Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Almost all of us have experienced loneliness at some point in our lives, whether because of a breakup, the death of a loved one, or seeing a photo of someone on our social media feed having a great time without us! While some are better able to overcome loneliness, for others, it can have a deeply pervasive effect on both their mental and physical health.
When those who are lonely reach out to others for advice on how best to deal with their emotions, they are commonly advised to simply spend more time with friends, family or colleagues, or to join a club to form new connections and broaden their support network. However, this assumes that those experiencing loneliness will no longer suffer when placed in social settings. It encourages them to rely on external influences to fill any voids within they may be feeling. Turning to others when lonely disregard that it is entirely possible to be alone without feeling lonely and to feel lonely when we are not alone.
To overcome loneliness and form meaningful connections with others, we must first engage in self-development processes. Douglas Abrams claims that when we alter our inner state of mind and heart, we create opportunities to positively reshape our physical and social world. Confronting loneliness at an internal level allows us to feel connected, without needing to rely on external sources to fill the void. This is empowering.
The five ways to overcome loneliness are:
1. Listen to your soul
Your soul knows when you aren’t completely satisfied with your life and will give you signals via the mind and body to remind you of its desire for optimum health and happiness. Be in tune with your full range of emotions, the way you express them, and the effect they have on your wellbeing.
If you feel lonely, learn to observe or witness your thoughts. You may be thinking thoughts that fuel alienation and withdrawal such as “I’m constantly misunderstood”, “no one cares about me” or “I don’t belong here”.
Use this insight to change your thoughts to ones that are life-affirming. Your soul wants you to think thoughts that allow you to feel calm and happy and when you feel this way, you will naturally become more connected to others and less alone.
2. Be warm-hearted
Emotions such as anger, sadness and stress are a natural part of most people’s lives. However, it is important to distinguish that these emotions, that are commonly viewed as negative, are not really who you are. The real you is warm-hearted, magnificent and content. Divine in every way.
When someone is warm-hearted, they are always completely relaxed, and subsequently, the atmosphere becomes more positive and friendlier ~Dalai Lama
Observing and accepting all our emotions, even our difficult ones, helps them to flow through our energetic body, allowing us to return to our warm-hearted self.
3. Become aware of emotional triggers
When you develop the skill to acknowledge and accept any tension within, created by your emotions, it becomes easier to know what triggers you emotionally. For example, you might notice that when you listen to mellow music or study consistently, your feelings of loneliness are exacerbated. This might be because the music reminds you of a special time in days gone by with a loved that is no longer with you. When you are studying you may be thinking about the fun you could be having with others instead of being indoors stuck at a computer.
Recognise that it is your thoughts and the accompanying feelings that are making you feel lonely, not the actual situation. You may not have the power to change the situation. However, you always have the power to change your thoughts.
Viktor Frankl is an inspiring example of someone who could do this. As a prisoner for three years at a Nazi concentration camp, subject to working in the harshest of conditions, he was able to focus on the thought that “love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which Man can aspire”. Amazing that he was able to think in this way in the most difficult circumstances.
4. Focus on the here and now
Although it is crucial to allow for ‘me time’, the paradox with loneliness is that when you centre all your efforts on creating happiness for yourself, you can end up doing the complete opposite. Narrowing your vision to being “I” centred rather than “we” centred creates a disconnect from others.
Too much emphasis on myself, and I start to think I’m something special, then more anxiety, more nervousness ~Dalai Lama
In addition to focusing too much on yourself, looking backwards to the past can distract from the current reality, and prevent you from moving forward.
Life is here to enjoy. Focus on your passions, interests and hobbies- martial arts, walks in nature, meditating or enjoying a good book. This will feed your soul, and you will automatically feel engaged with the present moment and less lonely.
Also, experience the joy of helping others. When we help others, we also help ourselves. One of the greatest joys we can experience is using our gifts and talents to make a difference in others’ lives. Usually, there is a beautiful energy exchange that warms our hearts, and our souls tell us we are “on the right track”. In this state, it is impossible to feel lonely.
5. Live with gratitude
It is impossible to feel grateful and lonely at the same time. Make a list of the things you appreciate, no matter how small- the sun on your back, an unpacked dishwasher, or a loved one checking in on you, for example. Much depends on your attitude, and once you begin to witness and express gratitude, you will notice others gravitating towards your positive vibes.
We shouldn’t expect others to open their hearts to us, rather, open our hearts to them ~ Dalai Lama
We are born and die dependent on others and cannot ignore or downplay the importance of others in our lives. Conversely, by taking the time to be alone, self-examine and transform any feelings and patterns that lead to us feeling isolated, we can feel less alone! Then when we connect with others, it is healthy, as we feel so complete their love is just a bonus. Through self-awareness, our soul’s guidance, kind deeds and compassion towards others, we can develop the power to become happy people that enjoy deep, meaningful and lasting connections.
For further reading about overcoming loneliness, check out Lonely, not alone