A recent study determined that 40% of Americans reported being lonely. So please know, you are not alone in feeling lonely.
When people go through a painful experience such as a divorce, it is a natural instinct to isolate oneself. Putting on a brave face, pushing down emotions, smiling when you don’t feel like it, all take a lot of energy. So sometimes, you just choose to be alone. But then, you feel the loneliness from the breakup even more. It’s easy enough for others to tell you to “just get out there” – but sometimes dealing with the loneliness of a breakup takes something a little deeper.
STEP 1: GIVE TO YOURSELF
When you’re feeling lonely, this is the time that you need you the most. You are your greatest gift to yourself. You have to give yourself the love and attention you deserve. Looking outside of yourself to fill that void, takes the control out of your hands. Put it back in your control and do for yourself what you’ve been seeking others to do for you. Because you deserve it.
Use alone time to do what works for you. Some people will tell you to just get out there, go to a bar, go to dinner with friends. But if that type of interaction doesn’t feed your soul, then don’t do it. Take yourself out on YOUR ideal date. And if that means staying in for a bubble bath and a great book, or going for a hike in nature, then do that. If it means calling friends and doing a dinner party, then give yourself the gift of doing that. The important thing is to be true to you. Do the things that make you feel good. Be patient with yourself. Some days you won’t feel like pushing yourself and that’s ok too. Feeling empty time with just stuff won’t heal loneliness but doing things that feed your soul will. Be thoughtful and selective in how to fill your time.
STEP 2: IDENTIFY AND RELEASE YOUR NEGATIVE BELIEFS ABOUT BEING ALONE
The feelings we have about being alone are built upon the beliefs that we hold. It’s important to take the time to be in silence and notice the thoughts that are coming up about what it means to be alone. You will start believing the things you think consistently. So it is important to stop yourself when you are thinking negative or critical thoughts about being alone and reframe them into thoughts that could be as equally true but are in the service of your peace. Once we question the truth of our thoughts, we can reframe those thoughts and have a different perspective of what being alone really means. “The Work”, as developed by Byron Katie is a process to investigate our underlying beliefs.
As an example, here is a belief to start doing the work on loneliness: “I hate to be alone”. Answer the following four questions about this belief:
Is the belief true?
Can I absolutely know this thought is true?
How do I react when I believe that thought?
Who would I be when I am alone if I didn’t believe that thought?
What are all the ways that the opposite of this belief could also be true?
STEP 3: FOCUS OUTSIDE YOURSELF
One of my favorite quotes is:
“I was sad that I had no shoes until I met a man that had no feet’.
When you are focusing too much on being alone, try to consider others who have life circumstances that you consider less fortunate than yours. Getting yourself out of your own head, and into showing compassion toward others, will indeed lessen your own loneliness. Numerous studies have shown that showing compassion toward others can significantly reduce feelings of sadness and anxiety. Caring for others less fortunate will also never fail to help you feel gratitude for all that you have and put your own blessing in perspective. Spending time helping others will not only feed your soul but will also free your mind from focusing on being alone. And if will help you feel good about yourself too.
STEP 4: OPEN UP TO OTHERS
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. Open up to the people in your life, let them know you feel lonely. Everybody can relate to feeling lonely, as everyone has felt it at some point in their life. The very process of expressing and sharing the feeling with others can have an impact and lessen your feelings of loneliness. And you may be surprised by the invitations you get and the fun you have with others when they know you are lonely and make an effort to give you comfort. People can’t support you if they don’t know you need it.
Be honest about your loneliness but be confident as well, that these feelings of loneliness will pass with time. With openness and a commitment to your healing, you will one day look back at this time in your life as an experience of the past that you learnt from and overcame. At the same time, it is not only about the passage of time but how you spend it. Spend it with those that soothe your loneliness doing activities that feed your soul.
STEP 5: GET PHYSICAL
Physical exercise can significantly reduce the feelings of sadness related to loneliness. Exercise releases chemicals in your body called endorphins, which can improve your mood and interact with parts of your brain that reduce your perception of pain. Even small amounts of exercise daily have been shown to have an impact. Spending time in nature has also been shown to produce feel good chemicals in the body. Combining both can significantly combat loneliness.