Mental Health Moment | Loneliness
Jun 08, 2022
Do you know if you’re an introvert, or an extrovert or are you somewhere in between? Introverts need time alone, which helps them restore the energy they use when they’re around other people, while extroverts actually get re-energized by being around others. Introverts typically need quiet, and calm, and meaningful one-on-one conversations, where extroverts are happiest when they’re in a bigger group, with lots of interaction and the ability to talk to multiple people. Extroverts often think they need to “help” introverts by keeping them from being alone because, to an extrovert, being along seems like a negative thing. Introverts very often want nothing more than just to be alone and have quiet time.
Whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert, being alone feels one way when we’re choosing to have some alone time but feels very different when we are alone and don’t have another option. Being alone allows us time to think, to reflect, and to just be ourselves in our own space. But if you feel like you want people around, or if you’re missing certain people being with you, then being alone can change from being a choice, to feeling more like loneliness.
Loneliness happens when we are wishing for someone else to be with us, but we’re still alone. Loneliness can happen even when we’re surrounded by a bunch of people, but we don’t feel a connection with any of them. If you’re single and you frequently find yourself in situations where you’re surrounded by couples, even if they’re your friends and they’re warm and welcoming, you may feel very alone because you see everyone who has a significant other in their life, but you’re there without having a special someone.
Loneliness can happen when you’re with other people, but no one seems to want to really know you. We’ve all seen families where there’s an “odd one out,” the person who doesn’t quite fit in with the rest of the family. They may be there, in the house, with all those people that are their family, but they may still very alone. In the workplace if you’re feeling unwelcome, misunderstood, unappreciated, or disrespected, or just simply unknown, it can cause a very lonely feeling.
My kids are grown and gone now, but I’ve been a single parent most of my life. While I love the special one-on-one time I’ve always been able to have with my kids, I often wished at the end of the day that, after putting the kids to bed, I had someone to turn to just to say something basic like, “Man… the kids were exhausting today.” But when you’re it, and you’re alone, there’s no one to turn to, and no one to hear about what you’re going through. You just do it, and you do it alone.
Loneliness can also very often come after a loss. If you’ve lost a beloved sibling, or a parent, who you were very close to, you will feel loneliness when you’re missing the confidence and the special conversations you were able to have with that person. Those who have lost a spouse often struggle with feelings of loneliness because they find themselves now eating alone, sleeping in the big bed alone, and making all of the decisions on their own. There’s a tremendous feeling of loss by no longer having that partnership and that shared sense of going through life together.
Finding someone with whom you have a connection can cure loneliness, or at least help significantly. Keeping busy is often used as a distraction but it’s not a real solution, because even the busy-work and the projects are very solitary activities, with no one to share in them. A finished project is a lot more enjoyable when you have someone to show it to. An accomplishment, or a success, is almost always something we really want to share with someone who will cheer us on and be genuinely happy for us. Being able to mutually support and encourage another person gives us that sense of connection and helps keep loneliness away. Even one person in your life, who gets you and supports you, can make all the difference. If you don’t have that friend, or that person, and you’re feeling lonely, start reaching out. Get out of the house, go places, join groups, and find connections with others. You may make as big a difference in someone else’s life as they will be making in yours. //