At certain points in my life, mostly when I was a lot younger, I experienced frequent bouts of intense loneliness. I also felt a tremendous amount of shame for my own loneliness.
Why couldn’t I be happy and social like everyone else my age? What was wrong with me?
It took me a long time to figure out how to be comfortable in my own skin. It took me a long time to accept that loneliness is ok. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me. It was just something I needed to work on without all the harsh judgements running through my head.
Socialization is largely a learned behavior. If you haven’t learned the fundamentals of how to do it, or if you’ve had bad experiences, how can you properly navigate through it?
At a certain point, I began to commit myself to radically dealing with those awful feelings. I knew I had two choices. I could give in and make my situation worse, which, when I was younger, I often did. This tends to lead to unhealthy kinds of behaviors and thoughts of just wanting to give up on life.
Or, I could make my situation better by figuring out ways to fix things. I call this the “take your medicine” type approach because just like a child will fight their parents when they need to take their medicine, so too will we often resist the very things that will make us feel better. We may feel like shutting off and spending the day in bed. Or, in my case, become a crazy megabitch for the day… or the week… or the month.
Don’t do that.
Loneliness was such a huge factor in my life that I devoted an entire section of my book, Sustenance & Harmony to this very subject. It pains me think that there are people at this very moment going through what I used to go through. The following five things are from a sidebar that I wrote for that book.
1. Do something artistic and/or creative: paint, write, play music, color in adult coloring books, make up a new recipe, etc. Even if you think you are bad at it, just do it. Absorbing yourself in creative tasks takes concentration and helps steal away painful and negative thoughts.
2. Go to a beautiful or interesting place. I’ve always had go-to places that would make me feel better. Beautiful parks with lakes, ducks and a goodly amount of people are excellent choices. When I lived in New Jersey, I had a beautiful park that I would go to, and sometimes I would head into NYC since it was so close by. I personally love bustling cities and it can definitely chase away the loneliness.
3. Read something. From an early age I used to cure all kinds of bad feelings, including loneliness, by absorbing myself into a great book. I hung out in libraries all the time anyway. These days we have the internet and can read advice columns, personal stories and all kinds of other things.
4. Listen to music or watch a great movie. Some movies always make me feel better. Forest Gump, Almost Famous, Girl, Interrupted, and all those Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns. And of course music… we all have our favorites that we can absorb ourselves into.
5. Try your best to connect with people in any healthy way, no matter how briefly. It may sound funny to say but carrying on small conversations with people at the coffee shop or in the grocery store is a step in the right direction. Find people to share your love of art, books or music, even if it’s just online at first.
Meet Up is great site where lonely people can get together. It’s a mecca for the socially awkward. I’ve made several friends there over the years and if I can do it, you can definitely do it.
Follow me on Instagram.