Nesting: Lonely

Nesting: is a blog about the objects and experiences that create a sense of home. Without home, it is difficult to maintain health, find joy, or to be productive during our workdays. Enjoy the Nesting series of blogs as you search for your deep sense of home. –Jana

Lonely. About a year ago I began to hear people share that they feel “without a tribe”, have “very few friends” and are lonely. This surprised me because each person was someone I’d known for a year or more and they had not appeared to be feeling this way during our jovial and laughter filled interactions.

Recently a struggling teen shared “I like who I am.” And in the next sentence said: “I am lonely.” This struck me as a challenging juxtaposition because the teen wants, craves even, to be a part of a group and to not be lonely. So, I gently asked: “Because you like who you are, do you feel that you will always be lonely?”  A reflective pause followed. My hope of course is that the reflection is continuing so that healthy choices for the present and future can be made, and for the “real, likable self” to surface – sooner rather than later.

What is the opposite of lonely? The opposite of lonely includes this list: crowded, populated, socially engaged, befriended, close, frequented, inhabited and loved. In this case, the opposites that match best are befriended and loved.

That shared, magazine articles in the last year have reported that “nearly half of all Americans feel lonely – with young people in particular experiencing the brunt of the pain.” And a Cigna (health) survey indicates that 54% of their 20,000 respondents “feel like no one actually knows them well.” With about 40% saying they “lack companionship and relationships aren’t meaningful.”

I blogged a few weeks ago about being Hangry. A few years ago, RealSimple magazine added to the hangry discussion: “HALT” – ask yourself, is the other person who appears to be having a melt-down Hungry? Agitated? Lonely? Or Tired? Isn’t that interesting! “Lonely” can be a cause for melt-down or hangry-looking behaviors. Which proves that feeling lonely has far-reaching consequences for the person feeling lonely and for those of us nearby.

In theory, as adults we are more capable of making choices that affect our lives and the lives of others. Busy lives and schedules, work demands, pleas from family members, household chores, health issues, studies and more can prevent us from spending time with people who bring us joy, encouragement, laughter and a sense of NOT being lonely. Yet, we have the power to use our time and our energy in the ways that we choose.

Things you can choose to help yourself overcome being lonely.

  • Ask to go to lunch with a friend or a colleague. Start getting better acquainted with one person who seems interesting to you.
  • Join a book club, bunko group, or other social activity group.
  • Invite someone to an event or movie – making clear that it is not a date, just a friendly get-together.
  • Interact more frequently – in person or by telephone – with the family member you most enjoy.
  • Introduce yourself to your new (even if they’ve been there a year) neighbor.
  • Volunteer for a cause you care about. You’re likely to make a new friend.
  • Schedule an appointment with a counsellor to explore options for overcoming your loneliness.
  • Keep practicing acts of “get-acquainted” so that you can discover who you’d like to know better, who you’d enjoy not being lonely around.

While overcoming loneliness can be challenging, know that others are also trying to overcome it. Lonely. Not lonely. What are you choosing?

Jana Kemp

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