Being alone without feeling alone is a challenging state of being for some individuals. With the internet and social media, there are ways to be alone without being alone. Introverts are individuals who are comfortable being alone without feeling alone. Introverted individuals need time alone to regain their social energy whereas extroverts get their social energy by interacting with others.
Society places high importance on being outwardly social and extroverted. While introversion in childhood is not necessarily encouraged, in adulthood, some of the most successful individuals have been introverts. Viewing alone time as a break, as a way of focusing on yourself, or as an opportunity to self-reflect can all help shift the mindset that alone time is negative.
There are two types of loneliness an individual can feel. The first type of loneliness is an emotional type of loneliness. Emotional loneliness is where an individual can be surrounded by a sea of people and still feel completely alone.
With the high degree of time spent on smartphones and social media, many times when people are together, they’re buried in their smartphones, and they are not actually interacting with each other. In times of emotional loneliness, families or friend groups may be disconnected from communication as well as needing limits and boundaries surrounding the use of technology while gathered together.
The second type of loneliness is physical loneliness. Physical loneliness is where individuals are physically alone with themselves with no familiar individuals nearby. Physical loneliness is difficult for many social individuals to handle. Finding ways to occupy time or creative outlets that can enhance the ability to be more socially engaged with others can help with periods of physical loneliness.
Loneliness occurs when individuals crave social and emotional needs that are not being met. It is when people miss mattering to others. The feelings of loneliness can still be present whether individuals are physically alone or feel emotionally alone around other people.
Social loneliness is felt when we do not have a confidant and are unable to get support from family or friends. Emotional loneliness is more likely when there is a lack of intimacy in close, exclusive relationships with one’s romantic partner, parents, or kids. Loneliness, in its different forms, can lead to despair and depression.
Coping with feelings of loneliness can be difficult. Our bodies are hardwired to bond with others for survival. If humans had all the skills and abilities as newborns to survive without parents, the need for forming bonds and attachments would not be relevant.
One coping skill is to resist immediate relief from feeling alone or isolated. Engaging in escape behaviours, like eating, drinking, sex, or shopping helps people avoid uncomfortable feelings of being lonely. These behaviours are not positive ways of coping with isolation or loneliness.
Put the past in perspective by remembering that as a child, individuals needed to depend on others. Biologically, when someone we have a bond with goes away, a biological alarm goes off. The biological alarm going off is a feeling that many people fear most about being alone.
When feeling alone or isolated, resist the urge to ask why. When focusing on the “why,” we focus on patterns of relating that aren’t working and that turns into a downward spiral of negative thoughts. Instead of asking, "Why am I alone?" ask, "What can I learn?" Loneliness is normal, everyone feels lonely. The billions of humans on earth at some point experience feelings of loneliness.
Qualities in people that like to be alone include:
Enjoy quiet time
To relieve feelings of isolation in living alone, find a project or a new challenge that gives you creative control. Being uncertain about the future and when we will no longer be alone, we lack control over when periods of isolation may end. A lack of control can lead to grief and a depressed mood.
Creative projects that require repetitive movements can reduce stress. Building something from scratch can give a sense of control, purpose, and achievement. Investing time in the future by using alone time to learn and master new skills on your own can also be beneficial.
When spending time with others, focus on the quality of the interactions rather than the number of times you meet with others throughout a week or a month. Feeling connected to others is a fundamental human need. Social attachment and intimacy we share with family and friends promote positive mental and physical health.
Decorate your living space to your own creative taste. By living alone, you can create a living space that suits your own interests and style. If you enjoy design or planning things, you can fill your alone time with gathering ideas, putting together mood boards, and completing projects that make your space comfortable for your personality. Fill your space with colours, styles, and items that create good, positive feelings when spending time in your own space.
Cultivate independence by becoming self-reliant. If you have lived with family your whole life, living alone can feel empty. There is no one to vent to when you had a rough day at work. There’s no one else to share chores or responsibilities. When you’re able to be independent and manage minor problems and tasks on your own, you will not only feel stronger, but you’ll get to know yourself better in the process. Self-reliance can lead to a lot of growth and make you a more compassionate person in the long run. Cultivating independence can help you feel whole whether you are alone or in a relationship which in turn can negate issues of dependency. Being perfectly okay with being alone without being lonely can have a positive influence on developing healthy intimate relationships.
If you find yourself being unable to cope with loneliness it's important to reach out for help. Many therapists on Talked offer a free 15-minute consultation to help you start your mental health recovery. Remember anything done in excess can lead to poor mental health outcomes, no matter how innocent things may seem.
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