I have a good mentor who told me many years ago that, “loneliness is not the absence of affection, it is a lack of direction”. At the time, I wasn’t really sure what to think about her statement, or if I even believed it to be true, because after all, isn’t loneliness exactly that: an absence of people around us and/or affection??
But as time does, I now think about these words much differently. I now understand that the loneliness is often a state of mind, a thought that is closely connected with our emotions, and if not tamed can bring us into even lower feelings of loneliness and isolation. Our self-esteem is negatively affected and we feel unloved and unwanted. This is a downward spiral of feeling and believing that we are “lonely”.
So what do we do when this loneliness creeps in on us?
- Acknowledge the feeling, but do not entertain it. When that lonely adversary pops into your mind, say hello, but do not hang out and talk. Shut it down. Remind yourself that loneliness is only a state of mind and get moving into shifting this thought. Change your scenery, call up a friend and talk, go see family, grab a good book, watch a movie, take a nap, or do something positive that will help to get your brain off of the loneliness path.
- After getting far away from the loneliness thoughts, take a moment to think about where it may be stemming from. Are you single and think that a relationship is the reason you feel this way? Are you in a relationship and feel like it’s not working out? How are things going at work, school, or with family? Are you believing social stereotypes of what loneliness is? What area of your life may need some attention to help prevent this loneliness trap?
- Set some goals. We should all always have some goals, whether big or small. We need to consistently work toward both small and large victories in our lives. Of course there are seasons of our life where we get a little stuck, and we feel as if we are accomplishing nothing, even if we are. Are you in a dry season of your life? If you feel this way, maybe its time to take things up a notch! Start a new hobby, hit the gym, volunteer, clean your home, start journalling….just set up a few new goals and go for it!
Loneliness is likely an absence of direction. We have been misled to think that being in a relationship, or surrounded by a group of people will make us feel included and accepted, even loved. This is so far from the truth. I know people who are married, constantly with people, have a people-oriented job, and even have a large family and friend base, and are still lonely. Could some of the reason for this loneliness be a lack of direction? Do we find ourselves bored and then feeling alone?
Of course, there are other reasons that we may feel lonely, and these suggestions are no substitute for seeking professional help if the feelings will not subside. But if you are suffering with the occasional bout of loneliness and wonder why, try these out and see if you feel any improvement!