“Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty.” – Mother Teresa
Pinpointing what loneliness means, is a hard thing to do. It’s one of those things that is different for everyone. It might simply be that you feel disconnected from others, or perhaps you feel like you are unable to communicate with anyone on an emotional level. Maybe you feel left out, or you may feel that you don’t have a bond with the people that surround you.
Whatever your definition may be, you must ensure that it is clear to you, so that you can tell when you are feeling lonely. Why you ask?
Well, research has actually shown that a lack of social connection is linked to the activation of some of the brain regions associated with physical pain, showing how much harm a lack of interaction can cause. Those of you feeling really lonely sometimes know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s not simply a feeling we can brush off. In fact, it is important to recognize its presence. Once we have done this, we can begin to combat the feeling through our own actions.
Whatever your definition may be, you must ensure that it is clear to you, so that you can tell when you are feeling lonely. Why you ask? Well, research has actually shown that a lack of social connection is linked to the activation of some of the brain regions associated with physical pain, showing how much harm a lack of interaction can cause.
Those of you feeling really lonely sometimes know exactly what I’m talking about. It’s not simply a feeling we can brush off. In fact, it is important to recognize its presence. Once we have done this, we can begin to combat the feeling through our own actions.
#1 Make use of the physical world… NOT THE DIGITAL ONE!!!
Wait, what? Using my phone allows me to talk to people at any time I want! Certainly that is true, but ask yourself why this is.
Think about the type of interaction you are encouraging by constantly using social media. Is it really meaningful? It is helping in creating a strong bond between you and the person on the other end of the phone?
Many times, communicating through the digital world can often reinforce superficial relationships. Much research has shown that interaction through the online world does not provide the deep meaningful connection we require with other human beings.
Now think about what physical, face to face interaction does for our well-being? Let’s say you had something really important to tell someone. You could give them a WhatsApp or you could meet up for a coffee. Which would you realistically choose? It is these types of situations that help us to form the relationships we need in order to live a fulfilled life. But how does this relate to feelings of disconnection? Well, this kind of interaction is exactly what we need to help improve our emotional well-being, to stop us from feeling lonely.
Remember the last good talk you had with a close friend or even your romantic partner. How did you feel? More often than not, you should feel amazing. A solid, in-person conversation, produces higher levels of endorphins when compared with online interaction, helping us to feel better about life. So the next time you are feeling lonely, rather than go straight to your phone, perhaps organize a meal out or something that will help to get you connected with the physical world!
#2 Develop new connections
It might sound a bit cliche, but actually getting out and meeting new people is an important part of feeling connected to the social world. You could join a club, start a new hobby or even start volunteering.
Whatever it is, try and find something that allows you to develop new relationships with people that were not previously involved in your life. It could be that your current connections are not providing you with good enough feelings of relatedness to the world around you, so seeking out new people to interact with people is the first step to develop new, stronger relationships.
#3 Realise the importance of self-awareness
“Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.” – Paul Tillich
We mentioned it earlier, but actually knowing when you are in a prolonged period of loneliness is a very important thing to be able to do.
Loneliness does not simply mean being by oneself, but it is this lack of connection to those people around this. So there is in fact, a clear distinction to be made here.
There is loneliness, and this concept of solitude, which can be more related to the idea of actually choosing to be alone. Also called aloneness. Let’s be honest with ourselves, we all love our own company once in a while. Sometimes we would prefer to be alone, which is absolutely fine. At other times, we may wish to feel more of a connection to other humans, which would characterize loneliness.
Begin to know yourself, and more importantly, know your feelings.
Take-home message. This is a very simple and understandable concept, but we feel that this is something that is not talked about enough. So don’t be afraid to share your feelings. Speak to your friends, let them know how you are feeling, and always try to meet as many new people as possible. But most importantly, understand yourself and how your feelings reflect your current emotional states. Just remember, we need the downs in life to make the ups feel truly amazing.