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Are you lonely or are you just alone?

Posted: June 1, 2017, 9:59AM

Many people live alone.  They may be single.  They may be widowed.  They may be divorced.  There are also people who are caring for loved ones or who are married who are lonely.  Some people do well on their own while others do not. 

Those who are lonely feel solitary, isolated and/or companionless.  Personality types are factors.  How do you feel about being alone?  Do you need time to yourself to recharge or do you get your energy from being around others?  There is a difference in being alone and being lonely!

Loneliness can take a toll on us emotionally and mentally, and it can be bad for our physical health.  Sleep can be disturbed.  We may suffer elevated blood pressure.  We may gain weight. 

Our focus on our electronic devices can contribute to loneliness, too.  We lose the moment.  In our attempts to capture the moment, we disengage.  We are so focused on the device-smile, the device-comment, the device-approval that we lose that REAL moment in time. 

Instead of seeking validation from those around us, we seek validation from our device (phone or tablet) and those in the cyber world.  The very device that keeps us connected, separates us from others.  Watching the screen on our devices keeps us from seeing the non-verbal communication that is going on as we communicate.  It keeps us from interacting with the person who is sitting next to us.  Our impulse to broadcast the details of our lives makes us miss out on them.

Regardless of how we adapt to being alone, most of us enjoy being with people.  If you find yourself alone more often than you'd like, you may try some of the following for that human connection.  If you find it difficult to get out, many of these can be adapted or modified for your abilities.

1 - Put down your phone or your tablet for a while.  Enjoy the moment...in person.  Interact with those around you...in person.  Or just enjoy being in the moment with YOURSELF!

2 - Call a friend.  TALK to them.  Let them know that you are interested in them.

3 - Explore community services.  You could volunteer your time in person or as part of a friendly telephone visitor program.

4- What about a pet? There are so many animals in shelters that would welcome a forever home.  Evidence supports that taking care of and having the companionship of an animal can lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety.  Daily walks can also help with weight gain!

5 - Do you have a hobby?  What are your life long loves?  Perhaps you enjoy gardening.  (You may want to explore a class on becoming a Master Gardener!)  Have you always wanted to learn to paint?  Do you enjoy cooking?  Colleges and universities as well as fine art institutes offer classes on a variety of topics. 

6 - Do you have a sense of purpose?  Volunteering at a local hospital or senior center can be fulfilling.  Helping your neighbors can also give you a sense of contributing to your world.

7 - Set a schedule with goals. Set up your agenda for morning, afternoon and evening.

8 - Focus on others.  Volunteer.  What is your favorite charity?  Maybe they need some help.  Do you enjoy being with animals?  Contact your local animal shelter.  Most are more than happy to have people come in and walk the dogs or help with shelter tasks.  If you can't get out, ask what you can do from your home.

9 - Check out online communities who share similar interests.  If you need computer skills training, the library or community college may offer classes. 

10 - Do you need support as a caregiver?  Check out local support groups.

11 - Be attentive to self-care.  Meditation, exercise, eating healthy meals and snacks, and getting your regular medical check ups and preventive screens can make a difference in your quality of life.

If you know someone who is alone, can you include them in your activities or invite them for dinner?  Maintain your communication with others, and stay involved in life! 

Source:  Positive Approach, Teepa Snow, Online Dementia Journal May 2017; Psychology Today, Three Ways Social Media Ruins Everything by Emma Seppala PhD, March 2016, www.psychologytoday.com

 






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