Being Lonely Vs Being Alone
Have you ever been to a party and felt as if you shouldn’t have come as there is no one you can talk to or maybe there isn’t a soul you can connect with? And have you refused to attend an event just so you could spend time with yourself, not that you were pushing people away, but wanting to get closer to yourself? You have, right? That’s how Loneliness and Being Alone are experienced in real life. These are two very different things.
It is possible to be alone and not feel lonely, and it is also possible to be surrounded by people and still feel lonely. While being alone is a physical expression, you are without the presence of others, a choice you make, such as when you want to have some time to yourself to reflect or relax, or it can be a situation that you find yourself in, such as when you are unable to see friends or family due to long-distance maybe, loneliness is an emotional state, a feeling of isolation or being disconnected from others indifferent to any physical presence or absence of people.
As Sharon Melin, a mental health counselor in Big Lake, Minnesota says, “Being ‘alone’ is a physical state where you are physically by yourself. Being ‘lonely’ is an emotional state where you are feeling alone or disconnected from others – even when they’re right next to you. Sometimes we are happy to be by ourselves, and sometimes we wish for the company of others.”
So, it is safe to say that being alone is not much of an issue, people choose to be alone and are quite happy and content with the solitude they choose for themselves. What about those who’re lonely though? How does it impact them?
How Does Loneliness Affect You?
Loneliness can have a number of unwanted and unpleasant effects on an individual. While to each their own, some of the prevalent manifestations reported by people experiencing loneliness are-
Feelings of sadness, isolation, and depression are quite common in people experiencing loneliness.
Deterioration in physical health is not uncommon, as it has been linked to a higher risk of developing conditions such as heart disease and high blood pressure.
Difficulty forming and maintaining interpersonal relationships, furthering the feelings of unwanted isolation.
Poor Self Image is another concern that hits lonely people because “if at all I was lovable, why wouldn’t I have someone by my side?”
It can feel like there's nobody to talk to, no one to share your thoughts with, and no one to make you feel loved and cared for. So much so, that getting out of your bed becomes an unconquerable task. Such people are bound to have a much lower life satisfaction level than those who might identify with being alone rather lonely.
It is important to find ways to connect with others and combat feelings of loneliness to maintain your physical and mental health. But how? We’ll learn some ways to do so moving forward. But before that, an important question that may strike your mind is that “Is being Alone a good thing or is it as bad as being Lonely?”
The Good and Bad of Being Alone
Being alone can have both positive and negative effects on an individual. It is important to find a balance between time alone and time spent with others.
Spending time alone can have a number of benefits.
It can allow for personal reflection and introspection which will help in increasing self-awareness
You can use that alone time for some much-needed rest and relaxation.
It can also be a chance to pursue personal interests and hobbies that have been long pending without many distractions.
However, being alone for extended periods of time can also have negative effects, such as the ones we discussed earlier in this article. There is no right or wrong answer to this question, as it depends on how you perceive "being alone." Some people find the solitude to be empty and haunting essentially meaning that they feel lonely. And many people who are lonely might indulge in unhealthy behaviours like smoking, drinking, and overeating as it numbs the pain that arises out of loneliness. Coming back to our question earlier, how do we overcome loneliness and can therapy help?
How Can Therapy Help You With Loneliness?
Therapy can be an incredibly helpful tool in addressing and managing feelings of loneliness. There are a number of benefits to receiving therapy for loneliness.
1. Increased Self-awareness
When you are in therapy, you are given the opportunity to explore your thoughts, feelings, and behaviours without any judgements. This allows you to gain a greater understanding of yourself and your behavioural patterns (if any). As you learn more about yourself, you can begin to make changes in your life that will improve your overall well-being.
2. Better Interpersonal Relationships
Therapy can help you in developing better relationships with others. This can include developing new friendships, working on repairing old ones or overcoming any underlying issues that are contributing to loneliness. While in therapy, the therapist, through their skills and knowledge, helps you to understand the nuances of your relationships, how you respond to certain situations, your emotional understanding, expectations from other people, the communication of these expectations, et cetera. These in turn help you form and maintain new and existing relationships.
3. Better Coping Skills
Therapy can be a great way to help people cope with the stress, fear and anxiety that come with loneliness. It helps you learn ways to deal with your emotions and manage your stress in a healthier way. Healthier coping mechanisms not only help you cope with the existing stressors while working on them, but they also help you get closer to yourself by identifying and regulating your emotions better and also help you dissociate yourself from the problem, thus decreasing the feelings of worthlessness and others that come as a result of loneliness.
4. Problem-Solving Approach
Sometimes, interpersonal conflicts can be a reason for a person to feel lonely. Therapy can be a great resource for helping individuals to resolve conflicts and build healthy relationships. Not only that, a lot of times, you learn to stay alone - read lonely, (for unknown reasons, you can discuss with your therapist) as a coping mechanism and in turn, the solution to your problem doesn’t come because, in the first place, it isn’t the core problem. It is through therapy that you may realize the problem and effectively start developing a solution-oriented approach towards it.
5. Safe Space
Therapy can provide a sense of relief and empowerment, as it allows you to sit with your thoughts and emotions in a safe, confidential and non-judgmental space. It helps you to unravel layers of suppressed emotions and thoughts that were leading you towards withdrawing from people or deliberately choosing loneliness over maybe the pain that might have arisen had someone gone away from your life. It can be anything else as well, therapy helps identify these.
Hence, If you are feeling lonely, consider seeking out therapy as a way to begin to understand and eventually overcome that feeling. A qualified professional can help and guide you to construct a relationship with yourself that helps you tackle that feeling of loneliness.
We, at MentAmigo, understand the need for the comfort and safe space that you may be looking for, to rediscover yourself, ignite the conversation with yourself and get more in touch with yourself. Consider checking out our services and finding a therapist that’s right for you.