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  • Writer's pictureGayatree Dipchan

Being Alone vs Loneliness

Updated: Apr 13, 2023

In today's fast-paced world, it's not uncommon for people to spend time alone. Whether it's taking a walk, reading a book, or simply enjoying some quiet time, being alone can be a refreshing break from the hustle and bustle of daily life. However, there's a significant difference between being alone and feeling lonely.

When I was 20 years old, I chose to volunteer at a geriatric home. At this time, I was in need of some interaction and having just moved to a new country, I didn't know much people. My own emotions at that time was feeling desolate and alone. This feeling had me questioning the choices I'd made. I was confident that my move across the Atlantic Ocean, away from my loved ones was one that I needed to establish my independence and professional outcomes, but I'd begun losing my will and motivation.

I was lonely. Being alone is a state of being physically by yourself, while loneliness is an emotional state where you feel disconnected, isolated, and unsupported. In other words, you can be alone and not feel lonely, or you can be surrounded by people and still feel lonely.

Many people mistakenly assume that being alone is always a bad thing and that loneliness is something that should be avoided at all costs. However, the reality is that being alone can be beneficial and even essential for mental health and personal growth.

Benefits of Being Alone

When you spend time alone, you have the opportunity to recharge and reflect. It can be an opportunity to disconnect from the constant stimulation of the world and focus on your thoughts and feelings. Being alone can also give you a chance to explore your interests and hobbies without distractions, which can lead to personal growth and a greater sense of self-awareness.

Additionally, being alone can help you build resilience and independence. When you're alone, you have to rely on yourself for support and entertainment, which can be empowering and build self-confidence.

The Dangers of Loneliness

The people I met at the geriatric home helped me in ways I don't think anyone in my peer group at that time would understand. They openly shared their life experiences, some of the men were WWII veterans and while they couldn't label their feeling and experiences, they experienced much of their lives feeling alone even when surrounded by friends and family.

Loneliness can be harmful to mental health and well-being. When you feel lonely, you may experience negative emotions such as sadness, anxiety, and low self-esteem.

Long-term loneliness has also been linked to a range of physical health problems, including cardiovascular disease, obesity, and weakened immune systems. It can also lead to a vicious cycle, where you withdraw from social interactions, which only increases feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Finding Balance

So, how do you find a balance between being alone and avoiding loneliness? For me, I had to find spaces where I felt comfortable and then gradually challenge that. I had to consciously reach out to people who lived in the UK that I knew, and build a network. The key is to prioritise social connections while also making time for yourself. Maintaining strong relationships with friends and family can provide a sense of support and belonging, while spending time alone can promote personal growth and self-awareness.

It's also essential to recognise the signs of loneliness and take action if you're feeling isolated. This could include reaching out to friends, joining a social group or club, or seeking professional help if necessary.

Being alone and feeling lonely are two distinct experiences. Being alone can be beneficial, while loneliness can be harmful.

By finding a balance between the two and prioritising social connections while also making time for yourself, you can promote mental health and well-being.

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