5 steps to change loneliness from a burden to a bonus
Becoming single again brings some added bonuses – one of which is loneliness! That may have sounded sarcastic (my favourite form of humour) – it was slightly but you can turn the burden of loneliness into a bonus. Like with so many things at the end of a relationship you can wallow in the pain or you can use it to create a new life. We discussed exploring the new you last time. This time we will focus on 5 steps to improve your life through loneliness.
At the end of my marriage loneliness for me was an aching loss of the person who knew me best and shared the most intimate areas of my life. I was not alone, because I had the kids, but I felt isolated as some friendships crumbled and I pulled away from activities we had done together. As I’m still single, loneliness still appears sometimes and I continue to work through these 5 steps.
Why am I lonely?
Loneliness has a mixture of social and emotional aspects.
The social aspect of loneliness comes due to a disruption in social networks. At the end of a relationship you may be forced to change neighbourhoods losing known neighbours, familiar faces in the local shops, participation and connection in local sporting clubs, hobbies groups or church and local friendships. This is combined with some friends and family who may distance themselves from you. Your social calendar may become empty.
There is also emotional loneliness – the loss of intimacy with your partner. You have lost someone who knows you well.
5 steps to overcome loneliness
- Admit it
- Be active
- Become part of a community
- Invest in quality friendships
- Reframe your alone time
Step 1 Admit it
The first step in overcoming loneliness is to admit it. Stop denying it! Denial can take the form of busyness so you don’t have to think or feel, or withdrawal into a pity-party for one, or covering the pain with addictions. By accepting that loneliness exists you can take steps to overcome it. Label it for what it is and follow the rest of the steps to deal with it.
Step 2 Be active
The second step is moving off the couch and being active. Loneliness doesn’t get better by staying home feeling sorry for yourself! I know – I tried retreating from the world but it only increased my isolation and feelings of self-pity. As hard as it is, you need to leave the house and become physically, socially and vocationally active.
Social activity is becoming part of a community (see step 3) not just filling your calendar.
Vocational activity is not just paid work. It’s investing in your children if you have them, volunteering, ministry and living out your purpose in life. An unexpected advantage of loneliness is that it can sensitise you to the needs of others. Can you become active in an organisation to help others or advocate for them? Find a group of like-minded people and change the world together.
Being active can combine with the following steps. At the end of my marriage I started tap dancing and connected with a group of caring women. It helped with my fitness, I stomped out my emotions and nearly twenty years later I am still friends with one lady.
Step 3 Become part of a community
As you become active in the outside world, ensure that you become part of a community and connect with people there. This requires effort on your part to engage with people in the group. It could be a sporting club, an interest group, or church. This will also help with social loneliness and it gives you a pool of people to find someone to create a deeper connection with. So what do you like doing? What are you passionate about? What have you always wanted to try? What local groups are accessible to you?
Step 4 Invest in quality friendships
From your community connections invest in quality friendships with whom you can share your feelings honestly. It is said that the best way to make a friend is to be one. Friendship is reciprocal. Be wary though of supporting others in your time of need and ensure you have healthy boundaries (more on this in a later blog). It is difficult to help someone with their pain when you are swamped with your own. Connect with safe people. Safe people love you unconditionally, no matter what you do or what you tell them.
Step 5 Reframe your alone time
As a single again person you will still have alone time. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself use the time to your advantage. Read a book. Reflect in a journal. Invest in yourself. Take a course. Have a massage. If you are spiritual, use the alone time for contemplation, meditation or prayer. Using the alone time to do something you enjoy, builds you up and refreshes you. You can learn to reframe it from a painful situation to something you may look forward to.
Many people find strength through faith and the knowledge of God’s presence even when they are alone. If you are a Christian, use the alone time to develop a relationship with God. It says in the Bible, ‘come near to God and He will come near to you’ (James 4:7).
Putting legs on it
Which step do you need to take today?
My support circle from ‘My Life! Healthy Living Journal’1 is a tool to help you identify where you have connections and where you may be lacking. You can download from Baptist Care SA website.
- Legge, V, Oerman, B and van Loon A. (2015) My Life! Healthy Living Journal, Baptist Care (SA) Inc Australia p27
Photo credit: Jean Gerber www.unsplash.com