Mindfully meeting your loneliness can transform feelings of emptiness into possibility.
The practice of mindfulness is an invitation to pay attention to the present moment with kindness and curiosity. This means dropping all of the judgments that we have about loneliness and acknowledging the way things are right now. It’s only from this gentle place of acceptance that loneliness can loosen its tight grip.
Here are 4 ways to ease loneliness and open yourself up to deeper connection.
1 | Let go of unhelpful stories.
All too often, loneliness gets tangled up with fear. Deep down, we're afraid that being lonely means that there is something wrong with us. We worry that we are unloveable or that no one truly gets us and that we will be alone forever. These stories we tell about ourselves are untrue; they keep us stuck and weigh us down. Sadly we feed these tales of self through our constant attention, and they end up growing and consuming our every thought. Our job is to interrupt these troubling thoughts and to focus on something else. We must stop buying into the stories we weave out of fear.
Eventually, we realize that loneliness is a part of the human experience, just like joy and sadness and laughter. It's okay to be lonely sometimes. When we take away the fear and the idea that things shouldn't be this way, we realize that we're okay, that we are strong enough and creative enough, and compassionate enough to feel discomfort. And most importantly, we remember that this feeling isn't permanent.
So next time you notice yourself ruminating on unhelpful ideas, pause and be present with the new growth of a house plant or the sound of the rain or the waves of your breath. Open up to the extraordinary in the ordinary. Be intentional about where you place your attention.
Without a doubt, the stories will fight to hold on and torture you, keep practicing letting go. Over and over until one day, those stories lose their power.
2 | Share how you’re really feeling.
Sometimes we feel lonely because we hide who are we are and how we’re feeling from others. When a friend asks you how you are, tell them the truth. Instead of automatically saying you’re good, try saying something like, “yesterday was difficult, I’m missing being out in the world and felt really lonely” or “I’m grateful that you called, it’s so good to hear your voice”. Being vulnerable can leave us feeling a little tender and exposed, but the beauty is that it facilitates true connection. By opening ourselves up to be seen and heard, we’re no longer alone in our inner experience.
3. Be brave and reach out to people in similar situations.
Our lives and the lives of those around us are forever changing. Friends get married and have kids; other friends move away or find themselves busy with a new job. Sadly, the people who once kept us company might not have the time to hang out in the ways they once did. The loss that comes with change is undoubtedly worth grieving and it’s essential to offer ourselves compassion. At the same time, we need to open ourselves to new people, especially those who may have similar schedules and interests. There's no shortage of digital spaces to connect with others online. If you’re looking for mindful company, check out the Daily Calm Community Facebook group. Or, try a new app to search for a date, a friend, or even a business mentor! Maybe there are friends of friends in the same situation as you!? If so, ask for an introduction.
Remember, there is nothing wrong with you because circumstances have changed. There are people out there waiting to meet you!
You might also consider donating your time to support others. Volunteering not only alleviates feelings of isolation, it makes the world a kinder place.
4 | Befriend yourself.
One of the most helpful things we can ever do is to learn to love our own company. Notice what’s getting in the way of you enjoying time alone. For many of us, the voice in our head can be quite judgmental and unkind, not a very good friend. So stop giving your inner critic the mic and start listening to the quieter voices within that will guide you back to what nourishes and inspires you. Make yourself a special dinner or take yourself on a beautiful walk. Light candles, play wonderful music, get all dressed up and do a puzzle.
Another wonderful way to build your relationship with self is through meditation. At first, it will feel hard as you encounter the parts of yourself that you’ve been trying to avoid, but with time you’ll learn to care for those parts of you and grow more fully into yourself.