There is nothing wrong with valuing your alone time. Many of us, including myself, recharge when we spend time alone. We can enjoy whatever it is we want to do or even just enjoy the silence. However, there is a balance between enjoying your alone time and becoming consumed in it. Loneliness is a common and standard emotion. There is nothing wrong with feeling it from time to time. It can even be something to embrace; you can grow by learning to become more comfortable with it. But just like with everything else in life, there is a balance between how much you should engage in your alone time before it becomes a level of loneliness that requires an active change. This blog will help you learn to determine which side of that line you are currently falling on and what to do about it if you have started to become a little too accustomed to your loneliness.
How do you know if you are lonely? Like I said above, some of us can really value our time to ourselves, but when is even too much of ourselves a bad thing? You might be more lonely than you think if you are consistently binge-watching TV in a short period of time. With the age of Netflix, this is very easily done and we’ve all been there. Recent research actually suggests that people who feel lonely, including a mild form of depression, are more likely to binge watch. If you start to notice the hours slipping away, you might want to consider a more active alternative. You might also be more lonely if you start to become more self-conscious and notice yourself starting to choke in social situations. The challenge here is to not give into your own negative self-talk and remind yourself of your skills, values, and attributes. Resisting this urge to believe in your own negative self-talk will naturally improve feelings of loneliness.
If that alone time that you used to crave and enjoy starts to feel less rejuvenating and more limiting, you are probably lonely. Loneliness will allow this time to feel more difficult, having negative influences on sleep and increasing feelings of anxiety and/or depression. When you are lonely, you will also be more likely to depend on social media and television to fill the space instead of being more creative and productive. Lastly, a tendency to engage more in social media in general instead of engaging with people you care about in an active way could indicate that you are lonely. Instead of observing other people’s lives, reach out and interact with people in yours, whether this is in-person, a phone call, or even a text conversation. It’s better to be engaged with others than simply observing.
So then the question becomes, ‘what can I do to feel better in the moment?’ Definitely get off social media, and as suggested above, and reach out to someone! Even if you can’t get a hold of them, send a text or craft an email. Keeping in active contact with people who are important to you in your life is essential. Maybe start volunteering or journaling. Offering your services to others or even doing yourself a service by looking at your own thoughts in an objective way can feel very fulfilling. Look into a meet up group. The website meetup.com can help you to find people in your area that share your interests, giving you an opportunity to add to your friend group! Physical activity always helps. It doesn’t have to be a full-on workout, but an outdoor walk or a yoga video at home will work wonders.
Moral of the story is that loneliness can be managed and it can be managed well. The biggest thing is to be honest with yourself when you are experiencing it. If you aren’t being real with yourself, there is a good chance that you won’t be able to change anything. You deserve to have time alone with yourself, we just need to make sure that it’s quality alone time that encourages you to feel good and recharge!
Authored by: Kaitlan Gibbons, PsyD