being alone. It stems from feeling disconnected, or isolated.

Being alone doesn’t mean you will be lonely. It is confusing because both these words stem from a common origin. They both mean having no companions, but they have distinct, if not obvious, differences.

Lonely is an emotion. Being alone is a situation. You can be in a crowded room and feel lonely, or you can be alone and feel happy.

Like most emotions, the reasons for experiencing loneliness are complex. It isn’t the situation you are in, it is your perception of it.

Being in a room full of people you know may leave you feeling isolated. Perhaps the low self-esteem gremlins in your head are pointing out that everyone has someone to talk to but you.

Another person in the room may have quieter gremlins and approach someone for a conversation or take a moment for solitude and some people watching.

Emotions are powerful. They don’t confine themselves to your mind. Intense loneliness can cause physical pain.

When loneliness strikes, it heightens your fight-flight response. This is your physiological reaction to danger. You focus on the perceived threat and shut down anything that doesn’t serve you on your survival.

When you are in this state, it is difficult to learn, or develop new relationships.

Armed with this knowledge, it won’t surprise you that loneliness has been linked to depression, suicide, heart attacks, stroke, increased stress, poor decision making, and Alzheimer’s disease.

That isn’t even a comprehensive list.

Loneliness is an emotion. It frequently makes no sense unless you look a little deeper.

Just because you’ve never felt lonely before doesn’t mean you never will. As with so many things, your genetic make-up plays a part in determining how susceptible you are to it. You may carry a predisposition to loneliness that hasn’t been activated yet.

There are three times of life when you are most at risk for loneliness:

  • late 20s
  • mid 50s
  • late 80s

Unless you are in the most senior of these categories, you aren’t out of the woods yet.

Take steps to lessen your chances of suffering from loneliness. These actions will also help you battle feelings that already exist.

Stay connected

I am talking about connection, not having lots of friends. I have numerous friends, but I am only connected in a deep and meaningful way with some of them. If you want to battle loneliness, it is about quality, not quantity.

Friends are made, not found. Occasionally, you may meet someone who you have an instant and long-lasting bond with, but time and shared experiences are the typical keys to friendship.

Research shows that if you and all the people you meet are coming from a place of kindness, you will become friends with the people you see the most often.

With this in mind, pursue interests, not people. Think about the things you like to do and find groups where others with similar hobbies hang out. With this approach you are more likely to find individuals who are like-minded and enjoy the same things.

Get comfortable with your own company

You can apply the same principle for making friends with others, to making friends with yourself. Many people are so judgmental and critical about themselves that they can’t really be friends.

Come from a place of kindness and spend time with yourself.

I have started booking a monthly Date with Me into my calendar. I’m making sure to plan and choose a date, so I don’t let it get forgotten.

It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it is for you, and you give yourself sufficient time to relax, unwind, and enjoy. Refuse to let any negative self-talk or discomfort invade your space during your date.

Come from a place of kindness and spend enough meaningful time alone to learn to love and appreciate who you are.

Take time for personal development

One of the best ways to battle loneliness is to delve into the reasons for it. Once you know why you feel the way you do, you can develop strategies to combat feelings of disconnect and isolation.

The next time you notice you are feeling lonely, take some time to lean into your feelings. Possible questions you might ask yourself are:

  • Why am I feeling this way?
  • What would change how I feel?
  • Can I view this situation from a different perspective?
  • What is one thing I could do right now to lessen how I am feeling?

Be brutally honest with yourself. Offset this by being kind and accepting. The you that exists today is perfect for today.

Your aim is to be a little bit stronger and wiser tomorrow. You are on a journey of self-discovery that will continue for your entire life. There is no such thing as perfection or finished.

Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone to help you. Having a coach can make transformation happen more quickly, as they know the questions to ask and can suggest strategies to try.

Most people feel lonely at some point in their lives. You don’t have to let it get the better of you.

Remember, loneliness is an emotion. That means you have more control over it than you might realize.

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About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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