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  • Aditi Surana

‘How to overcome your loneliness ? (and be happy)’

No matter which part of the world you belong to, we have all felt that sense of being trapped with our own self in this lockdown. Loneliness is fleeting and also, A real feeling that is commonly experienced but rarely discussed. Surveys show that one out of four people suffer loneliness. Buckle up. We are jumping into a topic that may seem like a bottomless pit. We will discover 6 ways to overcome loneliness and reclaim your ‘happy’!

We are more connected than ever before, yet we somehow feel more isolated. We have the technology to reconnect with our high-school friends and talk to our heroes on social media, yet we feel that we have less intimate connections than the generation before us. And it’s not just a nagging feeling at the back of our minds—it’s affecting our physical health, too.

Lets accept, on the other side of this lockdown, we will be waiting in long queues a lot more, hanging out less, and will spend countless hours in a room by ourselves working from home. Knowing how to be alone without feeling lonely will become a mandatory life skill in no time!

I have heard that most people feel that the obvious solution to deal with loneliness is to find someone to accompany you. Time and again we are told how incomplete we are without another person, a child, a family or a gang of friends. Being alone equals being inadequate or insufficient. That explains why so many people choose unhappy relationships over no relationships. Let’s claim the state of happy solitude.

I am going to begin with a personal story. A tough period that taught me a lot about solitude. It’s not easy to speak about one’s broken parts in public, but I believe we have to begin somewhere. Begin embracing our imperfections, speaking the uncomfortable truth and owning the raw, unedited, unadulterated stories of our life.

I remember a phase, not too long ago, when I felt extremely lonely. I am famously known for enjoying time alone, going on solo trips and going to silence retreats to discover my new life update. But here I was in a loving relationship and I kept feeling lonely. I woke up feeling extremely sad, if not crying for days in a row. Do you know that constant dull feeling that follows you around all day long? It doesn’t matter what you’re doing or whom you’re with, it’s impossible to shake that feeling off. I tried my best to get my head around it but no matter what I tried, I just couldn't go around that feeling for a long time. I felt miserable, unhappy and cranky throughout the day. I was very close to a breakdown.

One morning, however, I woke up with clarity and a penny dropped. I knew the way to deal with this overwhelming loneliness is not to be around it but to go through it.

The father of analytical psychology Carl Jung said, ‘Loneliness does not come from having no people around you, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to you, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible or unacceptable.’

In the rigmarole of doing my duties towards a romantic future, I didn’t realise when I stopped communicating things that mattered to me.

I look at painful and difficult moments as spaces to reboot my life. I knew this situation demanded a reboot! I decided to move out of Bombay for one year to a remote place where I didn’t know anyone. I needed some time to pause, review and restart.

I chose Hyderabad. It wasn’t easy to set a new temporary home, move my entire work online, cook and more importantly be alone the entire day. It was my self quarantine training much before this corona lockdown. Like many of you, I got a chance to reconnect with myself in that personal lockdown period.


6 ways to deal with loneliness

  1. Pay attention: This is a powerful tool. Pay attention to whatever you are doing. Be fully involved with it. Your thoughts of the past and worries of the future will engulf you. You can’t stop it. Just get your attention back to the activity at hand. I picked a daily activity of cooking. It needed a lot of attention and I know one thing about myself… No matter how low I feel, I can’t live without good food! I tricked myself into it!

A poet and philosopher David Whyte wrote,‘the technology and our social structure limits all our conversations to human interactions. Historically, we interacted with the blue of the sky, red in the sunset, movements of the leaves of the tree outside our windows. We feel lonely because we have forgotten that we have connections with the sky, nature and birds.’ he suggests that if we go for a 20 mins walk alone without a phone or a music device then we start paying attention to our connections with things around us differently.

2. Create an environment: This could be a tough stage. We all love our comfort zones. We are creatures of our habits even when these habits are not helping us. We are tempted to fall back. Creating an environment is like setting the stage or entering The Big Boss house. For a stipulated period of time, there is no turning back. In spite of being an indian woman in her 30s, I had never cooked in my life. I hired a help who cleaned the house but didn’t hire a cook. I deleted all food delivery apps from my phone. I had to cook. I also started plating my food and indulged in making food pictures for my mom, who like all other indian mothers was perpetually worried if I had eaten or not!

3. Don't beat yourself up: Most people who feel lonely keep finding faults in themselves or others. Have you heard your single friends say “I’m going to die alone” scientifically, it’s more like, “I’m going to die if I’m alone.” They keep comparing their life situation with other people who look happy in their relationships. They tend to become self critical. I knew it wasn’t easy for me to live all by myself. I had never done that before. I remember when my things arrived from Bombay, I kept staring at the pile for weeks not knowing where to begin. I moved all unopened boxes physically and some unresolved issues mentally to one corner of the house. I was aware that I was feeling unmotivated. I promised myself that I am going to detect and change my self sabotaging patterns.

4. Journal. Journal. Journal: Every step of this process of reclaiming myself was crucial. But journaling was one thing that worked like magic. Loneliness can lead to self - doubt, endless repetition of a memory, thought or emotion on a loop or a dramatic self talk filled with blame, shame, guilt & anger.. I journaled every day. I wrote every unresolved emotional thought. Without editing it. A few days into staying committed to my pursuit, something began to shift. I could catch hold of my pattern before it got to me.

5. Look for remedies: Identifying the problem is half battle won. But the battle is not won until you don't find an appropriate remedy. Let’s be clear, our objective is to move from loneliness to enjoying the state of solitude. It’s only you and your ‘tanhai’ & no one else to impress. I have met many people who avoid being by themselves or keep filling that space by some or other distraction - phone, food, gossip as they do not wish to deal with some uncomfortable part of their personality. If it is broken, then it has to be fixed. Emotions left untended become darker and more painful. Look for remedies. I chose graphotherapy. Handwriting strokes practiced in a certain way can become a way of reprogramming your neuropathways. In the sinking feeling of loneliness, I couldn’t find my willingness to apply graphotherapy but when I slowly found my conviction, I could apply the solutions. You choose whatever works for you. We are lucky to have so many therapists and solutions available everywhere.

6. Volunteer: You may wonder how that would help. What can you offer another person when you are feeling all depleted. Thankfully the human mind is wired to grow and nurture itself. Ask yourself ‘How can you help? Not only what you get but what you give? What can you do to help someone, feed someone, nurse someone? I took upon myself to feed some dogs in my lane, feed older people regularly who begged for a living. Cooking for strangers who didn't understand my language was a new and fulfilling experience. They had no clue that they were helping me heal my broken parts.

Thank you so much for joining me on this episode of ‘Absolutely write’. I would like to know what were your takeaways from today’s episode? What small action will you be taking to improve something in your life? Write to me on my Instagram account @Aditisurana

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