How to combat loneliness – and enjoy being alone
Entrepreneurship is a lonely pursuit. Many of us are working from home in teams of one, wearing multiple hats and wishing we had a partner in crime with whom to share the highs and lows of our journey. Spending a couple of days a week at a coworking space can help, but it’s not practical or affordable for everyone—and at the end of the day, you’re still doing the actual work on your own. Loneliness is something that affects us all at one point or another, but in society as a whole, it remains stigmatised. It shouldn’t be this way, and if you’re finding yourself in a spell of loneliness right, there are lots of things you can do to feel better. We sat down with accredited coach Zoe Malletto chat all things loneliness, from reframing your perspective, to appreciating the benefits of alone time.
Loneliness isn’t the same as being alone
First things first, let’s get one thing straight: being alone doesn’t necessarily mean you’re lonely. As Mallett points out, we can often feel lonely when we’re surrounded by people, whether that’s in an office that’s the wrong fit, or in a relationship where we don’t feel understood. It’s also important to sing the praises of being alone—and if you’re feeling lonely at the moment, this is something you can try to hone in on. “Being on your own gives you time to catch up on what’s happening in your life,” explains Mallett. “It’s not something to fear: in fact, it’s something we should be actively encouraging. If you can, aim for a couple of evenings a week, or just a morning or an afternoon here and there, to do things on your own. Relaxing at home alone counts, too!”. Mallett points out that spending quality time with ourselves is good for our self-confidence, and can help us get to the roots of our feelings when life feels a little busy. It’s especially pertinent as life returns to normal post-pandemic: in the rush of catching up on two years of limited socialising, many of us are finding ourselves overwhelmed and exhausted, and a little solo date can help set you on the right path again. There’s an added benefit to feeling comfortable alone, too: “the stronger we feel by ourselves, the less likely we are to spend time with people who aren’t good for us,” says Mallett.
Breaking down the stigma
It’s not always easy to admit that we’re feeling lonely—even if we’re just admitting it to ourselves. Mallett explains that loneliness is on the rise, despite social media sometimes leading us to believe otherwise. “There’s this illusion that everyone has lots of friends and is always out doing things,” says Mallett, “but this often isn’t the case. For people who are already feeling lonely, it becomes even more difficult to reach out for help. This can also lead to intrusive thoughts, like thinking the fact that you’re lonely is all your fault.”
Highlight reel after highlight reel of group holidays, events and friend dinners can make us feel isolated and lonely, even if we’re generally pretty happy with our social circles. If you work at home alone all day, it’s very normal to feel lonely—and snaps of people you know out at coworking spaces, work coffees and rooftop networking drinks can definitely exacerbate those feelings.
So what can we actually do when we’re feeling lonely?
- Reframe loneliness. “Next time you’re feeling lonely, take a minute to work out what those feelings are trying to tell you,” advises Mallett. Sometimes, we’re lonely because we’re spending time with the wrong people. At other times, it can point to a deeper sense of feeling lost within ourselves. Try switching “oh no, I have to spend time on my own” to “I get to spend the night on my own, so how am I going to spend it?”: Mallett suggests making a nicer dinner, finding a new movie to watch, or running yourself a bath.
- Think back to past experiences. Are you feeling more lonely than you did last year, for example? Mallett suggests having a think about why that might be. Have your life circumstances changed? Are you spending time with different groups of people? “We’re constantly changing as people, and so we need to keep checking in with ourselves to keep tabs on our loneliness,” says Mallett.
- Reach out to family and friends. It’s not always easy, but it really does help. People won’t always know how we’re feeling, and expressing our loneliness will allow them to better support us.
- Explore new hobbies. Hobbies aren’t just for after-school clubs: they’re a great way to get new skills, expand your social circles, and have a bit of fun. From art classes to netball teams, there’s something for everyone, so try out a range of activities, and see what floats your boat.
- Learn from others. We’ve all been there before. Reach out to friends and ask them what they’ve done about being lonely in the past. Listen to new podcasts. Pick up a book on loneliness, singlehood, or anything else related to how you’re feeling. We particularly loved Unattached by Angelica Malin, and Alonement, by Francesca Specter.
- Join a community. This one’s particularly for entrepreneurs. Find other people who’ve been in the same position as you. There’s nothing like community spirit for lifting your mood, so join any number of the amazing online communities out there, and meet new people who get it. We’d really recommend Found and Flourish, not that we’re biased or anything…
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