We've all felt it. That empty feeling in your stomach. A loss of connection with other humans. The thought of hours or days ahead of you with no company but yourself. You may even have felt it when you're surrounded by people. No matter how hard we try and fight it, we all feel alone sometimes. So why do we find that so hard to admit to each other? Even to ourselves?
The answer is important. Loneliness has been shown to be very significant in the deterioration of our physical and mental health, and can have a huge impact on life span. In short, being lonely for extended periods of time does no good for you, or for society as a whole. So let's bust some loneliness myths right now. After all no man (or woman) is an island!
1) We think it shows weakness ( but it doesn't)
This is one of the biggest reasons we suffer in silence, from depression, from loneliness, from anything that life throws at us that we 'should' be able to handle. Us British in particular seem to have a need to 'soldier on' through feeling low, and a lot of us would rather carry on in silent misery than face the shame of admitting it to another person.
The fact is you don't need a right to feel lonely. It can happen at any time in your life. Whether you're young, old, whether you've just had a child, or whether you're at university surrounded by people, you can still feel alone. To admit it can make you feel weak and unworthy at the time, but the truth is it will actually make you stronger. Admitting that you're going through a tough time is a strength, not a weakness.
2)We don't want to burden others (but we won't)
When we're feeling lonely we assume that everyone else has more exciting stuff going on in their lives than us. Whether this is true or not we convince ourselves that we 'better not bother them'. The last thing we want is for people to spend time with us out of pity. So instead of reaching out and asking someone over for dinner or a cuppa, we hide behind pride and make ourselves lonelier.
But hang on one second- if you think about it- how many times when a friend has called us have we thought "oh god not her/him again"? Most of the time we are delighted to hear from that person because we're feeling the same way ourselves...
It's easy to assume other people have these exciting lives and are too busy for us. Most of the time it's just not the case.
3)We're living busy lives (so slow down)
In our fast paced society it can be easy to be lonely even when you're surrounded by people. Yes true you are working with people all day, but how often in your day do you make meaningful connections?
How many times do you open up about yourself to another person rather than letting them just see the surface version of you?
Going through the motions and hiding behind a mask can make you feel like a living ghost. Not taking time to really listen or contemplate conversations, and the people around you, is equal to walking around in a bubble. No wonder you're going to feel lonely. Slow down and take time to listen and connect with people, It will make the world of difference.
4)We live on our keypads (so give someone a call!)
With all the technology at our fingertips it can be easy to rely on our phones and laptops as the sole form of communication with our friends and family. After all it's easier to send a quick Whatsapp or update our Facebook status than it Is to pick up the phone and call someone. But in keeping everything digital, we are losing out on a vital part of human connection. Being able to hear someone's voice and reactions, or even better see them in person, goes a long way to helping you feel less lonely. It reminds us that someone cares about us and wants to know how our day has been. It allows us to feel connected to another human in a much more natural way than looking at words on a screen.
5)We are scared of it (but it shows we're human)
Photo credit: Christophe Leung via Flickr
The biggest reason we don't want to tell anyone we're lonely is because we don't want to admit it to ourselves. Sometimes it's easier to mask it by being really busy, and then when we are alone finding any distraction we can- movies/the internet/drinking...The thing about that is, it will always catch up with you eventually. It is far more helpful to admit it to yourself, "Oh hey yep I think I'm lonely", and work out how you're going to deal with it.
Step 1: Just accepting it is a big step. It's okay to be lonely. We're human and we all get lonely sometimes.
Step 2: Know that it will pass. Although it may feel like it, you won't be lonely for the rest of your life. Feelings come and go like people and sometimes loneliness is a natural emotion signaling that you need to change something to move onto the next stage.
Step 3: Do something about it. Even if its something small like making a dinner date with a friend or joining up to a local club. Doing something about it will make you feel more positive and in control of the situation. Remembering that there are millions of other humans out there that want to make connections too. Proving that you should NEVER feel ashamed to feel lonely.