Loneliness - Together you are less alone, but also less lonely? Everyone can only be completely himself as long as he is alone: so he, who does not love solitude, does not love freedom: for only when one is alone is one free.
Loneliness - Together you are less alone, but also less lonely?
After months of contact restrictions and social isolation, this quote may seem cynical to you. Everyone probably wishes for the freedom we knew and experienced until a year ago to return - and rarely have at least one-person households spent so much time alone before. Spending days only with oneself is all well and good - but over a longer period of time, this state of affairs proves to be a test of endurance and probably feels anything but "free". Whether risk factors such as poverty or health problems, pensioners, widows - loneliness is now no longer a question of old age or social status, but in the current situation it affects everyone. Social isolation is promoted by living alone or home office and is thus a reality for many people. While statistics before the pandemic still reported that every tenth person in Germany was lonely, much higher numbers can be assumed today.
Being alone or being lonely - what is the difference?
These terms are not to be confused or equated, because someone can be alone but not feel lonely and vice versa. Not everyone who feels loneliness necessarily has to be alone, but can also perceive it surrounded by crowds of people. While "being alone" is a state which describes that we are not surrounded by any person or other living being, loneliness is a subjectively perceived feeling. Accordingly, it is difficult to define this feeling and to identify loneliness as such.
What does loneliness feel like?
Feelings of loneliness are an alarm signal that something has changed in your life and/or needs are not being met at this moment, i.e. something is missing. Similar to the feeling of hunger, we should meet this need as soon as possible, because otherwise this feeling - like pain - can affect our body. Especially in these times, it is not so easy to maintain a kind of community feeling despite spatial separation and thus compensate for the deficit. However, we can try to use this feeling as an opportunity to learn to be content with ourselves alone.
The lack of exchange at work and an unstructured everyday life due to home office gives reason to develop a fear of not being able to maintain existing contacts. Some time ago, most of us would have wished for nothing more than to have a few quiet days to ourselves. Instead, loneliness makes us feel motionless, we tend to be passive and see everyday life, or what is left of it, through dark glasses. In the long run, silence - no one talking or making noise - can drive us mad and intensify the feeling of loneliness.
Even though loneliness is not diagnosed as a disease, the consequences of this feeling are many. Lonely people are more prone to unhealthy behaviours, which often neither the people themselves nor society identify in connection with loneliness, let alone take seriously. These include frequent dependence on addictive substances such as alcohol and nicotine. Loneliness not only promotes a tendency towards anxiety disorders, but can even foster symptoms of depression. A negative downward spiral with permanent loneliness is therefore unfortunately not uncommon, which is why we should do something for our inner balance in time and find a way to deal with this feeling.
How often do you feel that you miss another person or feel isolated from others - frequently?
You probably don't know some tips against loneliness yet.
Treat yourself lovingly
Treat yourself like a good friend and say goodbye to the thought that you are not "worth it" to yourself. Do something good for yourself: it's worth cooking something nice for yourself and setting the table. And even if the walk alone costs you some effort at first, in most cases it creates clearer thoughts and gives you space to take a breath. It takes some motivation, but it is with the seemingly small things that we can foster self-love in ourselves and thus treat ourselves more lovingly.
Break the silence
As already mentioned, absolute silence can permanently stress us out more than it calms us down. If this is also the case for you, then a noise like the TV, podcast or hoover in the background can be very relaxing. This is because it makes you feel less alone in your own four walls, and unlike normal everyday life, you also have the option of turning it off again at any time and still enjoying some silence for yourself.
Learn to accept yourself
To the extent that you like and accept yourself, your feelings of loneliness will decrease. Many people lose their sense of self because they try to please everyone and lose sight of themselves and don't know what to do with themselves. This feeling of helplessness reinforces our loneliness and gives us the impression that this feeling is more dependent on others than it actually is. You can rediscover and strengthen this access to yourself in very different ways. For example, you can think about what activity you have been wanting to do (again) for a long time. What activity can you do at the moment and does it give you real pleasure? For example, did you like to draw or play music in the past? Bring forgotten hobbies back to life.
Create a routine
Even if you have been doing a habitual activity for months, you can make sure that you don't just go about your day. Try to get up at the same time of day and make plans for what you want to achieve. Of course, plans should be realistic and not involve too many things. Too much time, however, tempts us to lose ourselves in thoughts and, at worst, drown ourselves in self-pity.
Get in touch with other people, even if this is limited at the moment.
Arrange to go for a walk or talk on the phone while spending time outside. Video call each other and meet for a virtual cookout. Don't expect "high-minded" conversations from yourself, otherwise you won't make contact with others in the first place. The daily coffee chat in the office or among friends is no longer necessary during these times. You don't have to wait until there is something to talk about to have an hour-long telephone conversation. Spontaneous calling and exploring how the people around you are doing makes you feel better yourself.
Wellness at home
If you've ever been to a massage or sauna, you probably know that you feel very relaxed afterwards. You can bring this feeling home to yourself and it's also a great tip against loneliness: treat yourself to a little wellness break. Take a hot shower or bath, apply a face mask and just relax.
Fancy something new?
A new sport, such as yoga? A cooking class for Asian cuisine? Again, write down any ideas that come to mind. There will be many online offers for you to find out and pursue your new hobby. Be brave and don't take yourself too seriously when experimenting. If the new hobby turns out to be a flop, you can always give it up
Loneliness can also cause stress and anxiety in our bodies, especially when we don't really know where this indefinable feeling comes from. To calm this down, relaxation exercises such as breathing exercises, meditation or progressive muscle relaxation can help you. These calm the body and mind and help you find your inner balance again.
It is not only important to recognise whether we suffer from feelings of loneliness in ourselves, but also in our loved ones.
People who are lonely radiate indifference, both in their appearance and in their company spirits. If you notice these signs in friends or family members, don't be afraid to take the initiative and approach the person. Together it is usually easier to find a way to recharge your batteries.
When we feel loneliness, the most helpful method is to first accept this feeling, let it work and then let it go. In general, we should never try to suppress feelings because they usually come back stronger than we would like. As Arthur Schopenhauer said, we have to "love" them or at least accept them. If we are able to spend time alone, only with ourselves, we can probably experience not only the freedom from loneliness, but also the freedom from our limited perspective, self-doubt and helplessness.