I always feel lonely – What can I do?
In modern individualist societies, more and more people are exposed to loneliness than ever. We have heard, that mindfulness meditation helps many of our personal problems, loneliness included. But is that really true?
If you ever feel lonely, you know what I mean. It’s such an unpleasant feeling as if we are incomplete. It’s an unwanted lack of connection and intimacy. We can feel lonely even when surrounded by many.
I remember being lonely as a family. We did a walk on a Sunday at 4, and I still felt we were isolated!
It’s true that in a more collective culture, such as in Asia, the sensation of being lonely can be reduced at times. This is due to the fact that there are always people around, and you are involved in all social events and activities.
In a more individualist culture, more and more people are vulnerable to loneliness. A recent study found that three-quarters of the American population is lonely(PRNewswire)
Loneliness seems to spare no one
But not because you’re alone that you are lonely. Research has shown that loneliness happens with all people in society. It can be people in a relationship, or with successful careers. Those who do not have children claim they are lonely. But those who have children say that they miss their children because they grow up and go away. Yes, loneliness seems to spare no one!
When loneliness becomes chronic, it’s harmful to our mental and physical state. You may feel it at some points in your life. But you can also feel it very often. We are unhappy, lack of joy, unsatisfied, and unfulfilled than ever. Our brain is put into a self-protect mode. As a consequence, we are vulnerable to psychological stress, depression, and many other diseases (Europepmc).
“I often feel lonely and isolated. I don’t have real friends. On Sunday, I usually have nothing to do. I go out and find myself completely excluded from the crowd. Sometimes, I feel empty. I have the impression that there is somebody or something out there that can fill me up. But sometimes, even when people are there, I am still unable to move away from those feelings.
Getting over loneliness is easier said than done. When we feel lonely, our mental state makes it even more difficult. When we “try” to connect, it just does not work. Are we helpless?
Is mindfulness meditation a way out for our loneliness?
Well, studies seem to say so, at least. Recent research studied 40 healthy people between ages 55 and 85. People who meditated scored, on average, a few points higher on a questionnaire designed to measure loneliness. The difference in scores suggested that mindfulness exercises can improve feelings of loneliness.
But how does it really work?
Lonely, we search for social interactions. But these seem to heal the sensation of loneliness on the surface. After a social gathering, for example, you may feel lonely again when you come back to your place.
Would it make a difference when it comes to mindfulness? In other words, is mindfulness meditation really a miracle for your loneliness?
7 ways mindfulness meditation improves your loneliness
This is what I learn from my own experience. When you practice mindfulness, you learn to find joy from a more profound level of your being. You appear to feel complete without anybody or anything. No wonders why, people who have trained their mind to be more mindful, sometimes prefer the solitude.
The more powerful and original a mind, the more it will incline towards the religion of solitudeAldous Huxley
Let us get into 7 realizations from mindfulness meditation that helps with our loneliness.
- The realization that beauty and completeness are inside us
Very often, we think we need someone upon whom we can lean on. This or these persons will bring us refuge and reduce our suffering. We want to be the object of his or her (or their) attention. Without them, we believe we can’t live happily. The interactions with them will cover the emptiness in us, we expect.
However, in reality, we need people to take care of us, because we can’t generate the energy that permits us to take care of ourselves. We come to the belief that we need them.
For this reason, when we practice mindfulness, we uncover ourselves from this illusion. The mindful energy that we generate helps us move away from the needy and the lack. Instead, we realize that completeness is inside us. And the people we love simply reflect the beauty of our mind.
- Mindful eating – we are never alone while we eat
Many of us live alone these days. And isolation creates a lot of discomfort. Remind yourself of a moment when you eat in a cafeteria. If you sit alone, you might feel unease. Don’t you start screening your phone while eating, to have a company?
But do you know that, even when we live alone, and we eat alone, we are never really alone? Eat mindfully, and you will see this. “Numerous hands have contributed to producing the food that you eat. There are also the microbes, the bacteria, and other living beings in your food, in you, and around you. Your ancestors, as well as your descendants, are with you, in each cell of your being” (Thich Nhat Hanh)
That is why, we are never alone, even when we eat alone. It just needs a handful of mindfulness to feel this.
- Staying in the present moment, we don’t search any further
With mindfulness meditation, we practice being at the “here and now”. We don’t rush to do something else. Whether it’s a project or work to accomplish, we don’t wait for them to come. Similarly, we don’t look for being happier, when we are with this or that person.
Mindfulness brings us the capacity to be fulfilled in the present moment. There will be no ever-ending search to be completed by somebody else. With our breathing, we know that we are part of all that is. As Thich Nhat Hanh said, wherever and whenever we are, we have arrived.
I have arrived. I’m homeThich Nhat Hanh
- Observing our loneliness, we know it comes and goes
When we sit down and meditate, we have a moment to observe our feelings. When we are calm, we can watch a difficult emotion in depth. The roots of it can be seen. And we try to understand it better. When we sit down and calm down our breath, we calm down also our bodies and our thoughts. This brings us certain appeasement.
We have therefore a more solid foundation to embrace our difficulties, including our loneliness. And we know, that this feeling, like others, comes but will go.
‘Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Mindful breathing is my anchor’Thich Nhat Hanh
- Mindful, you never walk alone
In modern societies, we do not have many occasions to walk without objective. Don’t you walk from A to B? Not many people just walk without a destination nor a goal. We run from a place to another to do something. We try to fill up our loneliness by being occupied by as many affairs as possible.
Nevertheless, the day we walk only for walking, to enjoy each step, we will see a difference. When we walk mindfully, we fill the air in our lungs. Our feet touch the Earth and we simply know it. We see each autumn leave. Our ears hear each bird singing.
When you walk like this, are you alone? You’ll never feel lonely. Because you are accompanied by innumerable beings, by the beauty and miracle of the Earth. You feel also each cell in your body. And each of them comes from your ancestors. Your ancestors walk with you.
My mother passed away years ago. One day, when I walked mindfully alone on a trail to the wood nearby my house, I felt suddenly a deep joy, as if my mother was walking with me. I felt her in each and every cell of my body.
- ‘My children will be happy to know that I can be happy without them’
Many of us, as parents, find it particularly difficult when our children leave us. Yes, they’ve grown-up, and they’ve started their own lives. How to overcome this feeling of loneliness, when suddenly you are separated from them?
Learn to live mindfully, we learn to be happy with ourselves alone.
My friend Danielle is separated. Her children live a few days with her, and the other days with her ex-partner. One day, her friend asked her: “Do you miss your children”? She said:
“No, I’ve learned to be happy without my children, knowing that they are happy where they are too. I know my kids will one day leave me and be free. They’ll be really happy if they know their mother can be happy without them”.
- When we don’t feel lonely, connections come
One day comes when you don’t feel lonely anymore, even when you are alone. That will be the moment all are open to you. You’ll see that by coincidence, or miracle, you’ll meet people to whom you profoundly connect. You become a magnet, attracting to you the relationships that are as beautiful as your mind.
Before, I didn’t really know who I was. I tried to go out, meet people, and talk to any of them. I hoped to find some friends. But the more and more I searched, the more and more I was isolated. Today, I feel just good being with myself. But all friendship comes by miracles. Even when I rented a weekend place, the landlord turned out to be passionate about yoga, as I did. We just became true friends.
A relationship as beautiful as your mind
In modern individualist societies, more and more people are exposed to loneliness than ever.
We have heard, that mindfulness meditation helps many of our personal problems, loneliness included. That is because, when you practice mindfulness, you learn to find joy from a more profound level of your being. You appear to feel complete without anybody or anything.
Realizing that beauty and completeness are inside us, we attract relationships as beautiful as your mind. Will you give it a try?