Tag Archives: Loneliness

Lonely? 5 Habits to Consider to Combat Loneliness.

3267049486_bce4b38cba_bOne major challenge within happiness is loneliness.  The more I’ve learned about happiness, the more I’ve come to believe that loneliness is a terrible, common, and important obstacle to consider.

Of course, being alone and being lonely aren’t the same. Loneliness feels draining, distracting, and upsetting; desired solitude feels peaceful, creative, restorative.

According to Elizabeth Bernstein’s Wall Street Journal piece, Alone or Lonely, the rate of loneliness in the U.S. has doubled over the past thirty years. About 40% of Americans report being lonely; in the 1980s, it was 20%. (One reason: more people live alone: 27% in 2012; 17% in 1970).

Loneliness is a serious issue, Sometimes people ask me, “If you had to pick just one thing, what would be the one secret to a happy life?” If I had to pick one thing, I’d say: strong bonds with other people.  The wisdom of the ages and the current scientific studies agree on this point. When we don’t have that, we feel lonely.

I wrote a book about habits, Better Than Before, and I continue to be obsessed with the subject. Whenever I think about a happiness challenge, I ask myself, “How could habits help address this problem?”

Here are some habits to consider: Continue reading

Are You in a Relationship For the Wrong Reason?

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By Peter Sacco

It is that time of the year again, the season of nostalgia, romance and longing to be with a ‘special someone’. Actually, when you think about it, when isn’t it that time for many? Okay, I am being a little facetious with the latter remark, but in all actuality, people, yes both men and women begin to yearn to have someone ‘special’ in their lives once the Holiday season rolls around, and if that isn’t enough, the new year brings even more hope, as you know what is right around the corner shortly thereafter… I will type it in a whisper, Valentine’s Day.

Society, which I use as a generic, trite term seems so hell-bent on people needing to be in relationships all of their adult lives in order to be ‘happy’. When you get into the whole notion of relationships and happiness, oh boy–that folks is a whole other can of worms, or book (complete with drama, melodrama and anti-climatic moments)! Relationships are awesome, and yes, should be the goal of most people.

Starting a relationship, or staying in one should be done for all of the right reasons. Too often, people stay in them for the wrong reasons, namely they do not want to be alone. Interestingly, people who stay in dysfunctional relationships, the bad ones because they do not want to be alone, often feel lonely. Talk about an oxymoron! Continue reading

From Intent.com: You Are Not Alone

“Maybe ever’body in the whole damn world is scared of each other.”
― John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men

The thing they don’t tell you about getting older is how hard it is to maintain relationship. As a grade-school child, you’re in a room with 25 other kids your same age from your neighborhood and for roughly eight months, you have built in best friends. That’s how it goes for 13 years or so and then you slowly add more and more people until you realize, unless you’re intentional, you might not know anyone.

I can’t name one person I met in college. Seriously.

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As an adult, I’ve learned that if I want to have more than surface-level friendships, I’m going to have to put in the extra effort. I don’t know that I’ll ever find the consistency I had in grade school. I work from home. I’m a single adult. If I want friendships, I have to make them a priority. Here are some best practices I’ve collected over the past years:

1. Don’t expect your friends to be psychic. I’m not even sure the people advertising themselves to be psychics are psychics, but we expect our friends to know when we’re sad or sick or feeling left out. While you don’t want to end up in a one-sided relationship, involvement with another person is always going to require putting yourself out there in some form. If you’re feeling blue, invite a friend to dinner. Decide you aren’t going to let it ruin your night if they aren’t available. Maybe think of 3 or 4 people to ask just in case. The point is just to get some quality time!

2. Know what you love. It can be really frustrating hanging out with people who love football to watch football if you don’t love football. Who’s fault is it really? If they know they love football, they are only being authentic to what they love. What do YOU love? If it’s not football, that’s totally fine! Is it hiking? Is it crafting? Is it going to concerts? The more you know about what you love, the easier it is to find your tribe or to invite people into experiences with you versus always feeling like you’re tagging along with someone else. It’s no one else’s job to find out what you love so take the time to really think about it and then share it!

3. Reconnect. There has to be some advantage to all the social media we’re glued to these days. Maybe it’s an opportunity to reach out to family or friends you lost touch with long ago. Upon moving to LA last year, I reconnected with one of those grade school friends I mentioned after I noticed on Facebook that she’d also moved to Los Angeles after graduating from college in Texas. We sent a couple of emails back and forth and scheduled lunch. It was a little nerve-wracking walking up to the restaurant. Would it be weird? Would we even have anything in common anymore? But, from the moment we sat down at the table, it was as if we had never missed a day!

 

It’s hard to be vulnerable. It’s hard to say “I feel alone” because it means you want people around and so much of society these days says you’re weak if you need people. To that I say the world isn’t big enough for everyone to have their own islands, so community has to happen. I also think that some of our best refining comes in the context of community.

It is where we learn to be selfless and also to stand up for ourselves.
It is where we learn to love ourselves and also to put others first.
It is where we learn what hills we want to die on.
It is where we learn the value of “thank you” and “I’m sorry”.
Those seem like worthy lessons.

So, don’t forget.
You are not alone.
You’re here and I’m here and so we can go ahead and put the notion that you’re alone to sleep.
You are not hopeless.
You are not unworthy of love.
I can say that with full confidence because your heart is beating.
So get out there!
A lonely someone is waiting on your friendship.

Why Your Voice Matters and How to it Get Heard

girlOver the course of my life I have been given certain “gifts” that have forced me to step into the arena of life. I’m a firm believer in the idea that everything happens for a reason, and if we don’t step up and use our experiences as catapults for change and growth then we’re throwing away opportunities to touch and heal other people with similar challenges.

Over the past year I made a conscious choice to step out and speak my truth around my battle with Cancer and the loss of my marriage. My sole intention has been to be honest and authentic about my struggles and imperfections with the hope that my story will inspire and heal the many people who suffer silently.

For most of my life I have stayed silent to avoid feeling wounded, but now my voice has become my medicine, and a necessary part of my survival.

Last week I took a risk with a blog I posted online. It was a very vulnerable and heartfelt blog that I was really excited to share because I truly felt it would resonate with so many people struggling with similar feelings.

While I have posted plenty of vulnerable blogs in the past, this particular post left me feeling like I had stepped up onto a podium completely naked. The minute I hit submit, I wanted to take it down.

While I’m well aware and prepared to encounter naysayers and haters that post provocative comments, somehow the few attacks that immediately showed up below the post rattled me. After the first comment my instinct was to contact the website to ask if they could take the post offline. I felt completely powerless, and like I was standing in front of a firing squad waiting for the next bullet to be fired. I panicked, tried to defend myself, and then had an incredible feeling of wanting to run away to another country.

I was completely enveloped in shame.

I know from working on myself and learning about vulnerability from my mentor Brene Brown that I put myself at risk for shame when I share my imperfections with the world. It’s a conscious choice (and risk) I want to take. I just never thought it could feel so awful.

The hardest blow came from a comment that held the implication that as a therapist I should have “known better”, and that I shouldn’t be dealing with this kind of “problem” in the first place. Apparently there are people out there who think that being a therapist and being human are mutually exclusive. The truth is that it would be impossible to do the work I do without acknowledging my faults and mistakes.

I’ve learned more from my own life than I could ever learn in school.

I share this story with you because I want you to know that we need your voice. It’s lonely out here in the arena of life, and while I know it’s terrifying to show up in this way, we need more people to stand tall in the face of imperfection and vulnerability.

This is particularly true when it comes to the stigmatized and shame ridden experience of divorce and disease.

I realize that when people aren’t ready to play in the game of life, they sit on the sidelines yelling at the players without really knowing what it’s like to be out there. When it comes to my I own life, I would rather be in the game and get injured, than to never know what it’s like to play.

Here are 3 easy ways to make a difference with your voice:

  1. Comment on posts that impact you. Whether it’s negative or positive, your opinion and voice matter and will invoke change. How many times have you thought about something you read, but didn’t respond to it? Keeping your thoughts and ideas to yourself is like holding onto a life preserver while watching someone drown.
  2. Override the discomfort of being seen with being heard. Many of us don’t want to draw attention to ourselves so we stay in the shadows hoping not to get noticed. Remember that it’s not about you; it’s about your message. Your words are more powerful than you could ever be, so don’t let your personal insecurities get in the way of what you have to say.
  3. Share a quote or words from another source when you don’t trust your own voice. It’s less risky to speak through someone else’s voice, so vicariously sharing in this way is awesome as long as it truly represents your point. Use a quote or affirmation to express yourself. Think of it as a form of ventriloquism.

7 Strategies to Feel Less Lonely

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One major challenge within happiness is loneliness.  The more I’ve learned about happiness, the more I’ve come to believe that loneliness is a terrible, common, and important obstacle to consider.

According to Elizabeth Bernstein’s recent Wall Street Journal piece, Alone or Lonely, the rate of loneliness in the U.S. has doubled over the past thirty years. About 40% of Americans report being lonely; in the 1980s, it was 20%. One reason: more people live alone (27% in 2012; 17% in 1970). But being alone and being lonely aren’t the same.

A while back, after reading John Cacioppo’s fascinating book Loneliness, I posted Some counter-intuitive facts about loneliness, and several people responded by asking, “Okay, but what do I do about it? What steps can I take to feel less lonely?”

I then read another fascinating book, Lonely — a memoir by Emily White, about her own experiences and research into loneliness. White doesn’t attempt to give specific advice about how to combat loneliness, and I don’t want to put words in her mouth, but from her book, I gleaned these strategies:

1. Remember that although the distinction can be difficult to draw, loneliness and solitude are different. White observes, “It’s entirely reasonable to feel lonely yet still feel as though you need some time to yourself.” Loneliness feels draining, distracting, and upsetting; desired solitude feels peaceful, creative, restorative.

2. Nurturing others — raising children, teaching, caring for animals — helps to alleviate loneliness.

3. Keep in mind that to avoid loneliness, many people need both a social circle and an intimate attachment. Having just one of two may still leave you feeling lonely.

4. Work hard to get your sleep. One of the most common indicators of loneliness is broken sleep — taking a long time to fall asleep, waking frequently, and feeling sleepy during the day. Sleep deprivation, under any circumstances, brings down people’s moods, makes them more likely to get sick, and dampens their energy, so it’s important to tackle this issue. (Here are some tips on getting good sleep.)

5. Try to figure out what’s missing from your life. White observes that making lots of plans with friends didn’t alleviate her loneliness. “What I wanted,” she writes, “was the quiet presence of another person.” She longed to have someone else just hanging around the house with her. The more clearly you see what’s lacking, the more clearly you’ll see possible solutions.

6. Take steps to connect with other people (to state the obvious). Show up, make plans, sign up for a class, take a minute to chat.

7. Stay open. Negative emotions like loneliness, envy, and guilt have an important role to play in a happy life; they’re big, flashing signs that something needs to change. The pain of loneliness can prod you to connect with other people. Unfortunately–and this may seem counter-intuitive--loneliness itself can make people feel more negative, critical, and judgmental. If you recognize that your loneliness may be affecting you in that way, you can take steps to counter it.

Most people have suffered from loneliness at some point. Have you found any good strategies for making yourself less lonely? What worked — or didn’t work?

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It’s You.

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 Isn’t that a lovely stick? Inspiring and uplifting and what not? Truly a stick worth posting. Yet it begun like this:

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Yup. This is how I felt the last few days, the last few weeks, the last few months, the last few … well, all my life, likely. Though there were times of clarity and times of denial, times of unconsciousness and times of presence. Lately I experience times of my trauma being up in my face so strongly, so clearly, so harshly that nothing but facing it is a possibility. So I am facing.

I am facing and I see pain that dates to my birth. I saw some pain from before that, hidden all the way back in the shadowy endings of the previous life but that’s irrelevant here. What is relevant is that what happened when I was one day old comes to light and demands to be seen.

There is pain there. Pain caused by neglect and fear and loneliness and … well, pain. The pain I was born into. The pain of my parents that made it impossible for them to surround me with nothing but love. There was no love. There was no love at the very beginning of my life and I look at it (again) and see how quickly it became my fault, how quickly I became unlovable and how that burden of blame and guilt crushed me, and then I realize that…

… that it was not my fault. It was not my fault that there was no love waiting to receive me when I was born. But it was my responsibility. It was my responsibility.

And this is when the strings, the cords and strands of trauma loosen up a bit and I see that it was all me, from the very beginning. It was all me. And it still is.

And then I see that the trauma that binds me and traps me is there because I keep it there, because I believe it, because I mistake it for reality. I mistake it for life. I mistake it for the world. And then I see that this trauma’s purpose is to create life that it wants me to have. The pain wants me to create more pain. The fear wants me to create more fear and the lack of love, the loneliness, wants me to be alone.

And when I see that — the bounds fall off. They do not disappear, no, but they lose their power over my choices. They lose their power over my perceptions. I can see them for what they are now and they can no longer blind me and mystify me. They can no longer pretend to be real.

And then they leave. They are not needed anymore and I am left in the world where there is love because I am love. I am left in the world of my own creation, designed by me in the process of loving, of accepting, myself.

Romantic Failure Doesn’t Make You Any Less Perfect

AloneI was 17 the first time someone told me I might be addicted to love. In my defense, I think I’m one of the many suffering from such an affliction, it’s just that I happened to become aware of it at a relatively young age. Also, I’m sorry, but if you seriously managed to survive listening to ‘90s pop radio in your car every day and not get “addicted to love”, allow me to copy your notes after class. I seriously have no idea how you did it. (Seriously though. No idea.)

Needless to say, at 17 years old, I really didn’t appreciate hearing this … nor did I have any real willingness to admit it might be true. I took my friend’s observation as a sort of death sentence, a prophecy that I was doomed to romantic failure for my entire foreseeable future. Still I continued repeating the same self-defeating patterns in relationships, over and over, until one day I got tired of it and decided it was time for something new.

While I wish I were writing this as someone who woke up one day and said “today is the day I will stop being attracted to misogynistic assholes”, that’s not exactly how it all happened. Instead, I’ve woken up many times with that same commitment, it’s just manifesting gradually (gradually: AKA not exactly the way a control freak such as myself would have preferred).

If you can’t tell already, this wasn’t (isn’t) my favorite quality about myself, this fate of being attracted to the “wrong kind of guy” and dating different versions of him over and over again. I hated that I found myself reduced to such a fate and was committed to reversing it. When I realized a commitment like this would expand over a lifetime, and not be part of some kind of overnight transformation, it was the sad start of what has been a bitter and painful war with myself.

For whatever reason, I tend to be more interested in dead-end romance than cheesecake and too much Chardonnay. Regardless of my drug of choice, I’ve somehow failed to realize that the truth of my lingering and perpetual feelings of incompleteness without the presence of another half doesn’t make me only half a person. As I once believed at 17, I am not broken. I am not eternally damned.

I guess I’m writing this because there was a time when I really didn’t believe that (okay fine: it was last night.) There are still many times when I don’t believe that, when I believe that my distant past or even my recent choices are a reflection of how worthy I am. But that’s not true. It isn’t true. And it never will be.

Whether it’s donuts or carbohydrates or unavailable men or unavailable women (most of us have something we run to, I’m just listing the usual suspects…) we don’t have to be perfect to be, well … perfectWe don’t have to have it all figured out (I certainly don’t) and however many chocolates or escapades must come between us and whatever it is we’re looking for, we can trust we’re not missing something we should have been born with. Some essential piece was not left out of the box when we arrived. I like to think I’m just picking up the pieces I already have and putting them back together: it may take a while, but heck, hopefully I have a while.

And yes, even though Celine Dion and Savage Garden might have tried to convince me otherwise (little buggers), I really need not worry. I’ve had all the pieces this whole time.

 

For more, check out my website, The Light Files, and follow me on Facebook or Twitter.

Why I Choose the Solo Life, For Now

men can't understandI live alone, and I am very good at it. I would say for about 28 of the 30 or 31 days in a month, I fail to notice that I’m going about the household chores solo. That being said, I’ve recently made the executive decision to hire a house cleaner. (I may be one human, but that says nothing on account of my messes, which often look like the work of a bear clan…)

While I certainly anticipate the arrival of prince charming (must love shoes…or have a tolerance for all of mine), I’ve come to a crossroads where my willingness to make that “Saturday night I’m lonely lets hang out and act like we don’t like each other on Sunday” thing just isn’t worth its price tag anymore. As Melissa Etheridge’s familiar tune “I Want to Come Over” blared through the speakers of my red beetle this afternoon, I chuckled as she professed to her lover that she didn’t care about the existence of her lover’s other lover because she just had to have this lover for this one night. “I want to come over,” she croons, “to hell with the consequence…”

‘Yeah…’ I thought to myself as I listened, ‘…just wait until you see THAT bill in the mail next month, girlfriend. You won’t be saying ‘to hell’ with nothing.

But as I said, there are 28 days out of the whole month when I don’t deal with that itch, which leaves two or three days each month when desperation surfaces, when I find myself repeating in my head something to the more PG tune of:

“Oh, would someone just please come cook me dinner???”

Today was one of those days.

As work drew to a close, I suddenly thought of someone who would be the perfect contender for such a desire: fabulous chef, certainly interested in me, definitely someone who would be over in minutes if I so requested. Unfortunately, my sense of the moral high ground caught up with me. I nudged my friend Jenn to support me in traveling a little bit below sea level, just for one night. Jenn responded:

“It’s like just wanting to get a massage without them trying to sell you a gym membership.”

I laughed hysterically.

Truly, it’s not that “I don’t want the gym membership”, it’s that I haven’t found a gym…okay, we’ll quit with the metaphor here for a moment…a man…that I want to sign up for yet. I can assure you that once I do, that will certainly be “worth the consequence”, precisely because there won’t be any. That, my friends, will be one worth signing up for.

Laura Max Nelson is a Houston-based writer and author of “The Light Files“, a blog on Happiness, Heart and Humor. Visit Laura Max on Facebook or follow her on Twitter for updates.

Addiction, Isolation, And The Law Of Attraction

UntitledOne of the most common issues that I found when completing research for “The Law of Sobriety” is how addiction and isolation go hand in hand. For most people it is the isolation that triggers the addiction and then the addiction that drives the isolation.

Let me explain what I mean. A person, it could be a teen or an adult, feels socially isolated for some reason. Perhaps they just moved to a new city, started a new job, went to a new college or school, or perhaps they have social anxiety and have difficulty being around people. Regardless of the reason, they feel alone and apart from others. This is a very negative place to be and one that is not in keeping with the natural desire of humans to have meaningful interactions and relationships with others.

The person is aware of their isolation and feelings of loneliness so they are constantly thinking about being alone and what they are missing in their lives. The Law of Attraction comes into play because the negativity and sense of isolation is all the person thinks about. This, in turn, brings about more isolation and loneliness since your emotional state, in this case negative, attracts similar elements in the world around you.

Then, one day, that lonely, unhappy person does something that makes them feel positive, connected and a part of something. This may be gambling getting online, shopping, watching porn, having a few drinks at a bar or using a legal or illegal drug. This rush of feel good chemicals in the brain is new and exciting, so the person repeats the behavior to continue to get that sensation. The problem is, of course, that they need to keep doing more and more to try to recapture that initial sensation.

As time goes by the desire to repeat the behavior, the addiction, becomes problematic socially. What they did to feel good they now know is undesirable to others, so they become more and more isolated to hide the addiction. With less support the addiction becomes the person’s life; creating a vicious cycle.

Here are three simple steps, using the principles of the Law of Attraction, that I work with each of my clients in recovery to stop attracting negative energy and bring in the positive:

  1. Focus on one good thing a day. When you are focusing on the positive you are open to receiving positive energy and opportunities.
  2. Identify one person that you trust to connect with on a daily basis. This person needs to be a positive influence and someone that is clean, sober and supportive.
  3. Set one goal a day and get it done. This can be a small goal; but that sense of accomplishment will bring more accomplishment into your life as you become confident in your abilities and talents.

* * *

Sherry Gaba LCSW, Psychotherapist, Life, Love & Recovery Coach is featured in Celebrity Rehab on VH1. Sherry is the author of “The Law of Sobriety” which uses the   law of attraction to recover from any addiction. Please download your free E book “Filling The Empty Heart” and your “Are You a Love Addict Quiz?” at www.sherrygaba.com. Contact Sherry for webinars, teleseminars, coaching packages and speaking engagements. Take  Sherry’s quiz for a free eBook Filling the Empty  Heart: 5 Keys to Transforming Love Addiction.

Afraid of Being Alone? 6 Steps to Become The Partner You Desire

165In my Mastering the Art of Aloneness workshops—attended by singles and people in relationships— I ask participants what they associate with “aloneness.” I hear the same responses over and over. “Lonely.” “Unwanted.” “Afraid.” Whether single or part of a couple, many people perceive aloneness as something to avoid rather than embrace.

This mindset is no surprise. From childhood we’re conditioned to view aloneness as something to pity, fear, or feel ashamed of. Parents become anxious when their children don’t have play dates. Teenagers’ self-esteem is based on how many friends they have. And, all too often, adults measure each other’s well-being by whether or not they have a significant other.

Mastering the art of aloneness is not about being alone. It means living a life in which you feel whole and happy, and can take care of yourself emotionally and financially. It involves embracing aloneness as an opportunity to develop the self-awareness and life skills needed to live a full and gratifying life—whether you’re living it alone or with someone else.

Pursuing self-mastery not only enhances the quality of your relationship with yourself, but it changes your relationships with others. Instead of expecting another person to make you whole, you engage in relationships with a sense of being complete on your own. Self-sufficiency builds self-esteem, allowing you to participate in relationships with others out of conscious choice, rather than out of neediness or fear of being alone.

By actively embracing your aloneness, you create new results in every aspect of your life. Below are a few of many steps you can take to strengthen your relationship with yourself and use the state of “aloneness” to develop greater self-esteem, personal fulfillment, and financial security.

  • Learn about and develop who you are: Imagine how life would be if we all put as much energy into developing a loving relationship with ourselves as we do in our relationships with others. Personal development work (coaching, workshops, therapy, etc.) allows you to better understand your strengths and passions, the influences that have shaped who you’ve become, and to live life by deliberation versus by default.
  • Develop an inner support system: Deploy stress-reducing strategies by getting enough sleep and exercise, meditating, scheduling leisure activities, extending compassion to yourself through supportive “self talk” (“great job!”, “you’re magnificent!”, etc.), and maintaining a diet that supports your well-being.
  • Develop an outer support system: Build friendships with people who support who you really are, and utilize external resources to help you achieve your full potential (a holistic physician, nutritionist, fitness trainer, life coach, etc.).
  • Take financial control: Make a list of your monthly expenses and income. If you live beyond your means, you need to alter your lifestyle or develop a plan for earning the money to support it. Being financially dependent on another person is a risk; if that person disappears from your life, so does your financial security and quality of life.
  • Do work you love, in which you can excel: The smaller the gap between who you are in your personal life and who you are at work, the happier you will be. A job aligned with your strengths and passions makes going to work a joy, versus a daily source of frustration.
  • Create and live your ideal life: Write the book you long to write, buy your dream home, open your own business, interview for your dream job. Instead of waiting for someone else to provide the life conditions to which you aspire, take action to bring them to fruition.

© 2012 Lauren Mackler all rights reserved

Lauren Mackler is a world-renowned coach, speaker, and author of the international bestseller, SOLEMATE: Master the Art of Aloneness and Transform Your Life. Visit: www.LaurenMackler.com.

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / Mitya Kuznetsov 

 

Originally published January 2012

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