Are you lonely? Do you feel you will only be happy when you meet someone special? Do you believe others around you are living a better and more fulfilling life, surrounded by friends, the perfect relationship, family, career, etc?
Welcome to the 21st Century's most common epidemic: chronic loneliness.
I watched a vlog by the lovely (read hunky) Matthew Hussey on loneliness and it really struck a chord with me, as I believe it will with many of you too.
You see, human beings were not designed to be solitary creatures. We survive and thrive better as a species in tribes, nations, families, partnerships, etc. John Cacioppo, author of Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Interaction, says that the absence of social connection triggers the same, primal alarm bells as hunger, thirst and physical pain.
In small doses, loneliness is a valueable tool that enables us to read social cues. Extended periods of loneliness can be dangerous and leads to depression.
Change your perception
Lonely people tend to be self involved, and spend too much time feeling misunderstood.
Get out of your head, and try to think of other people's perception. You are not misunderstood, or so *unique* that no one else is the same. You are not alone in feeling this way. Express your pain. Write your fears on a piece of paper, cry for them, then light it up and watch it burn. If you need to, speak to a therapist to help you find the root of your fears and pain. Don't dwell in them now though, the goal in this first step is to get out of your own thoughts and start to think of others.
When was the last time you reached out to a friend? When was the last time you made an effort to reconnect with an old friend, or make a new one? My guess will be, a long while ago.
You can find an event, or topic that interests you and invite a new or old friend to join you. Get out of your usual solitary routine.
Social studies have shown that more intelligent people have fewer friends (thank you British Journal of Psychology for proving what I already knew to be true). The reason being that they can 'read' people better and are less likely to tolerate things they don't like. Loneliness also makes your more alert, which may cause you to perceive social situations as threatening, which are not. For the sake of your sanity, dumb down your intellect and be more forgiving to others. Don't read into things, and just be present in the moment. This also means, don't leave a party and analyse every conversation you had. Just chill girl!
Identify your personality type
Loneliness is not reserved only for introverts, or people lacking social skills. Identifying though, if you are an extrovert or introvert, will help you consider your options when socializing. Do you prefer smaller groups or big events with many people?
I am an introvert, and often feel less connected in bigger groups. Personally, I enjoy myself alot more in small social gatherings as I enjoy long conversations and connecting to people. That's not to say I shy away from big events. I only go to these though when I know that it will be with people I don't know. I love meeting new people and having new conversations, making new connections and being a social butterfly, fluttering between groups. Ironially, I avoid big events when it's too many people who I know, because I prefer a tête-à-tête with these people (and I can select how much time I want to invest with that person).
Companionship ≥ Intimate relationships
Matthew Hussey's vlog on loneliness, he makes an interesting point about the value of companionship. In today's hedonistic society, and as women, we believe in finding *the one* and having a relationship that is intimate and perfect and we will live happily ever after.
Our ideals on relationships (and marriage) are shaped by a set of romantic myths and misconceptions. We beleive we will be happy when we find that perfect someone, and when he turns out to be less that perfect, our glass dreams for happily ever after are shattered and so are we.
I was at my loneliest while I was married. I truly wanted to believe that being with someone meant I'd be loved, appreciated and fulfilled. The opposite was true. I now understand and value companionship so much more than this idealistic idea of *being in love*.
'Companionship runs deep between two people, lasting beyond hardship or cooled passion or the ordinariness of life. Many people are torn between companionship and romantic love because they crave passion. However, if companionship is “done right” it can include passion as well.' (Read full article 10 tips for perfect companionship).
Philosopher and author of Essays in Love, Alain de Botton discusses the misconceptions around love in a talk, where he presents a realistic case study of a marriage and examining what it might mean to love, to be loved and to stay in love.
If you use social networking as a way to promote face-to-face conversation, it lowers loneliness. But if you use a destination, as a replacement for the face-to-face, it increases loneliness (read more on this here).
Meeting friends or new people is always fun, and you feed off each other's energy and body language. 90% of a conversation is these two things and only 10% is the words that were spoken. You always leave a meeting with someone and you remember how you *felt* not what you *said*.
It's not a coincidence that a higher percentage of people are feeling lonelier with the increase of social media usage. People show you what they want to show you online. Take it as an edited, filtered version of reality. No one is having a better time than you, so stop cyber stalking your ex and that girl from high school and start connecting with people you want to share an experience with. Nothing is more lonely than living a passive, voyeuristic life.
The road to breaking the habit of loneliness is not an easy one, but it can be done. I call it a habit because that's what it is. It's tha habit of thinking a certain way and the habit of behaving a certain way.
Having said that, people who are constantly chasing the action or the next best thing (fear of missing out) I find to be the loneliest. These are the people that can't be alone with themselves for too long, which is another issue all together.
I enjoy being alone, now that I am no longer lonely. I was lonley while married and now that I actually live alone, am so much happier. Often, while I read or work, I won't even have music playing in the house. When I do crave social interaction, that is what the gym is for, where I teach yoga or go to train myself, and also my afore mentioned 2 or 3 friends I can always call for a drink. I make new friends quite easily and am happy to exchange ideas and thoughts over a coffee.
I hope you've found this post useful lovers, please share with me, as you always do, your thoughts on the topic.
Love & light
All the lonely yet lovely artwork is by cartoonist Oh Gigue!