the loneliness epidemic
You haven’t felt loneliness until you’ve been alone in a crowded room, surrounded by people who are happy in their own circles.
You can be completely happy being alone — it might even give you energy (fellow introverts, hello!)—but it’s part of the human condition to feel loneliness.
Because no one likes being alone all the time.
It’s beyond just physical aloneness, though.
Sometimes loneliness is wanting someone to hold you while you cry, and knowing that everyone who would want to is too far away.
Sometimes loneliness is feeling like no one understands you, and maybe that no one ever will.
Sometimes loneliness is holding a secret within yourself, maybe about yourself, and that secret creates mental isolation.
Sometimes loneliness is having thousands of connections online yet feeling no deep connections with any one person.
Sometimes loneliness is fearing that no one truly cares about you when it comes to things that matter.
Sometimes loneliness is FOMO.
Sometimes loneliness is lacking an invite because people assumed you had better plans (spoiler alert: you didn’t).
Sometimes loneliness is watching all your friends paired up while you’re still searching for your other half.
Sometimes loneliness is the absence of a mother, father, brother, grandfather, cousin during a family gathering, and you know that no matter what, they’ll always be missed.
Sometimes loneliness is a deep gnawing fear that you’ll forever be alone, that nothing you do will matter.
Here’s the thing: we enter and leave this world by ourselves, but it’s the relationships in between that matter.
So how do we build these relationships?
Loneliness is like a black hole. Similar to depression, it’s easy to miss—or misdiagnose (PSA: not a real medical condition here).
It’s easier to cover up loneliness with band-aids rather than take the time to create actual, meaningful relationships or to maintain these relationships.
Why is busyness just a band-aid for loneliness?
There are reports that loneliness is killing people; that people are lonelier than ever before. Yes, maybe technology and social media are creating willing isolation and feelings of FOMO, but I think it’s something deeper.
You see, it’s so easy to be busy. It’s not easy to be lonely.
I suggested adding more hobbies and activities to a loved one who was going through a breakup to help her cope. Anything to fill the space.
The reason I knew it worked? Because whenever I felt lonely, I filled the space with activities that forced me to focus on other things. Primarily work and working out.
It’s a vicious cycle, though. The more you fill your empty spaces with work, the more you’re prone to avoid building and maintaining real relationships, simply because you no longer have the time.
Or, you’re burnt out from working so much and need the time to yourself to recharge.
And the less time we spend on these relationships, the more isolated we feel.
Can we cure loneliness?
“Loneliness developed as an evolutionary adaptation to signal you to seek out tribes.” —Katherine deVos
That’s why “finding your tribe” has been so important in startup culture, in wellness culture, and increasingly, in our normal culture.
It’s also why isolated individuals are so easily brought into cults and other dangerous organizations — because for the first time, they feel like they’ve found a tribe where they belong.
Loneliness is normal and necessary because it’s a signal that we need to make some changes. So maybe the goal isn’t to “cure” loneliness, but to stop our bodies from sending us the “loneliness signal.”
How do we find our tribes?
“Your vibe attracts your tribe.”
To find our people, we must first find ourselves.
Reconnect to who you are. What makes you happy? What ignites your soul? What can you not live without?
What do you value? What do you believe in? How do you feel about yourself?
Once you find your sense of self, your own self-love, your passions, you’ll find it easier to make connections. People are drawn to positive energy, to strong people, to self-assuredness.
Here’s the final secret.
Relationships take work.
It’s something that I often struggle with — making time for people who matter.
I was listening to an episode of the “Beyond the To-Do List” podcast, and the guest was saying how he makes sure the core people in his life get a defined chunk his time and know exactly how much he values them.
Find the people who you know will be there for you, and who you’d be there for no matter what, and hold them tight.
Work to keep connected. Send a text asking if you’re free for dinner. Send a message saying “hi, I appreciate you.” Maybe even write a hand-written letter or card.
Reach out. Because ultimately…
“Loneliness is not a problem that should be dealt with alone.” — Bruce Lee