"I do get quite lonesome here some days being all by myself," is what my grandma used to say. She lived alone at the time and always wanted friends and family to stay the night with her and never leave 'so soon.' I always saw loneliness as something that "old people", who live alone experience, until I learned how it felt for myself. Loneliness has been defined as a state of mind. It's relative; subjective. If that's the case, then I must mention the difference between social isolation and loneliness, so I don't get my head cut off by anyone who thinks I'm disregarding those who experience loneliness on a daily basis.*Thou shalt covereth thyself.*Ya feel me?
Social isolation: pervasive lack of social contact, communication, participation in social activities, or having a confidant.
Loneliness: feelings of isolation, disconnectedness, and not belonging.
*Sigh* I went back and forth with this topic. I had so many questions. One reason is because I dibble and dabble with both. Some days, I enjoy my own company and prefer to lay on the couch and watch TV alllll byyy myyyyself (I sang that in my Celine Dion voice. Love that woman). Other days, I feel like I'm going crazy and just need some kind of social interaction. The millions of questions I asked myself about loneliness and why it's an epidemic in today's society, made me not want to touch this topic at all because I'm no expert, people are sensitive, and I ain't got time (yeah, I used ebonics, so!). Then one day, I heard a voice say "thou shalt not allow controversial topics to defeat thee." It all boils down to mental health, self-esteem, and how well we take care of ourselves.
My goal will always be to give you another way of looking at things as it relates to getting older. One of the biggest myths is that loneliness comes with age, but it doesn't. Yes, our lifestyles could possibly change in many ways as we get older. Whether it's the loss of a loved one, changes in our finances, and the list goes on. But, we have the power to change how we approach those situations, should they present themselves...if we want. I chose this topic because it is my hope that we can look inside ourselves and see what needs to be enhanced or changed. This will make us healthier and allow us to continue through life with a positive mindset, well into our 80's, 90's and older!
Scenario 1: Imagine, for a second, what it is like for someone who is wheelchair bound, has no access to immediate transportation, no familial support or friends, and a fixed income. How would YOU resolve this issue and prevent your quality of life from decreasing? I threw a lot of monkey wrenches in there because there are many people, "old and young," who can apply at least one of those things to their lives.
Scenario 2: Now, imagine you have just been rejected by someone you like, your grade in math is slipping because it's hard to understand, your closet could definitely benefit from being revamped, people tease you about having a big head, and your only outlet is being a voyeur on Instagram. Feeling lonely from reading that yet? It's safe to say you would feel as if you didn't belong and have the potential of isolating yourself.
I just gave two very common examples of situations that can land anywhere on the age spectrum. To show it has nothing to do with being 10, 25, or 70. We ALL have our days of feeling lonely, but it's what we do with that FEELING that matters. Do we remain in the state of feeling lonely, not belonging and like nobody wants to be around us? Or, do we affirm that alone or not, we are going to enjoy this life to the best of our ability?
A recent study showed almost half of Americans have reported feeling alone or left out. There are also studies that show loneliness being equated to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, having a greater impact on the body than obesity, and a higher risk of heart disease, depression, anxiety and dementia. We can feel lonely, but be around a group of people. So, if loneliness is not a respecter person, how do we beat this suckah?!
3 Tips for Combatting Loneliness
1. Build your social network: Now some may say this is difficult and not as easy as it seems. I agree. I'm an introvert, so putting myself out there to meet new people is a bit out of my comfort zone. However, I do it, because I know the benefits of having a well rounded group of associates and friends. This could be as simple as conversing with the mail carrier every day, or saying more than 'hello,' to the cashier at check-out. I'm sure we've all been that person who gets slightly annoyed at a customer for being long winded with the cashier. However, putting things into perspective, people get their fix of social interaction whenever and wherever. Maybe you should try it. You can even get creative and participate in ancestry.com or one of those other sites that can connect you with other relatives around the world. It might sound like a reach, but this could be a solution for those who are unable to leave home.
2. Affirmations: If loneliness is a state of mind, then affirmations could be the key to being able to acknowledge the feeling and changing it. Positive affirmations have been known to be very therapeutic and beneficial. Honestly, positivity in general is the key to all things, I believe (I know). My Pastor (Kathy A. Merritt) always teaches the importance of speaking what I want and believing it will happen. For example, I'm alone today, but it doesn't mean I'm not a dope individual with a lot to offer. Affirmations take consistency and and self-discipline, but the end result is a better, more positive you. We oftentimes limit ourselves because our situations seem so overwhelming that we don't see any solutions. Affirming that there are solutions and they will be made known to us, will no doubt change our lives!
3. Productivity: As challenging as it can be for me to have productive days, I have found it to be very helpful. I always have something I could be doing, now do I always do that "something"...no, but still (lol). Staying busy and setting daily goals, keeps my mind from wandering off to a land where I may have a pity party or begin to feel lonely.
One cool way to be productive is volunteering. According to Forbes, volunteering has benefits on your health, gives you the opportunity to learn new skills and connect with people. There are many studies that go in depth about the benefits of volunteering. One of those benefits being the way it makes you feel after you have finished volunteering. Your social network grows, you're feeling good about yourself and doing something worthwhile. Can it get any better than that? For those who may be unable to leave home, consider taking one your of cool hobbies and using it to help others. For example, if you enjoy knitting, you can knit hats and have them donated to a local shelter.
"Just Don't Wanna Be Lonely.."
I just want to say to the person in scenario 1, there's still hope for healthy social interaction. Just acknowledge the challenges and watch things change. Remember, get creative and think outside the box because there are no limits. Talk to the mailman, talk to the person who brings food by, or provides transportation. To the person in scenario 2, you're still dope with all of those negative things happening. You are the light. I'm speaking to myself because I can relate to that person. Loneliness is a common feeling, but it does not have to be permanent. The things we work on today, will benefit us tomorrow.
How do you deal with loneliness? Are there any other tips that have helped or could help the next individual who feels like loneliness is where he or she is stuck? I would love to hear from you, so don't hesitate to comment.