Loneliness feels particularly challenging this time of year. It’s like happy people are being thrown in our face left and right. Everywhere you look there are images of happy families bonding and couples finding true love thanks to the miracle of Christmas. (If you just want to get to the point, I put it in bold at the bottom)
Not only do we feel bad because our holidays don’t look like that, but then we beat ourselves up for feeling lonely. You know what? It's ok to feel bad. Feeling bad is the start of feeling good. We need that contrast to recognize that something is off, and we need to take responsibility for fixing it.
I learned this like I learn most things- the hard way. Two years ago I did a solo cross country road trip. I spent a lot of time just driving on the highway, listening to an audiobook. I slept alone. I ate meals alone. For a lot of people this sounds awful. I was worried it would be awful, so I told friends before I left that I might reach out if I get really lonely.
One Saturday afternoon when I was driving between Sacramento and San Francisco, I felt particularly lonely. I called family and friends but no one was available. I just left one voicemail after another. I thought it was a weird coincidence that no one was available and no one was calling me back. These were the people that told me to call anytime if I needed something. Why. Weren’t. They. There?!
I thought to myself, “I don’t believe in coincidences.” So if I don’t believe in coincidences, what was going on? What was the key to what was happening in this situation. I asked myself a simple question that often unlocks a lot of my personal challenges. “What is the good in this situation, what is there FOR me in this?”
Sometimes we get stuck thinking that things are happening to us and we have no control. This doesn’t feel very powerful to me, so I believe that things are happening FOR me not TO me. So if this frustrating situation is happening for my benefit, what's the benefit?
When I got really honest, I realized I was trying to push the lonely away. I was trying to ignore it, hide it, run from it. I didn’t want to feel bad. So I was running to all kinds of distractions. And when I really sat with those feelings I just wanted to be alone. I felt like I needed to focus on myself and take care of my own needs instead of the needs of everyone else around me. I realized I had some patterns that weren't serving me and I was able to distract myself from my own problems by always being there for everyone else.
I let myself really feel all of this. I let myself cry. I thought the answer to loneliness was other people. I thought it meant I needed better friendships or better surroundings. I can’t run from it, I can’t cover it up. What’s happening around me does not solve feelings of loneliness. There is a difference between being alone and lonely. You can be with other people and still feel lonely.
The situation does not change the feeling. Only our thoughts can change how we’re feeling.
The only thing that stopped the feeling of loneliness was that I stopped judging it as such a terrible thing. I decided to make myself my own best company, and really enjoy the fact that I was alone. What could I do to make me feel good? What could I enjoy BECAUSE I was alone?
What I find really useful is to turn to my senses. What can I sense right now- see, hear, feel, taste, smell? This worked especially well in this situation, because senses are so individual. I could be with someone and we could have different sensory experiences. So I got to really enjoy my own sensory experience. I got myself a delicious coffee from my favorite place in San Francisco. I changed my socks (believe me, changing your socks or changing your underwear can turn an entire day around!). I drove myself to Monterey and listened to the seals barking.
Here is the point of all of this. If you only read one part of this email, this is it. Loneliness isn’t bad. You’re craving connection. That is incredibly human! All of us humans want to feel connected. And sometimes the person you most need to connect to is yourself.
Next time you feel lonely, instead of reaching out to someone else I encourage you to reach out to yourself. Connect to your five senses and notice what you are experiencing right now. What do you need right now? What good is here for you in this situation right now? (the answer might surprise you)
Now it’s your turn. I want to hear from you. Ask yourself right now “What do I need?” and tell me what you will do to provide that for yourself. How will you meet your own needs right now? Bonus points if you ask yourself what good is available to you right now and share that with me as well.
Go have a great day, and great holiday season. Embrace what comes, because it’s there for a reason.
Did you find this blog post helpful? Do you want to increase the love in your life? It all starts with yourself, which is why I created a simple self love meditation. Claim yours here and get more love immediately.