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  • Writer's pictureHayley Robinson

The thing about loneliness

Updated: Apr 6


I experience loneliness a lot... A LOT.


There is a very distinct difference between loneliness and a fear of being alone. Loneliness is the inherent primal human desire and need to connect with another being. To have another in our presence to share, join and be with.

The fear of being alone is just that; fearing being by yourself. Feeling so uncomfortable being by yourself that you do everything in your power to make sure you keep yourself busy, surrounded by people and distracted to avoid the uncomfortableness of being alone.


I used to fear being alone, but I came to peace with that a while ago. I am highly independent and like to be able to do things for myself. I like to accomplish things independently to initiate a sense of achievement (thanks Youtube for teaching me how to fix my malfunctioning toilet!) and I feel pretty confident that I can protect myself in the case of an emergency. There a benefits to being alone; It provides you a wonderful opportunity to self reflect, to sit with your emotions to process them, gives you space to decompress from the ever stimulating world around you, and learn the vital skill of self independence. Being alone is like a reset button when life gets too busy.


Loneliness on the other hand... boy that is a challenging one for me. Loneliness hits me right in the heart space and it hurts. A lot. During the lockdowns of the pandemic, loneliness gained a bit of attention and was highlighted on several occasions, linking it to lower health and well-being status and mental health states. Loneliness is the emotion which our body generates when we are in real need of connecting on a deeper level with another. It is our body crying out for a deep purposeful level of rapport. Some may even say it is our soul yearning to connect with another soul.


Humans are social creatures. For most, being with others creates feelings of safety and security, allowing us to thrive to our fullest potential. Loneliness triggers the feeling of being unsafe, thus initiating a state of hypervigilance. Hence, why loneliness has been linked with anxiety. A wonderful 2010 meta-analysis (Hawkley & Cacioppo) explores the associated health and mental health outcomes as a result of loneliness and it's not all that great.


So... where to from here?


I wouldn't be serving a purpose to writing this post without offering some solutions.

Having established loneliness is brought about by the unmet very real and inherent need to deeply connect with another, the solution is: more deep and meaningful connection. Here are some ways in which I work to combat my loneliness:


Hugging.

A long, warm hug for more than 30 seconds helps to release a bonding hormone called Oxytocin. Hugging someone you love (person or pet) earns the most loneliness combating points. No words need to be spoke. A hug is incredibly powerful and healing. Dreisoerner et. al. (2021) explore this further.


D & M's (Deep & Meaningfuls) with someone close to you.

Have you ever engaged in a deep long meaningful conversation with someone for hours on end and become totally lost in the conversation, then walk away feeling so content and fulfilled from feeling seen, heard and validated? There is an almost energetic interplay when this takes place and the connection runs at a level so deep.


Go to a busy cafe.

Sometimes you'll find me working from a busy cafe when I have an attack of the lonlies. I find myself a little table to work from and perch myself there for a few hours whilst I sip away on my coconut latte. Surrounding myself with people really helps combat my loneliness. I don't necessarily need to talk with anyone, but the presence of other souls helps me feel safe and comforted.


Help out at a local charity.

The act of giving without expectation of something in return is incredibly powerful. I must make a distinction however; you must NEVER give when it is to the detriment of yourself (see my previous blog about this). Helping another, be it a person or animal, is hugely purposeful and highly rewarding. It assists with the attainment of fulfillment and serving a purpose greater and beyond yourself.


Talk to your pet (if you have one).

Ok, so this may sound a little coo-coo, but having a good ol' yarn to your pet can actually really help with feelings of loneliness. And yes, I do this. Although they may not understand or comprehend all you say, they DO hold space for you (whether they show it or not). Both my dog and my bird are wonderful listeners, they want to engage and they actually really love the attention. Talk to your pets as if they understand everything. You will be surprised at how much it helps!


Final thoughts... loneliness is really fucking uncomfortable and I empathize greatly with those whom experience it. We each have the power to bring about change to reduce the intensity of it. We each hold the potential to create a deeper, more purposeful life.

Very importantly, you must never rely on a sole other to always fix it for you. Not only is it unfair on them, but it's an unhealthy relationship dynamic. You must first ask yourself why the loneliness is there in the first place and work to explore the core reasons behind it. This is doing the work towards self healing. It's when we seek to understand ourselves on a deeper level and bring about the pathway to change, that we are able to live a richer life.


Big love, Hayley. x


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