What does it mean to be single in the world? How lonely are you? How happy are you? Are the two related?
I became “single” in 2017 and I am figuring out how to do this successfully. Do I have all the answers? Absolutely not. Do I have some suggestions? Yes.
It is difficult, today more than ever, thanks to Covid-19. Waking up and greeting a day guaranteed to be filled with uncertainty and possibly fear.
We are all searching for happiness, fighting loneliness.
The negative effects of loneliness have been documented scientifically. And it is universal. Also, it is a perceived social isolation, not an objective experience.
In other words, people surrounded by others can feel lonely, whereas people living alone may not.
This tells me it is a mindset and we can choose.
I have learned that the source of my loneliness is often negative self-talk. As a woman of faith, when I first became single, I had the Accuser telling me, “You are alone in the world. You are alone in the world,” on a loop in my brain.
I kept praying and meditating.
One day, I clearly heard, “Either I am with you or not.” I chose to believe then and there that I am never really alone.
Even a balloon floating off into the sky is surrounded by air. Air is something, something significant.
Before I can address loneliness, I need to recognize it. We all have the need for connection. I believe we are all inherently lonely; some call it a God-shaped void.
There is no shame in admitting it. Go ahead. You are human, too.
But do not stay in that place!
What strategies have I adopted to mitigate loneliness?
- Reach out
- Pray and meditate
- Address any negative self-talk
- Intentionally work on your List of 101-practice gratitude
Call a friend. Invite someone to hike, share a meal outdoors, meet in the park to talk. Covid-19 has given us new opportunities to go outside. Why not together? Everything is better with a friend, including folding laundry.
Even if your friends (or acquaintances) turn down your invitation, you have made it known you would like to spend time with them. This is flattering to anyone. Who does not like to be on the receiving end of an invitation?
Realize they are busy, too, but you have made it easier for them to reciprocate.
Sometimes, it leads to a good phone conversation as well.
The phone might feel like 500 pounds, but trust me, that weight falls away as you use it.
Don’t limit yourself to reaching out to friends. Reach out to strangers and acquaintances. They become friends.
I chatted with an elderly gentleman in the parking lot of my apartment building when I first moved out on my own. He had physical ailments that limited his mobility. When I admitted to not owning a television, he invited me to watch his. Sunday evenings became a time of weekly catch-up while a line-up of shows played. It was an excuse to get together. Just this week he sent me a birthday card. We still talk by phone, despite both of us moving.
At one time, he was a stranger, then an acquaintance, now a friend.
Use Loneliness as a Push towards Faithfulness
If you are a person of faith, now is a good time to fill your tank with what boosts your spirituality – prayer, meditation, devotional readings. Consider your Higher Power and spend time with it, whatever it might be. Like any relationship, it requires time and communication. What a gift to have that time.
This is a piece I wrote on mindfulness and the fact that something is happening, even when you don’t see it or know about it. Be mindful and accept where you are in the moment. It makes today richer. https://catstrav.medium.com/mindfulness-gives-me-patience-2a7cf7378de1
Remember that Loneliness is Perceived
It may not be real. You may have a neighbor looking for you to emerge from your residence, but have not thought to step out. You may have a friend waiting to hear from you, but you haven’t texted or called.
You just do not know. Accept that fact.
Listen to any self-talk and address it. Is it negative? Replace it. Remember everyone is worthy of love and connection. Everyone.
In an earlier blog post I wrote about 101. You can read it here if you missed it.
Basically, it’s a list of what brings you joy, or those things that you are grateful for. Working on this list has proven to improve our mental health and mitigate depression.
Gratitude is a game changer. Use it.
I would love to hear your strategies for overcoming loneliness. Please share! It would make me feel less alone. 😉