3 Insights for Better Understanding Loneliness
Technology has made us more “connected” than ever, but the problem of loneliness still exists. When you’re lonely it cannot simply be solved by a text message or a pill; it can only be truly solved by human interaction- something that is increasingly challenging to fulfill for many people in today’s world.
Confusion lies is in the illusion of what loneliness “is” and “is not.” Being connected through social media does not have the same impact as a face-to-face interaction. The problem is that this type of connection is different than interconnectedness, which is what makes us thrive as humans. It’s through the experiencing of being close that we escape loneliness.
Too many people have grown familiar with that hollow feeling inside of them – that lack of fulfillment – about how their life feels to them. Something is not clicking, but what? These inexplicable voids are often an indicator of loneliness.
Having Trouble Understanding Loneliness?
Here are 3 insights to help you see why loneliness is both misunderstood, and a very powerful emotional state to live in.
1. Our thoughts and viewpoints about others is linked to loneliness.
We are often our own biggest obstacle that can stand between us and loneliness. It’s easy to be quick to judge or to not allow people a chance to become meaningful in our lives. Yes, there are good reasons for this, but often times, our judgment comes with a risk-we may be unintentionally closing out the ideal closer connection.
Think about where you spend the most time, and evaluate the quality of those relationships. If you work a lot take time to solidify relationships with your peers. If you meet people, ask questions and learn about them and begin to engage. These types of actions are all beneficial in warding off loneliness and developing interconnectedness.
2. Social interaction is a separate issue from loneliness.
The term “loneliness” seems easy to understand, but it is more involved, which generates confusion at times. If someone says they are lonely, their good intentioned friends and family often suggest staying busy, meeting people, or just getting out there and doing something. Unfortunately, this doesn’t solve the problem of loneliness; it’s more a prescription for stopping isolation.
There are many people who are always active and busy, constantly surrounded by others, but they are still lonely. It’s not the number of relationships you have that prevent loneliness, but the quality of the ones you choose. Additionally, some people can spend much of their time alone and not be lonely.
Kira Asatryan, author of Stop Being Lonely, appeared on my radio show, Harvesting Happiness, and shared :
We can only have five people close to our heart, at most. There are quite a number of people with one close person to their heart and they don’t feel lonely. More is not always better…One of the things that plagues us is that we turn to romantic relationships for this feeling of closeness, feeling that a spouse should be the number one close person. This is true for most, but it doesn’t have to be.
It’s important to be mindful that romantic closeness is not the only way to stop loneliness. People can be single and not lonely, just as people can be married and feel quite alone.
3. Emotional pain brings physical consequences.
There was a study posted in the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science which stated that the subjective feeling of loneliness increases risk of death by 26% (i). This reveals that our bodies cannot sustain loneliness, and it is linked to the type of pain that is similar to that which physically debilitates us. The most common side effects of loneliness include a lesser sense of wellbeing, depression, and also lower levels of immunity.
Understanding loneliness and its significance in so many lives today allows us to make changes needed to support ourselves or those who may be lonely.
i. Chronic Loneliness is a Modern Day Epidemic. Entis, Laura. June 22, 2016. http://fortune.com/2016/06/22/loneliness-is-a-modern-day-epidemic.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lisa Cypers Kamen is a lifestyle management consultant who explores the art and science of happiness in her work as a speaker, author, and happiness expert. Through her globally syndicated positive psychology podcast, books, media appearances, and documentary film, Kamen has impacted millions of people around the world.