10 Mar 8 ways to turn loneliness into connection
I hope you're not lonely today, or ever, but if you are this great article may well help you connect and find happiness again…
via Fulfillment Daily by Emma Seppaala
Loneliness hurts. Most of us have experienced this. With the advent of technology and social media and the ever-increasing speed of life we may feel more connected in some ways but on the other hand “human moments” of actual face-to-face exchange without interruption can become more rare. A sociological study shows that disconnect seems to be on the rise with 1 out of 4 Americans feeling like they have no one to talk to about personal problems. Loneliness is the leading reason people seek out therapy and one study suggests that loneliness is a risk factor for mortality. As I have written about in previous posts, social connection is critical to our health and well-being as is vulnerability, an essential ingredient to intimacy.
We thrive in community, in connection, in giving and receiving love. In a survey I conducted with Stanford students, when I asked what single activity brought them the greatest fulfillment, the most commonly given answer was spending time with friends and loved ones. It is not surprising that loneliness hurts. A brain imaging study showed that feeling ostracized actually activates our neural pain matrix. In fact, several studies show that ostracizing others hurts us as much as being ostracized ourselves. We can hypothesize that, similarly, loneliness is associated with the pain matrix.
From one perspective, we are all fundamentally alone. We come into the world alone and we leave it alone. We are all independent entities with thoughts, feelings and emotions that no one else can fully understand or experience no matter how numerous our friends. On the other hand we are always completely interconnected no matter how few our friends. We are connected to millions of people all over the world through the intricate web of economic and social relationships that bring food to our table, clothes on our bodies. We are literally connected to every other human being who shares this same ecosphere with us simply by the air we breathe. We are in touch with every other person and animal on the planet by the ground we walk on. We are both alone and deeply connected.
When the pain of loneliness takes hold of you, here are some tools that can help build resilience.
Connect with Yourself 100%
Most of us have learned to distract ourselves the very moment that we feel an uncomfortable emotion such as loneliness surfacing. We may engage in “healthy” forms of distraction such as reading, exercising or working or “unhealthy” forms of distraction such as overeating, drinking, or watching hours of television. While these options may provide temporary relief, they often lead to other problems such as weight gain in the case of overeating or drinking, exhaustion and burnout in the case of overexercising or overworking and even addiction. Moroever, as explained by Harvard’s Dan Wegner, when we try to resist something, it tends to persist all the more. Distracting ourselves from a core problem does not get at its root.
Children, on the other hand, often give free reign to their emotions. Though this may seem immature to adults, children also get over negative emotions extremely quickly and are able to move on to the next thing as if nothing had happened. Adults, in an attempt to bury and control their emotions often carry them with them for years. Allowing the emotion to arise and giving it our full attention may be a key to letting it go.
Here are three exercises to embracing loneliness:
1. Give the emotion full expression
Let the emotion take center stage. Especially if you are used to distracting yourself from your feelings, this exercise may feel uncomfortable but if you let yourself feel the emotion 100%, it may just move through you more quickly: observe the sensations of the emotion, notice the thoughts that it triggers, cry if tears come. Be with the discomfort fully.
2. Go into silence
Silence can be difficult and even scary for some people. We are used to televisions blaring background noise, car radios jingling, iPods playing, text messages beeping, cell phones ringing, Facebook notifications pinging, Tweets tweeting, and emails downloading. Set yourself a time limit for the silence such as half an hour. If you wish, you can take a walk during that time or engage in a relaxed form of exercise like swimming. Makes sure that the activity is not one that becomes a distraction. Choose to do something that simply allows you to be in silence. Be as present as you can with everything around you and within you…
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