The Major Difference Between Feeling Alone and Lonely
Lonely and alone look alike, but they’re very separate states of being that are radically different to the person experiencing them. On the one hand, loneliness is marked by a sense of isolation, of lack, like something’s missing—it’s a negative vibe all around. Whereas alone is about being in solitude—without feeling lonely, while absolutely enjoying your own company. Alone also suggests a state of peace, stemming from a rich inner life that’s valuable and esteemed. Lonely feels almost thrust upon you, as if it’s not of your choosing. It can also feel like an estrangement from others, somehow highlighting a deficiency in your ability to couple up, pair up, or integrate with fellow human beings. That’s heavy. And probably untrue. So, let’s shift that narrative and move you into a new understanding of solitude being necessary time spent on your own, to replenish and renew yourself. Let’s cultivate the art of being alone, but not lonely.
Time Out to Tune In
We all need periods of solitude to process life’s learnings, lessons, and experiences. In the world we currently all live in, we’re conditioned to be externally focused and overstimulated from sunrise to nightfall. It makes sense that we crave periods of restoration on our own, stepping into that space to be with ourselves to integrate all of life’s stimuli. We should also become savvy about recognizing when the proverbial well is dry, to hit pause on life’s hustle and then seamlessly step into our time alone, for true self-soothing. It’s essential for our mental and emotional stability and resilience.
Four Good Reasons for “Me” Time
Being alone creates a powerful space for your creativity to flourish. When the mind wanders freely, it activates the brain’s default mode network, which runs all your original thoughts and ideas. Meaning, your genius has a place to percolate freely and find expression without all the environmental high-jacking.
Recharges Your Brain
Alone time allows your brain to slow down and replenish, making space for clearer thinking and the ability to be more present in your day-to-day life.
Alone time gives you an opportunity to self-reflect and the freedom to form your own opinions, independent of others’ judgment. It forces you to problem-solve, and you come up with your own solutions. You ultimately become more comfortable with who you are and what you value.
When you’re comfortable in solitude and you believe you can be on your own, you’re less likely to be overly dependent on others. That time breeds self-awareness and empathy.
The Downside of Lonely
We all need periods of solitude, but we definitely differ in the amounts we need. Finding that sweet spot is key. It’s been said, “Solitude restores body and mind, while loneliness depletes them.” It really is a shift in perspective when you walk into that space of spending time with yourself intentionally. When you’re alone, is it something you’re actively choosing in order to honor yourself, or does it feed the narrative that you’re not enough and cast out from the rest of humanity? If time on your own is experienced as loneliness, triggered by feelings of isolation, you run the risk of weakening your immune system and increasing the risk of depression and heart disease. No thanks, I’m good.
The Power of Being with You
By switching up the narrative and seeing alone time as desirable, and enjoying the quiet for reflection and the pleasure of being with you, you receive many benefits, on many levels. The biggest being: your relationship to yourself sets the tone for all others in your life. How you feel about being with yourself, and the inner climate you cultivate, draws you to every single relationship and experience in your life for better or for worse. It all begins with you.
So, let’s make that a goal for 2020. Enjoy spending time on your own, doing whatever you feel called to do once you’ve set that time aside. And if you have a busy life, you can go ahead and schedule your alone time. Jot it down in the calendar, just as you would lunch with a girlfriend. Let it have a place of importance, so it’s not filler between other events in your life, or just the usual downtime to zone out. Let it be intentional time in your own company to journal, create, or take yourself out for coffee or a walk. And lose your phone, so your commitment to yourself is temptation-free. All hail the queen of solitude!