Within the past several months there has been a running theme in my life of people telling me they’re lonely. The idea that so many people feel this way is new to me. Some of them expressed a depth of loneliness that felt like despair and some of them were just looking for companionship.
Nevertheless, I don’t think there has ever been a time in my life where more people told me they were feeling alone. Naturally I began looking for solutions. I searched for times when I felt alone and what I did to recover.
One friend even asked me if I felt alone; to which I responded, “I think loneliness is a very human state but as with all states, finding the root cause is always far more important than experiencing the surface level emotion(s).”
This was not to dismiss her valid question but rather an effort to reframe the subject.
I must admit there are times when I have had feelings of aloneness where I start asking myself if what I do matters or if anyone cares if I’m in their life. My adjustments to these thoughts are below; however, I can’t help but wonder if this is more of our animalistic nature bubbling up. If we are herd or pack animals, we want to be accepted and we will constantly try to figure out where we fit in our immediate hierarchy. Hence, we feel the need to be wanted and included. Inclusion then becomes part of our survival - it's no wonder loneliness feels so dreadful! Eventually, though, we have to recognize the fact that our consciousness is what sets us aside from the animals. We can consider abstract concepts like time and think beyond instinct.
Loneliness, then, quickly shifts from an innate desire to ensure our survival to an issue of ego and purpose.
Inevitably, when I’m having feelings of aloneness, I stop myself and think, “Do I care? Do I matter to me?” Because as much as I want to be part of a herd or a tribe, I also have to consider the evolution of myself, my spirit, and the impact that may have on others in the future. So I ask, what am I doing (or not doing) today that would prevent me from being a service in the future to others? In this way, I realize that as much as I want to be on a rooftop in Oakland having the time of my life, my time is best spent researching and meditating. I need to do the work required of me now so I am prepared to do what is required of me later.
I realize I am privileged because I know what I want to do with my future. I think perhaps some of the issue with loneliness is a sense of purpose, or lack thereof. So when you're thinking about solutions to feeling alone, these are some deeper things to consider, hefty though they may be.
Additionally, when I speak to people who say they’ve never felt lonely - as rare as those people are - they all have the same common thread: they are their own best friends.
They make time for themselves. They invest in themselves. They create dreams and turn them into reality - for themselves.
As easy as it would be for me to say the reason you’re feeling lonely is because of technology and our disconnected modern world, it’s not the only reason. One reason you may feel lonely is because you need to invest in you.
Become your own best friend.
Get to the point where you prefer solitude over frivolous nights out.
Spark wonder within and about yourself.
Find your purpose and what drives you.
You can still set time aside for your social calendar. By all means do not wall yourself off from society - isolation will only cause further depression and loneliness. But, do make time for yourself. Think about what you want from life and how you can provide that for yourself first before you ask for someone or something else to provide it for you.
Remember, when you find an external solution, it is inherently a temporary fix. When you find an internal solution, it is inherently permanent.
Always look for the internal solution first. Look to your intuition. Look to your higher power. Even look in your own practical mind. In fact, when you ask yourself a question, your brain will work until it finds an answer just like a computer. Start by asking yourself, “what makes me happy?” or “what do I ultimately want?”. Then wait for the answer to be revealed.
I know very few people who live their lives where they consult their internal mechanisms before they even consider the external and these are the happiest and wisest people I know. They do this by:
Acknowledging their emotions - this is always the first step to a happier, more fulfilling life;
Know that emotions can be fleeting if you let them (aka don't dwell);
Stop looking for the next [person or thing] and look internally - you hold the best answers for yourself;
Find things you love about yourself, create an interest in yourself, and start preferring your own company.
Deep feelings of despair and depression can be hard to overcome on your own, though and if you need to talk, you can contact me below if you like.
If you need to talk immediately - call
National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
- Or - National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) - Note: The national suicide prevention line is not just for people who want to harm themselves, you can call even if you're merely feeling stressed, anxious, or desperate.