Practical ways to connect with others and with yourself
Have you ever been in a room full of people or in a romantic relationship and still felt utterly alone?
When a significant or meaningful attachment to something or someone is no longer there, loneliness can set in with a sense of sadness, grief or depression. We could be missing a place or have lost a partner, or we may have stopped participating in a hobby that we loved. Life transitions can also make us feel lonely whether it's retirement, widowhood, an empty nest, illness or the loss of a job, we can lose a sense of our identity, feel disconnected from our lives and long for the comforts of the past.
In Perspectives on loneliness, authors Peplau and Perlman describe that "Loneliness corresponds to a discrepancy between an individual's preferred and actual social relations." Loneliness: The experience of emotional and social isolation, by RS Weiss further describes that, "This discrepancy leads to the negative experience of feeling alone and the distress and dysphoria of feeling socially isolated even when among family or friends." Researchshows that loneliness can affect our sleep patterns, eating patterns, immunity, and mental health. In fact, loneliness can make us become more isolated because we feel as though we don't belong, so we retract from society and distract our woes with social media and television or become consumed by our emotions.
The unspoken conversation is that many of us have felt lonely, empty or isolated in varying degrees at some point in our lives. We have suffered grief, felt misunderstood, been the outsider, or have felt emotionally disconnected. Often, the coping mechanism is to stay silent so that we don't appear to be vulnerable, but allowing ourselves to feel vulnerable is an act of strength and courage that can lead to transformation. Taking the time to acknowledge and process how you feel can help you to resolve your feelings of loneliness. There are ways to come back to yourself with zest and the full capacity of life. Admitting that we feel lonely could be a first step. Everyone's situation may be different, but at the heart of it there are a few effective options that could be of service.
Become aware of the thoughts that make you feel lonely
When we experience loneliness, feelings of doubt, unworthiness and comparison can sprout up like weeds in our mental garden and we can lose confidence in ourselves, our existence and our purpose. So it's important not to abuse yourself with neglect, self-shaming, or guilt. Even more, it's important to avoid comparison between your life and someone else's online photo montage of friends, happiness and joy. This could leave you feeling more isolated. Your relationship with social media may need to take a hiatus.