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Can I Learn to Be Alone Without Being Lonely?

Jessica Pontis, LCSW

           It may be safe to say that we all have had those moments, whether by ourselves in our beds or with a group of friends, where we feel completely lonely.  This of course is difference from being alone.  Being alone is simply being by ourselves, whereas being lonely is a pervasive feeling of isolation.  Loneliness can be a sadness associated with this isolation, and feelings of persistent loneliness are often connected with feelings of depression.  Personality can tie into how often and intensely we feel lonely.  Some individuals who are more introverted can thrive off being alone and even find it restorative.  However, being an introvert might not make someone immune to feelings of loneliness in times of distress or extended periods of isolation.  During this time of quarantine and social distancing, combating loneliness is critical for sustained mental health, given that many of us are finding ourselves alone more than ever. 

           Understanding what might cause feelings of loneliness is an important step in learning to negate its impacts.  People are social by nature, so it is natural to feel lonely from time to time when we haven’t had meaningful interaction in a while.  While some may be able to go weeks without needing deep connection, some may need more consistent communications with others to thwart feelings of loneliness.  With everything going on in the community, particularly during this second wave of Covid-19 cases, being able to connect with others continues to be challenging.  Yes, we make the most of a terrible situation with facetimes and video chats, but it is also important to learn to cope with these feelings of loneliness when they do arise. 

How do we begin this process?  How to we grow better at tolerating feelings of loneliness when many have been living in isolation for months?  One critical component is coming to understand and appreciate your value.   Your company is an invaluable asset, and when we recognize that we are absolutely good enough to exist in a space by ourselves we learn that we do not need others to tell us that we are worthy.  Take the necessary time to explore yourself. Invest in your goals, hobbies, and ambitions, and begin to learn more about yourself in a new and exciting way.  So often we forget to sit with ourselves in meaningful spaces, and when we take more time to purposefully explore ourselves, we learn just how fascinating, interesting, and creative we are.  When we take time to invest in ourselves, we come to love our own company as much as the company of others.

It is also important to use the time you have while alone in meaningful ways as well.  It feels like so much of the day is now spent on waiting for the next thing to happen.  Be considerate of your time in and use it for production as well as consumption.  We all know how easy it can be to sink into our couch and re-watch our favorite sitcoms on repeat, and sometimes we really do need that.  The familiar can be restorative in some ways and we should listen to what our spirit tells us we need, but when we notice the same things are just not cutting it anymore then it’s time to explore something new.  Again, investing in interests, hobbies, and creative things that feed our mind and soul help us feel empowered in our own space and makes tolerating isolation easier.  The marriage of self-exploration and self-investment are some of the critical factors that can help us see through these trying times.  In this journey you will find that the next big thing is possible despite Covid-19, and we can learn to love being alone, all the while never feeling lonely.  

Recognizing these feelings is the first step to making changes.  If you feel stuck or as though you may want someone to walk with you on this journey of change reach out to one of the licensed therapists with Symmetry Counseling.  You can reach out to us online, or by calling us at (312) 578-9990 to set up an appointment for therapy in Chicago

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