Whoever you are and whatever your lifestyle, I bet that at some point you’ve experienced loneliness. If you haven’t, it’s likely you will in the future. Loneliness is something I’ve witnessed affecting the lives of people I care about as well as something I’ve felt myself, and recent studies indicate that it’s on the rise.
It’s not embarrassing to feel lonely at times. It’s normal. Totally normal.
A study conducted by the BBC last year, found 40% of 16-24 year olds felt lonely ‘often’ or ‘very often’, with categories from every age group coming in at over 30%.
Loneliness is an unpleasant feeling, and one that can be hard to articulate or get to the core of. You can be loved by many people, be surrounded by many people, or be perfectly used to your own company and still get struck by this feeling of isolation. The experience is personal and goes to different depths, but for some can accelerate into a deep physical ache.
Finding a way to reduce this feeling, is important. Not just because it makes you feel better, but also because it allows you to make better choices.
If you can’t be comfortable being alone, you’ll be forced to bind yourself to the most available people, which can have serious knock on effects for the rest of your life. If you want to have original ideas it’s also important to reduce this. Great people generally spend a large portion of their time alone; original ideas need some silence in order to be heard.
The way that most people deal with loneliness is by distraction. Surrounding themselves with other people, drinking, watching a film, going on Instagram… and honestly, these things work. They work to a degree at least. They can reduce your awareness of how you feel. But there will be moments when, for practical reasons, you can’t distract yourself, and loneliness can suddenly feel quite overwhelming. Even terrifying.
So instead of reaching for your phone, here are some things you can do alone to help calm that emotion, and find peace in solitude.
Look around the space you’re in and take note of all the things you have that other people don’t. Your windows, your roof, your heater. The small things you can see and feel. Instead of allowing your mind to wallow in the things you don’t have, consider instead the things you do have. It might sound a little preachy, but really taking in and observing the things you usually glaze over, can be incredibly calming.
Have a shower
A quick fix but an effective one. Feeling something physical is a great way to calm the mental. A hot shower can be really transformative and help clear your mind. It’s also quite an intimate experience which you can really enjoy alone.
Consider faith or spirituality
While it’s true that you can feel lonely when with people, it’s more common to feel it when you aren’t with other people. For as long as people have existed, faith has existed. Faith that there is something out there which exists on a different plane to humanity. If you’re religious, take comfort in the presence of that which you believe. If not, developing a sense of spirituality, of something ever present, will serve you greatly.
If you’re not going to open up to spirituality (or if you are but it isn’t working), then think instead about another human. Not necessarily someone you know, it actually works better if it’s someone you don’t know but admire.
Think about them alone. What are they doing? How are they spending their time. Everyone who has ever written a novel has written it by sitting alone for hours, weeks, months. Musicians are ‘cool’ on the surface, but how do they write lyrics? Not by surrounding themselves with people, but by finding some alone time. Find solace in a remote connection to these individuals.
Everyone should have a journal as it’s a brilliant help in the fight against mental battles. Having one doesn’t mean you think you’re a philosopher, it’s just a really powerful way to process your thoughts. So many things we experience get exaggerated by the echo chamber of our own minds. Write them down and they start to dissipate.
Sometimes, what feels like loneliness is actually a wake-up call for emotions we’ve been running away from. If so maybe it’s time to stop running and take some time to work out how you can eradicate some of that unease. No change happens overnight but you can start to make positive steps in your life by evaluating and planning your next moves.
Though we experience our emotions internally, as we discover when we hear a song or read a book we are never the only person to have felt how we feel. We are simultaneously ultimately alone, and also, never alone. Hopefully these tips will help you find comfort in that.