These are my thoughts on loneliness. I resisted calling the article ‘Beating Loneliness’ because I genuinely don’t believe it’s something you can beat, but rather learn to handle, so the feelings of loneliness aren’t totally overwhelming. This article is just tips that in my personal experience can help. And if just one tip helps one person feel less lonely, then it is worthwhile.
There has been a lot on TV recently about old people who are lonely at Christmas, because they are alone. Many of them are in a situation where alone = lonely, often because their partner of many years standing has died. In other words, it is the situation of being alone that causes them to feel lonely. But as many people know, you can feel lonely in a crowded room or surrounded by family members. That is because loneliness is a feeling and a state of mind and not necessarily triggered by physical circumstances.
First tip: disassociate being alone with being lonely. In other words, tell your brain that just because you are alone does not mean you are lonely. There are many positives to being alone. You can do, wear, eat, watch and listen to whatever you want. You have TIME to relax, to think, to be creative or to simply read and listen to music. You are free from the expectations of others. No one is judging you, and that can be very liberating.
Tip 2: Cherish time that you spend alone. View it as a privilege to have this time, not torture.
Tip 3: Keep yourself occupied, and better still, have a plan for how you will use the time. This works for me. If I am busy I can’t feel lonely. And I get a sense of achievement. Even if I have done simple things like go for a walk, brush the dog or cleared out my underwear drawer! This is where hobbies are brilliant. In my experience people with hobbies rarely feel lonely, because they feel a sense of belonging that comes from the hobby. And that is where social media is brilliant. Even if your hobby is something that isn’t social by nature, you can connect with people worldwide who share your interest. You can share advice and experiences, and before you know it, the lonely day you were dreading has flown by.
Tip 4: Be active. Go for a walk, run up and down the stairs a few times, do jumping jacks in your PJ’s, go for a bike ride or do 15 mins yoga. Exercise makes your body produce feel-good chemicals, and if you feel better, you are less likely to feel lonely.
Tip 5: Interact positively with others. Pay people on social media compliments. Thank them for nice things they have shared. Say hi to the person on the supermarket checkout and ask them how they are. Message a friend who you haven’t seen for a long time. Pop to see an elderly neighbour who lives on their own. Simply smile at people as you walk past them. Be nice to the bus driver when you board the bus. You have no idea how those other people are feeling, and you might just be making their day. They are also likely to ‘pass on’ the niceness.
Tip 6: Think of as many things as you can that you are grateful for. Feeling gratitude enhances your sense of well-being, which in turn diminishes the sense of loneliness. Your list may just start off as one or 2 things, but the more you think about this, the more you will be aware of the many things, and people, you can feel gratitude for. It also takes your mind off those people and things that you may be missing, and which are contributing to your sense of loneliness.
Tip 7: Listen to music that makes you feel happy. Music is processed by a very specific part of the brain, and we are gradually understanding that there are many other positive benefits when that part of the brain is stimulated. You only have to follow an artist like James Arthur on Twitter to see the thousands of people who get through lonely times by listening to his music.
Tip 8: Watch a film or a box-set! You really can ‘lose yourself’ in a good movie, and for the duration of the film you won’t be feeling lonely.
Tip 9 : Pamper yourself. Soak in the bath, paint your nails, stay in your PJ’s all day…..whatever does it for you.
Tip 10: Avoid alcohol. Alcohol is a depressant and after the initial euphoria you are likely to end up feeling very sorry for yourself, hung-over and even more lonely.
Tip 11: Don’t reminisce. The past is past. Of course, some people can reminisce to remember happy times and feel happy, but if you are in a lonely mind-set it is likely to make you more lonely.
Tip 12: Don’t believe the hype, and social media and TV, that everyone else is feeling happy and loved and surrounded by amazing friends and family. They probably aren’t. That probably isn’t the reality!
Tip 13: Stop thinking ‘I am lonely’ and think ‘I have time to plan for my future’. In other words, use lonely times to plan, to learn, to research and to start creating the future life you really want. Read self-help blogs and books. Envisage the way you’d like your life to be in the future. Work out what knowledge, experiences and steps you’ll need to take to make that happen.
Tip 14: Book a holiday or tickets to a concert or football match, or simply make an arrangement to meet up with a friend. In other words, create something that you can look forward to, rather than dwelling on your current situation.
The above is based on my personal and professional experiences and views. Everything won’t work for everyone. In fact, none of my suggestions may work for you. But I hope that at least one small thing may inspire you.
Written by Pamela Carvell, December 2018.
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