Welcome to my course!
Over the next nine days, you will learn about:
• the meaning of loneliness in the present world and why it’s important to know this
• habits that make you lonely in the long term
• practical methods to cope with and overcome loneliness
Each lesson starts with researched insight into specific aspects of loneliness and ends with a personal challenge that will help you alleviate your isolation.
The only rule is: Take baby steps and don’t be daunted. Let’s begin.
I struggled with loneliness for six years. If you have opted for this course, it’s likely that you’ve felt the same at some point. Perhaps you’re lonely right now.
Before we talk about how to cope with loneliness, it’s important to understand what loneliness is and how it sneaks into our lives and makes us deeply, deeply sad.
Loneliness is a natural and unpleasant human response to prolonged isolation. It’s a negative feeling that is experienced either when you don’t receive human contact or feel disconnected from existing relationships and immediate social circle [1, 2].
Loneliness can be of two types: when we aren’t getting enough social connection (i.e., social isolation) or when we’re not emotionally fulfilled with the connections we have (i.e., emotional isolation).
It usually starts with feeling unhappy with your present arrangement of life. If ignored, this perpetually deflating feeling often escalates into a full-blown existential crisis.
It’s Essential to Know That People Are Lonely in Different Ways
Loneliness can always be deduced down to social or emotional isolation, but the sub-divisions contain intricate variations. Maybe you just moved to a new town and don’t know anyone. Maybe you are a caregiver and stuck inside the house without a social life (Cultural or Transitional Loneliness).
Are you active on social media but aren’t forming any real-time friendship (Social Media Loneliness)?
Are you intellectually starved because you don’t have anyone to discuss your interests with (Intellectual Loneliness)?
Are you lonely inside because your partner is not paying attention to you? Or maybe you just got divorced, widowed, or orphaned (Psychological Loneliness)?
The list goes on.
It’s important to identify what kind of lonely you are, because only then you can work on finding a solution effective for your specific feeling. For example, if your loneliness is a result of a recent divorce, remind yourself that this feeling will pass with time. You could refer to the stages of grief or seek a bereavement counselor for support.
Why am I telling you all this? The biggest reason is that loneliness almost always serves as a tangible reminder to take stock of the quality of our lifestyle and relationships.
Why Do We Feel Lonely?
Consider this: We are not the strongest or largest of the animals. We are relatively small creatures enclosed in the tender shell of skin, we can’t smell danger or run very fast, and our bones break easily. So, how have managed to rule the planet despite being a rather frail species?
This is because our unique strength lies solely in our ability to communicate with each other and collaborate to get what we need. Think about it: All the milestones of human achievement—the Agricultural Revolution, the Industrial Revolution, and now the Technological Revolution—are superb examples of people working together to build a new world that was previously inconceivable . Being able to communicate our emotions and thoughts is the unique strength of our species. We cannot do much on our own, but together, there’s nothing we can’t do.
A big takeaway from this is that we are wired to be social creatures. Our biochemistry narrates that we connect with each other in a meaningful way [4, 5]. Social relationships keep us sane and carry us through. So, when we withdraw from society for a period of time longer than comfortable, our brains trigger feelings of loneliness. It’s your mind’s way of telling you to focus on evocative human interaction and social integration, crucial for holistic well-being.
How Do You Know If You Are (Or Anyone around You Is) Lonely
After decades of research and social experiments, scientists all over trust the UCLA Loneliness Scale. It’s a simple questionnaire with multiple choice answers. Take the test here and be honest when you do it. Nobody’s watching except you, and identifying yourself on a loneliness scale is the first step to getting better.
Tomorrow, I will talk about what it means to be lonely in the present world.
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