Loneliness is a feeling that we try and avoid.
The most intense feeling of loneliness I remember was as a child sitting in a classroom full of people. I vividly remember the feeling scared by its power. From that day onward I tried to avoid any negative emotions. But now I understand what created that feeling of loneliness. I know some tools to relieve some of that emotional discomfort and I have learned how to move forward when I feel lonely. I’m going to teach you these things today.
Here is a definition I found of loneliness I found on the internet:
Loneliness is a feeling of sadness or distress about being by yourself or feeling disconnected from the world around you. It may be felt more over a long period of time. It is also possible to feel lonely, even when surrounded by people. Isolation is being separated from other people and your environment. (Source Listed below)
Many expats experience loneliness when they are living away from their family support network and friends.
So, what causes loneliness? Our thoughts. When we arrive in a new city we might think about the distance between us and our family and friends. It makes us feel sad and isolated. And from that place of isolation, sadness and disconnection it’s hard to find the self-confidence to take action. In fact we often end up in a spiral of thoughts that are not helpful.
So when we are in that negative spiral of thoughts, what can we do? I want to walk you through a three step process of dealing with loneliness.
1. The first thing we can do is process our feelings. Most of us don’t know how to do this. I just wish we were taught this skill at school! When we don’t process our feelings properly, they usually emerge more intensely in the form of anger or anxiety later. Try and identify the feeling and then explore the feeling without resistance. A feeling is a vibration in your body, so explore the physical sensations. You can ask yourself some questions like, where is the feeling in my body? Is the vibration fast or slow? What colour would I put to this? How does it feel? What does it make me want to do? The feeling is going to come and go, the intensity will increase and wane and eventually dissipate and disappear. You just allow the feeling to be there, watch the feeling, knowing it can’t hurt you. It’s just a feeling. Just by watching the feeling and then releasing your resistance to it, you are going to take away a layer of unnecessary discomfort. So instead of being scared and anxious that you are feeling lonely, you just let it be there.
2. Then we can try and identify the thoughts creating those feeling. It’s really valuable for you to shine a light on the thoughts that are causing the feeling of loneliness. It can be challenging to do this, but getting conscious about what is going on in your mind is incredibly powerful because we can totally control our thoughts. This is GREAT NEWS! We more often operate in default mode by nature, but we have an opportunity to manage our own minds and decide to think something different. Some thoughts that have caused a feeling of loneliness for me in the past - I’m different, I live so far away from my family, the locals don’t get me, I don’t fit in, there us no one around who really understands me.
3. Finally we can decide if those thoughts are helping. We are going to feel negative emotions and this is an important part of the human experience. The contrast of emotions allows us to feel the really good ones. We can’t know happy without sad! So when loneliness comes up, we don’t need to fight it, we can let it be there and we can process it. We can then ask ourselves what actions we take when we feel lonely and therefore what result that has in our life. (Did you know our feelings are what drive ALL the actions we take in life?) For me, when I felt lonely, I found it really hard to connect with other people, I would be looking out for evidence of why I was so different from the people around me and I’d act in crazy ways that I thought other people would make me likable. I was not being genuine and people probably picked up on the fact I was uncomfortable and didn’t feel a sense of belonging. The result was, I found it hard to make genuine friendships. I didn’t have these tools at the time, but I want you to have them! Next you can question the validity of your thoughts and decide what you wanted to think. In my case, I could have chosen to think these thoughts instead - I am different and that’s actually pretty cool. This is an opportunity to learn more about me and make new connections. I can do this. Those thoughts are opening up new possibilities; they are thoughts I truly believe – not crazy positive affirmations that don’t resonate. And if they create the feeling of openness and acceptance, those feelings would fuel me to be more open to others, to be true to myself and the result for me would to feel comfortable and confident in my own skin. Making new friends and meaningful connection would be a lot would come naturally from that emotional place.
Definition found here: https://www.lifeline.org.au/get-help/topics/loneliness-isolation
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