I’ve spent tons of time alone, but I haven’t felt lonely in years.
Funny enough, whether I’m being alone or around people has nothing to do with it.
I know that a lot of people are suffering from loneliness, so I wanted to open my view – who knows, maybe I can ease someones mind about it.
This article isn’t about “how to get friends”. This article is about how to deal with the internal torment of loneliness.
- It’s about you – Until you understand your own values and what engages you mind, you’ll have hard time finding people to connect with.
- It’s ok to be alone – What you see is all you think there is. When your personal experience is that the only viable lifestyle is to be social, you need another point of view. It’s definitely ok to be alone – you just have to learn how to deal with it.
- Solitude does not equal to loneliness – This is the ultimate key point. Loneliness is a subjective feeling that you are having when you have thoughts of missing something intrinsic from your life. (You aren’t)
- Read experiences from other people – You could read my story just below or just go google the crap out of the web – you’ll find a lot of people sharing their experiences. It really helps to put your own baggage in perspective.
- There’s great power in being alone – To be short, I’m the most productive when I’m alone. I constantly explore new things and try out new experiences by myself. This is something that I never did when I was spending time with people.
- Stay active – Intrinsic part of feeling loneliness is that you’ve got way too much time to think. Excessive thinking without balancing activity is a sure recipe for mental disaster.
- Develop a meaning – This doesn’t mean that you aim to become the next Steve Jobs (though that would be preferred way to do this, wouldn’t it?). Finding a meaning means that you find a way to engage your mind on regular basis.
For elaboration, read further.
How I ended up like this
I had a small circle of friends.
The activity between us consisted of drinking on weekends and playing games on weekdays.
For years I had been in a tough spot: I didn’t really enjoy going out drinking, but I didn’t want to be left out either.
I had lots of mental problems back then: depression, lots of anxiety and paranoia.
I also experienced crippling loneliness on regular basis.
At some point, the dynamics between us started to falter. We became more distanced from each other – sometimes it seemed like people were avoiding me.
That felt really tough back then.
I still had someone who to talk to daily, but I always felt like I was “a second choice”. All this made me realize how situational friendships really are.
I lacked meaning and content in my own life, so the dynamics between the few people were everything to me.
Fast forward 6 months: the depression, anxiety, loneliness and everything accompanied by them escalated. Every morning was like waking up to a hell on earth – waking up only to be tormented by my own thoughts.
At some point I started to play around with the thought “what if I’d try to make myself happy instead of looking for it from other people?”
I became more proactive in my daily life. I tried new things, I did less of what was expected of me and focused on how to make myself feel good.
The first time in years I actually felt good for extended period of time and it was all my own doing.
Not long after I realized that me and my old friends didn’t have anything in common anymore.
I don’t know what kind of picture you get of them based on this text, but in hindsight they were really good people.
Our roads just were destined to go in different ways.
It’s ok to be alone
It’s perfectly fine – people are alone all the time.
The problem is that you are a machine that’s jumping to conclusions.
What you see is all there is – meaning that your brain almost never considers things that it doesn’t see.
What you see is world full of people being social and having fun.
What you don’t see is world full of people who aren’t engaging with others and are still having fun.
The second group of people obviously are not getting any headlines in todays world which makes them practically invisible.
Don’t let the imagined expectations of the society to bring you down.
If you are alone, so be it. Do something that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside.
Solitude isn’t the same as loneliness
Loneliness is a feeling caused by thoughts of missing a connection.
The terrible part is the uncertainty of everything: what if you will never connect with anyone again?
I wish there’d be a solution for that uncertainty other than to realize how little you can or should depend on others.
You can’t become comfortable by thinking about it, but by finding and engaging in something meaningful to you.
If you are feeling lonely, it’s a sign of two things: not staying active and not connecting with someone.
The thing is that through staying active you both lessen the need to connect and you’ll create yourself more chances to find someone who you can share your mind with.
(more on becoming active further down)
Not being able to connect with anyone?
You could have tons of friends to hang around with and still feel lonely.
This is because you feel a lack of connection.
The connection that I’m talking about isn’t necessarily about being connected to others, but most of all to yourself.
When you figure out what kind of person you want to develop yourself into, what kind of things you want to achieve and when you finally start moving towards those things, you start to connect with yourself.
Through this process you start to feel less lonely, because you develop a way to keep yourself engaged.
When you develop a stronger sense of self, you start to realize something important: you don’t want just “someone” to hang around with, but someone who has similar values with you.
There is great power in being alone
This subhead sounds so cheesy that I hate it already, but I think that it reflects really well how I think about solitude.
I get a lot of shit done nowadays and that is directly proportional to how much I spend time alone.
I write here at self improvementa, I’m searching for other projects to work on, I’m busy at my job, I exercise, learn new skills and enjoy my time.
I’m responsible for everything that I do and I feel like I have no problems getting together with people if I want or need to.
It’s just that most of the time I’m so engaged that I just never even think about it.
You don’t have to care
This is one of the most underestimated pros of spending time alone.
You don’t have to care about:
- What others are doing
- Whether they are ‘including you’
- What they think about you
The only thing you have to care about is what makes you tick.
I’m not trying to say “solitude is the best – fuck everyone!!1″, but rather make you consider the alternative to being alone:
I admit, it’s indeed awesome when you are having great time with people.
However, when you are feeling lonely, you are forming an image in your mind that makes reality pale in comparison when it comes to relationships.
What you fail to see at that point is all the bullshit that comes with relationships.
When we look things from the point of view of scarcity we easily just think about what we are missing.
What we are really missing is the whole package. Both the positive AND the negative things.
This is the number 1 reason why I find it hard to feel lonely despite being alone.
This is also the hardest thing to understand if you haven’t experienced it for a while.
The whole point is not to be active all the time, but to avoid being passive for too long.
This is because it’s too easy to fall into the “relax-trap”.
You become trapped when you start to think that you can relax as much as you want and spring back without any problem because you’ve “recharged” so much.
It’s so cunning it makes me shiver.
When you’ve spent enough time in the trap you start to think and feel that becoming active won’t make you feel better.
The feeling can be so overwhelming that it cripples you.
Becoming active magically (yes, magically) changes that emotion. Through that it changes your thinking.
It’s just so hard to realize when you “don’t feel like it”.
Read, exercise, learn to play ukulele, meditate, go out for a walk, drink tea, put some good music on.
It’s not about distracting yourself with fun sites – it’s all about engaging yourself with something that develops your character, your skills, is genuinely fun (sometimes puts you in flow state) and/or creates something new to this world.
Develop a meaning for yourself
Viktor Frankl, spent three years in nazi concentration camps.
He went through extreme conditions, watching people die left and right.
During and after his experience he concluded that the single most important factor of surviving in such environment was to have a “meaning”. (Read his book, Man’s search for meaning)
To develop a meaning means that you figure out yourself what you want.
Why assume that someone (or something, like the universe) has to “give you a meaning to live”?
Assume responsibility. Take the wheel and start steering yourself instead of waiting for someone (or something!) else to do it for you.
Unless you are depressed and super anxious, being passive and being addicted to distractions is the main thing that kills your will to live.
Meaning -(consistent way to kill passivity) can be anything: self-growth, becoming good at something you like, helping others, doing business.. Anything.
It’s good as long as you find yourself feeling good after doing it (it doesn’t have to necessarily feel good while doing it :).
It’s probably not “just” loneliness you suffer from
You may not be suffering from loneliness. Not exclusively anyway.
There may be social anxiety, anxiety, depression, anything.
If you are looking for reasons for feeling lonely, it’s the feeling of inadequacy. The fear of not even being able to be with someone.
You can’t just wait for your mental hindrances to go away. I’m perfectly aware that when you feel like shit, it feels like nothing will ever change.
However when that feeling changes – even only momentarily – you start to see how much that feeling directed your line of thinking.
If you don’t know how to get rid of them, start looking for different ways to do that.
I can’t say what it is for you – different things work for different people. I’m certain though, that there’s a way for everyone.
Just don’t stay still.
Read about other peoples experiences
I wanted to put this out there. This isn’t a permanent solution or anything like that.
In my experience, it can help a lot to realize that you aren’t alone with your feelings.
When you are alone with your thoughts it’s sometimes hard to put things in perspective.
Reading about other peoples experiences shows you that maybe you aren’t as alone as you think you are.