Sophie Hwang, former Project manager of developing S/W system
We feel lonely even if countless people surround us. We often think, “I’m alone,” “I have no one to talk to openly,” “I’m afraid and anxious to be alone,” and “I want someone next to me.” What we sometimes pursue and value – status, wealth, success, and fame does not guarantee our happiness. If I don’t care about my surroundings after my success, life can become more and more lonely as I become distant from others.
What is loneliness? Loneliness is a subjective feeling due to a lack of social relationships.
Vivek Murthy, a former director of the U.S. Department of Public Health and Hygiene, gave a deep insight into loneliness in his book. He said that there is an invisible crisis afflicting the United States today, which causes disease, pain, and death more than any other trouble. That is “loneliness.” Loneliness is like an “invisible disease” that breaks down life beyond just personal feelings. It is a social problem that requires serious attention.
Ironically, we tend to be more natural when we are alone than hanging out with others. It is because we hide our true feelings from fear of being judged. This shame and fear trigger low self-esteem, which leads to a state where loneliness persists. In a spiraling path, we further move away from necessary relationships, as these feelings of loneliness cause more shame surrounding the feeling of loneliness itself.
The pain of loneliness is destructive. Social alienation, disconnection, and isolation have a massive impact on the body, not just on thoughts and feelings. When feeling lonely and alienated, the brain areas activated are the same places activated when feeling physical pain. For example, suppose you obtain a brain MRI of an individual made to feel left out. In that case, it will show that the area that causes physical pain is activated, meaning that loneliness and alienation physically impact your body as they cause physical and mental pain. People often fall into addictive behaviors with drugs, alcohol, food, sex, and games to paralyze the emotional and physical pain to manage this pain.
A study also found that those with weak social relationships were 50% more likely to die early than those with strong social connections. What’s more surprising is that the impact of lack of social relations is equal to smoking 15 cigarettes a day and greater than the risk of obesity, excessive alcohol consumption, and lack of exercise. When one is lonely, the quality of sleep is lower, the immune system does not work properly, and there is a higher possibility of impulsive behavior and poor judgment.
A lonely person criticizes himself or herself and feels that others do not understand their worthlessness and emptiness. A lonely person has negative feelings not only about himself but also for others. When this negativity directs at self, it may lead to suicide in extreme situations, and when it runs at others, it can be seen as anger and violence.
If you feel lonely, you should try to connect with your loved ones, i.e., your parents, or call your friends. If no parents or friends are available, you should consult with a mental health expert.
One can also address long-standing loneliness in the following ways:
1. Actively participate in interpersonal relationships.
Try to create more opportunities to contact others than waiting for others to approach you.
– Join a club that enjoys sports (bicycle, soccer, baseball, basketball, etc.)
– Participate in religious events, etc.
– Develop a hobby (taking pictures, blogging, etc.)
2. Abandon unrealistic or excessive expectations of others and self.
E.g., Understand that people cannot always acknowledge and praise you. Expecting recognition prevents you from getting acquainted with others.
3. Feeling lonely is a matter of ‘my’ mind. So step back and reflect on your relationships. Try to look back on how you’ve treated others and gain a larger perspective. Meditation is a great way to do this.
I was able to get rid of the deeply rooted loneliness in my heart through meditation. I realized I accumulated feelings of anger, resentment, anticipation, disappointment, and frustration about people around me from an early age. I could discard all of these feelings and be completely free from loneliness.
While looking back, I realized that I had lived repeating the same pattern in all my relationships, like a hamster in a wheel. After all, I was the one who had the problem in me, so I was the only one who could get rid of it. After I got to know this and threw that negative mind and emotions away, I could get out of my negative spiral. The loop that I had been in broke, and I no longer made the same mistake. Since then, my relationships became comfortable and relaxed as I started treating everyone around me with a clean heart like a newly born person. After discarding emotions and being of a pure mind, I accepted that loneliness is a universal emotion that humans have and that I have an inner power to understand myself and accept others. I can now empathize with others by listening to what the other person has to say without thinking of myself. I gained a positive ability to live independently and be myself when in relationships with people.
After all, we are born alone and leave alone. You can immerse yourself in your time alone, be creative, and reflect deeply on your true inner self. You can turn the pain of being alone into the joy of being alone. You can turn a time of despair into a time of hope. Let’s be strong and make this change. Thanks so much for reading my answer. I hope you found it helpful. 💜💛🍁
If you want to practice the method to deal with loneliness, please click here.