For many, loneliness connotes sadness, depression, and a lack of meaning.
If you’ve ever felt it before, you know it’s not a fun experience, and you’ll do anything to keep from experiencing it again.
But while the idea of being alone vs. feeling lonely is often misconceived as the same thing, they’re actually completely separate experiences with little to do with one another.
You can feel lonely when you’re around other people if they don’t fill you with a sense of comfort and love. And you can have lots of friends and family who love you while, at the same time, you spend quality time alone just being with your thoughts or enjoying something you enjoy doing alone.
So then, if you tend to feel lonely when you’re with yourself, does it mean something is wrong with you? Do you just need to know how to occupy yourself?
When everything is lonely I can be my own best friend.
– Conor Oberst
Introversion vs. extroversion
Ultimately, how you feel about being alone comes down to whether you’re an introvert or extrovert.
The most fundamental difference between the two is this:
- Introverts gain energy by being alone, but they lose energy while they’re around others
- Extroverts gain energy by being around others, but they lose energy while they’re alone
This is a bit of a generalization and few people are pure introverts or pure extroverts. However, this generalization helps navigate the issue of spending time alone without feeling lonely.
If you’re an introvert, you know that being alone physically isn’t a bad thing. In fact, you prefer it. However, if you have a problem with chronic loneliness or are lacking connection, that can cause problems.
If you’re an extrovert, things are more complicated. You, generally, don’t like being alone and construct your life to where you’re frequently around other people. For that reason, just being by yourself might make you feel a bit lonely (or at least restless) in a way.
Having said that, below are a few options that take both introversion and extroversion into account, so you can find something that works for you.
Strengthen your relationships (or make new friends)
Sometimes, it’s knowing that you’re alone in your little corner of the world, without much– if any– friends or family, that makes it difficult to be alone.
When you’re to yourself, outside of work, in particular, you’re reminded that you don’t have people in your life that you can turn to. This can make the physical experience of being alone cause loneliness without you having any say in the matter.
But by taking the time to connect with others you can forge new connections (or heal severed ones), so that your time alone no longer has to be a sore point.
Occupy yourself (or be constructive)
Spending time alone doesn’t mean it has to be quiet or uneventful.
If you’re extroverted, and time alone isn’t something you opt for generally (but have started to think you need a little bit of from time to time) make that time to yourself eventful.
Go to a movie, a theme park, or eat at a new restaurant by yourself. It might feel a bit weird but you can really have a blast getting out and doing something new or different all by yourself.
Another option is to pick up a new hobby like painting, woodworking, or photography. This is a better option if you have frequent time to yourself and would prefer something where you can make progress and improvement over time.
And, no matter what you choose to do, by occupying yourself while you’re alone you don’t feel awkward or lonely.
Reach out (get to the source of the loneliness)
Sometimes, chronic loneliness caused by past events can hang over your head. If you suspect that’s the case, the best thing you can do is reach out for help to work through the issue so that you can learn how to be confident and content when you’re alone.
This can mean reaching out to friends and family about how you feel, however, a more effective route would be psychotherapy.
A therapist is designed to listen and offer educated, constructive feedback that can help you work through your chronic loneliness to get to a place of contentment and joy, even when you’re spending time all to yourself.