I’m not entirely sure why, but loneliness… or, more to the point, the thought of anyone suffering from loneliness breaks my heart more than just about anything else. You’d think this effect was because I was familiar with loneliness, but au contraire. I honestly don’t remember experiencing the feeling! Maybe it’s because I was an only child? I remember hours and hours and hours of playing by myself in my room. Hundreds of Barbies, Barbie clothes, cars, houses, planes, etc surrounding me. And while I always had friends, I also remember a lot of times I’d just ride my bicycle through the neighborhood (as far as my overly protective mother would allow me to go, that is) – with my German Shepherd Lucky close by.
I don’t recall it ever bothering me in the least. In fact, when a friend would join me on the ride, I’d think, “Well, I guess I won’t be singing Delta Dawn or Brand New Key out loud any more.” (“I gotta brand new pair of roller skates, you gotta brand new key..“)
I don’t know, maybe my early experiences (pre-marriage and pre-3 little girls!) with being alone taught me that it’s not such a horrific thing. Maybe my childhood gave me an edge when it comes to realizing that quiet isn’t the least bit unattractive. Maybe it’s because I always have some form of a much-loved pet nearby. Or maybe I’m simply predisposed to never feeling lonely!
And yet, in spite of it being unfamiliar territory with me, personally, my heart breaks into a billion and one pieces for those who feel lonely. Sometimes I read e-mails from people who are asking for tips on battling loneliness and I feel my eyes filling with tears faster than a sink fills with water. I simply don’t want anyone to have that feeling… EVER!
This post would, then, be my attempt to make this feeling go away – to free those who battle loneliness. As with all of my efforts on my self help blog, I only hope that, somehow, something I say can be of help.
How to Overcome Loneliness
First of all, here’s a philosophy that’s always served me well: When you find yourself in an unpleasant, or even remotely unsettling, position – MAKE IT WORK FOR YOU. Sit the situation across from you and demand something from it that’s of worth to you. Flip it! For example, sometimes my husband has a lot of yard work waiting on him when the weekend comes. Combine a very large yard with a very meticulous man (sometimes I think he counts the blades of grass) and you have a recipe for a lot of yard work. However, Mother Nature doesn’t always appreciate the situation. Sometimes it’ll rain all weekend, leaving Mr. Meticulous indoors and the lawnmower and weed eater in the garage…. all watching the rain from a window.
Most of the time, although crest-fallen and heart-broken, Mr. Meticulous will say something like, “Well, this gives me time to catch up with…. (paperwork, reading…).” He takes a negative situation and squeezes something positive from it.
Anyplace is a good time waiting to happen if you’re in the right frame of mind.
Become an expert at “flipping” situations in your life. If a situation seems unattractive, give it a makeover. Turn it into something that benefits you and makes you feel like you snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
How can this apply to loneliness?
- Use your time alone to improve in areas of your life!
- Is improving your physical fitness a personal goal? If you’re the only one in the house, you have a gym all to yourself! Pop in a dvd, buy an exercise book, or simply put on Motown and give the cat a show.
- Improve your mental fitness and memory by playing brain games. You can find a ton of them online as well as in books.
- Read more! All that blissful quiet time means you won’t be interrupted. Pick a favorite author and make your way through each of their books. You can even find online book review blogs and websites where you can talk to others about the books you read. If you read Agatha Christie, cookbooks, books about birds, Max Lucado, or self help books, e-mail me! We can have some great in-depth conversations.
- Have you always wished your house looked like something out of a magazine? Go room by room and make it happen. Begin buying pretty little extras from throw pillows and new curtains to dish washers and dressers. Redecorate, change your colors, have a ball.
- Have fun!
- Have you always wanted to try a new hair color? Who’s stopping you?
- Buy bird guides, a couple of bird feeders, and fall in love with bird watching. It’s one of my own greatest joys in life.
- Buy a treadmill or other piece of exercise equipment. Not only will you get a workout, you’ll have a blast.
- Carve out an hour or so each day and watch a favorite television show. Buy the seasons on dvd, start at the first and go to the end. I can practically recite I Love Lucy, Andy Griffith, Sanford & Son, Little House on the Prairie, and Beverly Hillbillies episodes by heart. I’m working on Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman!
- Take up a craft-y hobby like soap-making, candle-making, and/or jewelry making. I’m actually wanting to do all three! I keep trying to narrow it down to one to start with, but I can’t decide.
- Find your BLISS. To me, this means finding things that make you smile, inside-out. Then fill your days and nights with them. Surround yourself with things that make you smile. You are in charge of your own happiness. No one else controls your bliss. It’s in YOUR hands. Use it wisely!
Improve Your Vocabulary
Although this would certainly be a great way to use your time alone, I’m not talking about literally improving your vocabulary. I’m talking about changing the way you think, and talk, about your time alone. Words are incredibly powerful. The more we say something – whether it’s to ourselves, others, our pets, a plant – the more power it has. If we put a word or words on “repeat,” we give them the power to become Hulk-like in size and strength. They can, in the end, be our undoing.
Given the fact that words have such super powers, it’s obvious how important it is to say the right words – words that’ll lift us up and put us in a better place.
- Instead of whining about the house being too quiet, say, “How peaceful!” Peaceful is one of the most beautiful words in the world – so is her twin, Serenity.
- Instead of thinking of yourself as being all alone, think of it as “Me time!” Me time rocks.
- Instead of sighing, sing!
- When someone calls and asks how you are, don’t you dare say “lonely!” Say you’re doing great, thank them for asking, and ask how they are. (more on this one in a minute)
- Delete “lonely” from your vocabulary – being alone does not mean you have to be lonely.
Just promise me you’ll never say the words “I fell lonely” again. Promise? Okay, good. Thank you.
Self-Pity is a one way ticket to loneliness. Not only will constantly telling other people that you’re lonely cement the fact in your own mind, it’ll be prophetic. Think about it for a minute, if , when you called someone in your family and, every time you cheerfully said, “How are you doing today?!?!” they dragged on and on about how lonely they were… well… how long before you just quit asking?! People are not drawn to moodiness or misery. It brings them down.
Literally, in fact. Research has shown that humans pick up on the vibes others send out. Mr. Negative Pants can, literally, bring you down. Mrs. Bitter can leave you feeling angry and unhappy. Next time you’re around someone who’s angry, notice how the muscles in your own neck tense up.
This reaction is why it’s palpable when someone who’s charged with negative energy leaves the room. It’s as though the room breaths a sigh of relief right along with you.
Whether people even realize it, they are put off by situations in which other people “bring them down.” I’m convinced that many times (not all) the main reason a son or daughter doesn’t call/visit mom or dad more often is this: They don’t like the way they feel afterwards. If they get an earful of how sad, lonely, and depressed their beloved parent is (especially if they get the feeling that they, inadvertently, contributed to this misery) – they’re going to feel really down when they get off the phone or leave.
When the calls and visits begin dwindling, he or she may not even realize, themselves, why. But the bottom line is a lot simpler than most people realize: No one wants to feel down.
Be upbeat and as positive as possible when talking to others. Obviously, if you feel sick, you HAVE to say so – just don’t go on and on about being lonely. After all, you’ve promised not to use that word again, remember?! You’re enjoying “me time,” and basking in peacefulness and serenity, right?! You’re finding your bliss for crying out loud! This is you loving your life…..
And don’t you forget it. 😉
By all means, use some times to be alone;
Salute thyself–see what thy soul doth wear;
Dare to look in thy chest, for ’tis thine own,
And tumble up and down what thou findest there.
– William Wordsworth
+++ The ridiculously gorgeous polar bear pictures in this post are actually ridiculously gorgeous art prints, available online. Click through the one(s) that catch your eye and check them out. You know me, I want one of each. For each room. I’m polar bear-obsessed like that.