Alone Vs Lonely

Alone or lonely? While research clearly shows that loneliness is bad for both mental and physical health, being alone is not the same as being lonely. In fact, being alone has a number of important mental health benefits.  

It would be easy to mix those two and perceive them in the same way. Being alone is the physical state of not being with another individual. Solitude is the state of being alone. Being lonely is an emotional state where you are feeling disconnected from others even when they are right next to you. You experience loneliness even when you have friends or company. You experience loneliness in your relationship or friendships too. Now, do you see the difference? Someone can be alone but not lonely and someone can feel lonely even when surrounded by people.

Experts discovered that about 22% of Americans1 say they constantly feel lonely. Such prolonged feelings of isolation can come with serious health problems, both mental and physical. The feeling of loneliness is often associated with depression, anxiety (click here for more information: Anxiety Disorder), and suicidal thoughts. People who are lonely tend to have increased blood pressure, weaker immune systems, and more inflammation throughout the body.

Here are some of the best strategies to cope with loneliness:

  1. Validate your feelings. Telling other people you are lonely can feel scary, shameful, and self-defeating. But expressing that feeling can be the beginning of releasing it.
  2. Rethink the connections you already have: Sometimes, we underestimate the people around us who love us and support us. We might have discounted them based on their behaviors. Some of our friends love us but had never expressed it. We might overlook it and feel lonely thinking that we do not have enough connections.
  3. Recognize you are not alone. Remind yourself that you are sharing the same experience with millions of those people.
  4. How does your loneliness look like? Understand that loneliness looks different for people at different times of their lives and that there are those who have many relationships, but still feel like something is missing. Ask yourself what loneliness looks like for you. Is it situational or chronic? The answer to this question can direct to the best way of coping.
  5. Slow down. If you are constantly busy, running around with your work, feeling stressed out and overwhelmed, you may start getting disconnected from yourself as well as other people. It is time to take a break and relax. Relaxation could mean listening to music or just sitting with nothing to do and nowhere to be.
  6. Reconnect with yourself. You are your best friend! Take some time to get back in touch with you. Take a few deep breaths and relax. Focusing on what you are grateful for rather than what you don’t have shifts the negative thinking.
  7. Make nature your friend. Spending time in nature helps to relax. Notice how much life is out there beyond human life. Gardening can help to reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, which are two conditions that can be associated with loneliness.
  8. Be kind and recognize the kindness in others. Sometimes when you feel lonely, you might feel like isolating yourself from the world, which only continues the cycle of loneliness. Go out and do small acts of kindness like holding a door for somebody or giving a smile to somebody. Another way can be going into your community to volunteer. Giving something back to society gives you happiness.
  9. Adopt a pet. Research suggests that most people link loneliness to conflicts within their own families and social circles. If you are feeling a hole in your social life, why not adopt a pet? It can be a dog, cat, or even a bird. It may help you feel more fulfilled in your day-to-day routine.
  10. Reevaluate your social media use. Are you using social media to make meaningful connections? Are you spending too much time on it? On social media, it seems as though everyone else has better jobs, better houses, better vacations, and better relationships than we do. That is not actually true. Nowadays people use ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ as a way to measure how much others care about them. Limit your social media time if it is making you lonelier.
  11. Meet your friends and family members for lunch, coffee, or an online zoom meet.
  12. Music, reading, watching TV shows, or taking a walk can boost your mood and motivate you when done in moderation.
  13. Remind yourself that loneliness is not permanent!
  14. Recognize your capacity. Understanding that you are experiencing feelings of loneliness is a step in the right direction. There isn’t a clear-cut path to feeling free of being lonely, but try something new to break it. Adopt a healthy lifestyle. It may reduce your symptoms.
    1. Establish a healthy sleep cycle. For more information, click here (SHHH…My Brain Is Sleeping)
    2. Exercise regularly. For more information: Dare to be Fit
    3. Limit screen time. For more information: Screen time: How Much is Too Much?
    4. Drink enough liquids. For more information: Are You Drinking Enough Water?
    5. Eat a balanced diet. For more information: A Mindful Diet
    6. Practice relaxation techniques such as mindfulness. For more information, click here: Brain Power Matters!
    7. Avoid alcohol, too much caffeine, smoking, drugs, etc.
  15. If loneliness becomes hopelessness, please seek out professional help. Loneliness can drive someone into serious mental health conditions that you may not be able to tackle on your own.

Some people think of being alone as a bad thing. It does not mean you are anti-social. Being alone is a chance for you to refocus on yourself, on your needs, on what makes you feel good. It is a time to use to identify which people you want to connect with, what hobbies you want to pick up. It is a chance to do all the things you never have time to do around the house. See this alone time as a chance to get to know yourself. You can live alone, work alone, and travel alone while feeling totally at peace with yourself. There are many benefits once you learn to enjoy being alone. You are going to grow as a person.

We need to learn how to be alone and not feel lonely. How do you do that? You learn to love yourself first. You need to explore life, explore yourself, grow through challenges, learn from mistakes, get out of your comfort zone, know your true potential, and feel comfortable in your own skin. The moment you love yourself, you become immune to loneliness.

  1. Be yourself. We were told that we need others around us in order to be happy. That is not true. You do not need others to tell you that you are living life correctly. Do what you want to do, not what others make you think you should be doing.
  2. Observe the world around you. When we are alone in public, we try to look busy with a phone or book, or iPad. Do we really need to be busy all the time? Look around. Experience life. Listen to birds. Enjoy the laughter of a small child.
  3. Talk to yourself. The only person who really knows you is yourself. Listen to your inner voice. Assess what you really want out of life. Embrace yourself while you are alone.
  4. Talk to yourself!
  5. Recharge yourself. It can be mentally draining if you are constantly connected to other people. We spend so much energy when we are surrounded by other people, trying to keep others happy, make them laugh, soothe their egos, and read their emotions. A little alone time helps you recharge and take a break from the emotional drain.
  6. Life is busy and crazy. Being alone gives you the perfect opportunity for a little self-reflection. It will give you some time to process the thoughts and feelings of others, and turn your focus inwards.
  7. When you start to enjoy being alone, you will gain a greater perspective on your own emotions. You will create a deeper understanding of what makes you happy, what upsets you.
  8. Once you start enjoying being alone, you will realize that doing so gives you more freedom to do the things you actually want to do.
  9. Time spent alone can be some of the most productive times in your life because there are fewer distractions, and you can focus on your work.
  10. You will feel more confident in your ability to be alone. That will lead to you feeling more independent.
  11. Many times, we do things that end up upsetting other people, or hurting someone else’s feelings, and then have to quickly apologize for it. But when you are alone, you don’t have to apologize for anything.
  12. When you start spending more time alone, you will learn to trust your instincts and make decisions without any third-party validation. You will stop looking for people’s validation.

Each person has different need for time to be alone and social time. You need to find a balance between social time and healthy time alone. Some might need just a few minutes here and there, while others might require more alone time. Finding time to be alone is not that easy. People around you might have different social needs and they may not understand your need for solitude. Be clear to them that you want the time alone; so that you will not get interrupted. Try waking up early in the morning to enjoy some peaceful time to yourself before others in the house start to wake. Take a walk alone. Alone time helps you feel renewed and inspired for when you do return to your social circle.



6 Replies to “Alone Vs Lonely”

  1. You have done it again Dr. Bandari. This article is so timely for today’s society. Just listen to today’s news! There is a great need for such information, especially for our young and even younger ones. Sharing this is pertinent to our health and healing.

    1. True! The news says: Getting your cholesterol and glucose levels in a healthy range at a young age could save you from an Alzheimer’s diagnosis later in life. I am glad that I shared my article right on time 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *