“Those who dwell, as scientists or laymen, among the beauties and mysteries of the earth, are never alone or weary of life.” Rachel Carson
1.Appreciate Nature and what is around us.
In the previous posts, we have seen that loneliness can be painful and bad for us. Research has shown that it can affect us as negatively as having 15 cigarettes a day. To counteract this kind of detrimental effect on our wellbeing, experiencing the bounties of Nature can be very effective.
The Wildlife Trust in the UK has developed several projects to help with loneliness and isolation. Being amongst flowers, trees and wildlife, enjoying the fresh air and sunshine, whether alone or with others, can definitely enhance our mental health and make us feel less lonely.
How I go to the woods. Ordinarily, I go to the woods alone, with not a single friend, for they are all smilers and talkers and therefore unsuitable. I don’t really want to be witnessed talking to the catbirds or hugging the old black oak tree. I have my way of praying, as you no doubt have yours. Besides, when I am alone I can become invisible. I can sit on the top of a dune as motionless as an uprise of weeds, until the foxes run by unconcerned. I can hear the almost unhearable sound of the roses singing. If you have ever gone to the woods with me, I must love you very much. ― Mary Oliver
2. Reach Out To Others. Realise we are not Alone in our Loneliness.
“I guess we’re all lonely in some way.” Oliver Stone.
Feeling a connection with other people is a wonderful antidote to loneliness. Gaining an understanding of others, realising that collectively we have similar feelings and experiences in life, can enable us to combat isolated feelings and feel a part of the human race.
Empathy is a special way of coming to know another and ourself, a kind of attuning and understanding. When empathy is extended, it satisfies our needs and wish for intimacy, it rescues us from our feelings of aloneness. Carl Rogers
Although we are born and die alone, the existence of others is crucial to our own wellbeing. It helps us to cope with the harsh realities of our mortality and separateness.
Talking to other people, meeting them through groups, clubs and classes, offering friendship and empathy, can only help us and provide a way through the pain of feeling cut-off and isolated.
Feeling we belong, whether to a club, a group or and organisation, can powerfully counteract the sense of being solitary.
We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone. Orson Welles
Sometimes that other, comforting soul in our lives might be an animal; pets can do much to make us feel less alone. Stroking a loved animal can be very therapeutic and reassuring for both parties!
3. Engage in Something Creative
Be a loner. That gives you time to wonder, to search for the truth. Have holy curiosity. Make your life worth living.
Reading, going to theatre or cinema, writing, doing sport and exercise, engaging in various hobbies, listening to music, painting, baking, cooking – all kinds of creativity and productivity can combat feelings of loneliness.
“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the space between the notes and curl my back to loneliness.” ― Maya Angelou
Steinbeck pointed out that “All great and precious things are lonely.” He saw writing as a way of attempting to combat loneliness.
“A writer out of loneliness is trying to communicate like a distant star sending signals. He isn’t telling or teaching or ordering. Rather he seeks to establish a relationship of meaning, of feeling, of observing. We are lonesome animals. We spend all life trying to be less lonesome.”
4. Learn to Enjoy Your Solitude.
Some peace and quiet in this fast-paced world can be wonderful if we can learn to appreciate it and use it to our advantage.
The silence of meditative aloneness, if we allow it, can enable self-knowledge and insight.
“The quieter you become the more you are able to hear.” Rumi
With fresh ways of thinking, we can all become our own best friend. Sometimes, it takes a change in attitude toward ourselves and our lonely feelings to persuade ourselves the being alone does not have to be bad or terrible.
We are, actually, all we have.
“What a lovely surprise to finally discover how unlonely being alone can be.” –Ellen Burstyn
In a future post, I will be writing about how to develop love for oneself. This is relevant in terms of coping with loneliness.
“The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself.” Mark Twain “If you’re lonely when you’re alone, you’re in bad company. “ Jean-Paul Sartre.
“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” ― Charles Dickens
What does helping others contribute to making us feel less lonely?
It enables connection and means that we focus on the other, not on our own situation. This is freeing and enables us to turn outwards from ourselves and our own problems.
“I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver.”– Maya Angelou
However we go about helping others, whether through volunteering, or doing good deeds to friends, family, neighbours, children, we are channelling our energy away from our own loneliness.
In this manner, we begin to focus on the lives of others in a constructive and giving way.
Making a difference to people who are needy means that we will feel better ourselves and certainly more hopeful.
This happens as we come to realise that we are actually making a difference , we are needed, in a world from which we previously felt apart.
“To ease another’s heartache is to forget one’s own.” Abraham Lincoln.
It seems appropriate to end this post as it began, with another of Mary Oliver’s wonderful poems revealing her delightful attunement with nature: Loneliness I too have known loneliness. I too have known what it is to feel misunderstood, rejected, and suddenly not at all beautiful. Oh, mother earth, your comfort is great, your arms never withhold. It has saved my life to know this. Your rivers flowing, your roses opening in the morning. Oh, motions of tenderness! Mary Oliver.