I stumbled upon a video on YouTube about the current epidemic of loneliness that made me think about this topic and my own life.
For me, being alone and being lonely are two totally different experiences.
I cherish my alone “me time”. The ability to do what I want, in my space and time. Most of the people I know appreciate this in their own way.
On the other hand, the feeling of loneliness can be intensified by our disconnected word.
There are a growing number of people, like me, who work independently or from home – lacking close connections, close family, community, or support circles. Without this support, people feel vulnerable, or even anxious or depressed.
I realized this disconnection was very much a part of my life even though I am digitally constantly connected through email, chats, and social media.
I have found that there is a real difference between digital connections and real-life communities. So I asked myself, “What is the best way to beat this issue?”
I have begun to take actions that work, though I have a lot of room for improvement given some extra effort on my part.
I am happy to have the chance to share what has been working for me. Hopefully, by sharing these ideas, others can reference them if they are ever feeling lonely and in need of a friend.
Here’s what has worked for me ….
Recognition of these feelings has been the first step for me to take action.
How do I realize these moments will go beyond enjoying alone time and dive into an unhappy place?
Answer: because it won’t get any better.
Many days I think “I need to get out the house.” I get antsy, anxious, down, craving connection.
This can drive me into isolation. Not a good place to live.
Recognizing the difference between needing alone time to recharge and feeling alone and unhappy helps me to be able to respond appropriately.
Calling a friend or relative for coffee or lunch can be daunting for me.
Let’s face it, life is busy and schedules get crazy.
I also know I have to face the risk of being rejected.
This is an area I know I can improve on.
I intend to make it a goal to reach out more often for more face-to-face meetings to both make new connections, as well as to reconnect.
The health club and yoga classes have been a life saver for me.
I’ve found that the physical fitness not only relieves stress plus I get a sense of accomplishment and connection with a community with the same interests.
I’m not a workout superstar, but getting moving minimally and/or tackling a hard class is a major win. And getting out with a likeminded community is very uplifting.
Yoga classes have been instrumental, linking body and mind together.
Recently one of the yoga instructors said “even though yoga is an individual practice, we have to acknowledge that we are part of a community where we can also work together on our practice”. (I wish I could have told him I was working on a post).
I always see familiar faces who contribute to the classes and garner a sense of working together to learn more about the practice. I don’t feel lonely in this place when we are all wavering in a tree pose. Namaste!
This is an activity I have connected with, but there are countless other group classes and team sports that can aid in that lonely feeling.
For example, I recently took a risk and took paddle board class for the experience and opportunity to meet new people. I learned that I am not good at paddle boarding, but showing up is half the battle.
I have always gotten involved in professional organizations. I see it as a good way for me to connect with other search industry geeks.
I have been asked “what’s your ROI on it”? I have never been motivated for that reason (does that make me a bad business person?).
But I like the collaboration, learning, and relationships. I don’t think that will ever change for me.
I like being part of a team leading industry initiatives.
Local Community Events
I love the random community events that I find in my city. I check the community events papers, parks and rec, school district activities, continuing education brochures for city events.
It is surprising how many interesting activities are out there and for a low fee or even often free. I mark these on my calendar so if I am available, I can attend.
This can range from an open house, to a “jog with the Mayor,” to community art walks.
My calendar is full of these little nuggets to have on hand if I am feeling lonely or bored and I’m looking to get out to meet new people in the community.
There is no better way to give back to the community while being a part of it than volunteering.
I have just recently signed up with a great local animal rescue organization as my way to give back and make connections at the same time.
My goal here is to learn more about how I can contribute while making contacts, but most importantly, help our furry friends find great homes!
It’s a win-win for all involved!
When I think about a “community” connection, the neighborhood I live in is as close as it physically gets.
In my current and past neighborhoods, we have had formal and ad hoc block parties. This rocks on so many levels.
Feeling more connected and getting to know my neighbors personally helps me to feel less alone with the added benefit of feeling more safe and secure knowing I have connections nearby.
The video that sparked my idea for this post is on YouTube. It triggered me to think about what I have been doing to beat the feelings of loneliness and wanting to be part of a larger community.
I have taken what works for me and ran with it to better to deal with the lonely moments I face and not let them get the best of me.
I hope that you can find something in this piece and/or in this video that can help you feel less lonely, too.
Note to the non-lonely:
If you know someone who may be feeling lonely, like a friend or senior who doesn’t have many resources, reach out! They may be ill, physically unable, or too anxious to do so.
A simple phone call or coffee talk date can make someone’s day!
When I am lonely, I don’t say “I am lonely today, let’s talk.” That’s not how it works for most people.