Being Alone: Loneliness Vs. Solitude
Being alone can be different than being lonely. For example, some people may enjoy spending time alone at a restaurant or the movies. However, the distinction can be difficult to understand for others, and loneliness may accompany solitude. Learning to be alone without feeling lonely can mean enjoying time alone when others aren't present. To start, there are a few ways to distinguish loneliness from solitude.
What is loneliness?
In a literal sense, loneliness is a state of being affected by adverse reactions to being alone, like profound sadness or melancholy. Loneliness is a mental phenomenon, not physical, often strongly tied to emotions and thought patterns.
Because loneliness is psychological, it can also occur when spending time with others. Some people experience loneliness when in a crowded room or around friends and family members who don't have their best interests at heart. Perceptions of loneliness may have less to do with whether someone is in solitude or has many friends and family members around them.
The impacts of loneliness
Loneliness is an emotional response to a desire to belong. It is natural for humans to want to fit in, find connections, and be accepted by others. Being lonely is often normal. It is a socially induced state that can be a reminder of a social need for love and belonging that affects mental and physical health.
It may be valuable to note that loneliness is a state of mind. You can experience the stress of loneliness whether you're physically alone or surrounded by people. Adding more people to your life may not reduce the perception that you are alone, but finding high-quality connections that you can trust and rely on could.
To fight loneliness, it may be beneficial to identify it as what it is. If you notice thoughts that increase feelings of sadness or thoughts of isolation, label them as loneliness. You can then begin to pinpoint what might be causing this loneliness.
Ignoring your thoughts or emotions may make you feel worse. Instead of isolating yourself or meeting people for superficial connections, try to find people in your social circle who make you feel appreciated. In addition, partake in activities that make you feel self-love, like your hobbies and interests. You may find that being comfortable alone can help reduce thoughts of loneliness.
The Long Loneliness by Dorothy Day
Dorothy Day wrote a book called The Long Loneliness. In it, she suggests that a solution to loneliness is genuine love from one's community. Some sources may claim that romantic love is the only connection that reduces loneliness. However, Dorothy posits that individuals can believe they are valuable, validated, and happy without a romantic partner.
Some people find a sense of belonging when they match up with a partner. A romantic relationship could be one way for people to connect. Couples may form a little world of experiences and inside jokes between them. However, people who are in romantic relationships can be lonely, as well. In addition, if being in a romantic relationship causes you to lose connections with friends or family members, it may not be healthy in the long term.
Community, as Dorothy Day states, is often a sense of belonging. It doesn't necessarily mean the people in your neighborhood, though it can. It can mean finding people you connect with and can talk to without fear of judgment or isolation. You can form these types of bonds with friends, family members, coworkers, and others.
Loneliness vs. solitude
Building community within yourself by learning to accept yourself for who you are may also reduce loneliness. When looking to others for validation and acceptance, it might be difficult to believe that what you are receiving is true if you see yourself in a negative light.
Although solitude, isolation, and aloneness can seem like loneliness, loneliness is mental, and being alone is physical. They do not necessarily coincide for everyone. Learning how to be alone and happy can be a significant step forward. Below are a few benefits of being physically alone.
You may have more time to focus on yourself when you're alone. Use your alone time to pursue your creative hobbies, learn a new skill, or go for a hike. When you're alone, you can choose to see it as quality time with yourself.
Being with other people can mean paying attention to them and offering support. Although these behaviors can be essential for social ties, they can also be draining. Being alone can be a break from social responsibilities and the energy of others.
When no one else is around to help you, you may have to work through problems by yourself. Solving your own problems, relying on yourself for validation, and making yourself feel loved can be a confidence booster and a reminder that you are capable of many feats. Self-reliance can also increase confidence, which may help you show up more authentically in your relationships.
When constantly surrounded by others, you might go along with their decisions or let them make the calls. However, being alone allows you to make more decisions for yourself and learn more about your values. Finding out what you enjoy and dislike can help you be more honest with those you connect with.
Managing loneliness with professional support
Loneliness can be challenging to cope with alone if you experience it frequently. In addition, if it's a symptom of an underlying condition like depression, it may not go away without treatment. In these cases, reaching out to a licensed therapist can be valuable. If you face barriers to in-person therapy, online formats may be helpful.
Studies show that online therapy can help those experiencing difficult-to-process emotions related to loneliness. In one study published in Behavior Therapy, a peer-reviewed academic journal, researchers examined the usefulness of online therapy in treating symptoms of loneliness. Treatment involved an eight-week online cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) program, guiding clients in understanding unhelpful thoughts that can lead to unwanted behaviors and emotions. After treatment, participants reported reduced feelings of loneliness and social anxiety, as well as increased quality of life.
If you are experiencing isolation, online therapy may be advantageous. With support through a platform like BetterHelp, you can receive the ability to connect with a licensed therapist via live chat, voice call, or videoconference. You may also be able to reach out to your counselor outside of sessions via messaging, allowing you to remind yourself that you have someone on your side throughout the week.
What is loneliness in psychology?
Loneliness is an emotional and mental state caused by an unmet need for social connection. Loneliness can contribute to mental illnesses like depression and anxiety. Certain mental illnesses may also lead to loneliness due to stigma or challenges leaving the house.
Loneliness can happen even when someone is around others, and it often causes negative emotions like sadness or frustration. Other signs of loneliness may include:
- A feeling of alienation or isolation
- Longing for social connection
- Feelings of depression or discomfort
- Physical symptoms like muscle pains, trouble sleeping, headaches, or frequent illnesses
In a 2020 study, researchers surveyed 935 adults in America on their loneliness levels, finding that 36% of participants felt frequent loneliness.
Is solitude a feeling?
Solitude often refers to the physical state of not being around other people. It can also be considered a feeling.
It may be worth remembering that although the words “solitude” and “loneliness” may sound like synonyms, they have different meanings. Loneliness refers to feelings of desolation, distress, or longing due to a lack of social connection. Solitude refers to being physically away from others without experiencing negative emotions.
What is true loneliness?
What counts as “true loneliness” can vary. Loneliness is caused by a need for social companionship that isn’t being met. However, this can look different for different people. One person might feel lonely in a room full of people they know, while another might spend all day alone and not feel lonely.
Thinking about what you’re feeling can be helpful for figuring out if you’re lonely. Symptoms of loneliness might include feelings of sadness, emptiness, or a longing for connection. Other symptoms may include pain, fatigue, or trouble sleeping. If what you’re feeling is causing you distress, you might also consider exploring it with a mental health specialist.
Who enjoys loneliness?
Loneliness, by definition, is not enjoyable. It is a state of distress resulting from feeling deserted or disconnected from others.
Some people may be naturally more solitary. They may feel at ease by themselves or willingly seek out seclusion. However, this form of isolation is different from loneliness because it is not associated with feelings of discomfort.
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