Instead of getting stuck in feelings of loneliness, look for ways to make time on your own easier.
Human beings are social beings; we need to interact with others, to connect in positive ways and to feel that we belong and are valued by other people.
But although relationships, friendship, companionship and love are undoubtedly important for each of us, they are not the only source of happiness and connection. As the psychiatrist Dr Anthony Storr has noted; 'relationships with others are the hub around which a person's life revolves, not necessarily the hub.'
Although it’s completely normal to want to connect with and spend time with others, it’s also important to feel at ease without others; to be comfortable and enjoy some time alone.
You are the only person with whom you’ll spend every minute of your life with. Whether you want to or not, you will end up spending quite a lot of time alone so you might as well learn to enjoy it. Instead of getting stuck in feelings of loneliness, look for ways to make time on your own easier. How? By doing things that you enjoy and make you feel good.
Think about the times - even short periods of time - when you are on your own but you don't feel lonely; you’re so absorbed in what you were doing that time passed without you realising. What are you doing during those periods?
Perhaps you're reading, listening to music, the radio, a podcast or audio book or watching TV, doing a puzzle or playing a video game. Maybe you are cooking, gardening or doing something creative. Whatever it is, as you do it, no other thoughts entered your mind because you're completely focused and engaged in what you're doing; you don't even notice the time that's passing.
When you’re doing something that that keeps you effortlessly focused and engaged like this, you’re experiencing something known as ‘flow’.
Identify the things you enjoy doing; hobbies, sports, interests. Know that when you have time alone, they are activities where you can easily experience Flow. Hobbies and creative interests can be an important source of connection and provide stability and contentment.
Identify in advance, the times and occasions when you might feel lonely. Make a list of activities and interests that you can ‘lose yourself’ in, whether it's for half an hour, a few hours or a weekend. Doing things that you enjoy can help you move through lonely periods.
Explore new activities and hobbies
Don’t be afraid to try new things. New experiences also give you something to talk about which will interest and connect you to other people. You will also be able to reach out to others with less of a need and more of an ability to give. You will find you have more interest in other people and the world around you.
Do something from home, for other people
Spending some time doing something for someone else will not only give you something to do, it will give you a real sense of purpose and connection. Here's a few ideas:
1. Map a disaster zone https://www.missingmaps.org/
2. Help a child to read https://www.bookmarkreading.org/
3. Improve disabled access www.axsmap.com/
4. Lend someone your vision www.bemyeyes.com/
5. Watch the birds https://ebird.org/home
6. Help expose human rights violations https://decoders.amnesty.org/
If you have a hobby or interest that you can lose yourself in, you will find yourself actually searching out time to be by yourself in order to do what you enjoy. Whatever the activity you choose, you'll know that periods of time spent alone can be rewarding; they can help you to feel engaged and connected. You can relax and accept a calmer sense of yourself.
Gill Hasson is the author of Lonely Less: How to Connect with Others, Make Friends and Feel Less Lonely (published by Capstone, June 2021). She has 20 years' experience teaching and writing on a range of issues to do with personal and professional development, mental health and wellbeing. She is the author of more than 22 books; the bestselling Mindfulness, Mindfulness Pocketbook, Emotional Intelligence, Positive Thinking, the Sunday Times bestseller How To Deal With Difficult People, plus other books on the subjects of resilience, communication skills, assertiveness, and Careers. Follow: @gillhasson
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