Mental Health Monday: Loneliness Revisited

10676176_10204573984943436_1343299145081619027_nI’m sure lots of folks experience loneliness at some time in their lives, whether they live alone or with a spouse. Even with a houseful of children. On my morning walk today I thought about loneliness, even as I enjoyed the cool breeze on my face as the sun began to warm up the day. I sat in the harbor and listened to the birds and watched the sun glistening on the water. I knew I was going to write about loneliness today, but I didn’t know what to say.

My post back in June, “Eudaimonia,” addressed some aspects of loneliness. This morning I found an article (it’s not new but I found it helpful) in Psychology Today, “Six Tips for Battling Loneliness,” that mentions the difference between loneliness and solitude. I get that. There are times when I love to be alone—to think, pray, read, write, walk, or even to watch a TV show without interruption. But then there are times when I hunger for a human connection. Even something beyond what my husband can provide.


This weekend was one of those times. Our best friends had gone to New Orleans and on to Baton Rouge for the Ole Miss-LSU football game. We decided to invite someone over to watch the game Saturday night and share some BBQ pork roast. I put the roast in the crock pot before we began calling people, hoping our last-minute plans would work out. Three phone calls later we had struck out. All the people we thought of inviting were either at the game, at the beach, on their way home from an out-of-town wedding, or babysitting a granddaughter. A granddaughter who lives in town. (Ours are in Denver, remember?) 

Gretchen Rubin
Gretchen Rubin

My husband rarely feels lonely. He’s happy to be here with just me, the ball game on TV, his lap top computer, and some good food. I tried to keep my spirits up, serving our BBQ (and freezing lots of leftovers) and making frozen margaritas. We cheered for the Rebels ‘til the bitter end. The next day I went to church and had another one of those mornings when I felt lonely even amongst a crowd of people. I know it’s something inside of me that needs more work. Here are some of the tips that Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, offered in her Psychology Today article. I hope none of my readers are lonely, but if you are, I hope this helps.

1. Remember that although the distinction can be difficult to draw, loneliness and solitude are different…. Loneliness feels draining, distracting, and upsetting; desired solitude feels peaceful, creative, restorative.

2. Nurturing others — raising children, teaching, caring for animals — helps to alleviate loneliness.

3. Keep in mind that to avoid loneliness, many people need both a social circle and an intimate attachment. Having one of these elements may still leave you feeling lonely.

4. Work hard to get your sleep. Sleep deprivation, under any circumstances, brings down people’s moods, makes them more likely to get sick, and dampens their energy, so it’s important to tackle this issue. (Fortunately I’m sleeping well these days, so this isn’t part of the issue for me.)

5. Try to figure out what’s missing from your life…. making lots of plans with friends isn’t always the solution…. Sometimes you need the quiet presence of another person.

6. Take steps to connect with other people (to state the obvious). Negative emotions like loneliness, envy, and guilt have an important role to play in a happy life; they’re big, flashing signs that something needs to change. The pain of loneliness can prod you to connect with other people. (Which is what happened on Saturday, but our plans didn’t work out.)

Okay, I hope this doesn’t sound whiny, because I’m moving on with plans to host another literary salon at our house tomorrow night (expecting over 20 women for this one) so I’m off to finish shopping for some of the food and beverages. I love creating special events. They’re not a cure for loneliness, but they’re a step in the right direction. Have a great week, everyone.