How to reframe—and even embrace—loneliness — Calm Blog
Understand solitude vs. loneliness.
Being alone doesn’t necessarily equate to being lonely.
Sometimes, the words “solitude” and “loneliness” are used interchangeably. But solitude can feel like something positive, or something we “seek,” Julia explains. Solitude can be a 15-minute meditation you do alone in the morning, or a long walk in a park—basically, it’s “me time.” For many of us, it’s a way to check in with ourselves and enjoy our own company.
Loneliness, on the other hand, isn’t usually something we want. It’s a feeling that hits us. The good news, though, is that the feeling doesn’t have to be all-consuming.
It can be an opportunity.
Solitude can help us recharge. So why can’t loneliness do the same? Again, it boils down to our perception. Often, we view loneliness “as a disruption to happiness,” Julia says. Sure, loneliness can make us feel sad or bored—that’s normal—but these emotions don’t have to dictate our lives.
“Sitting with yourself, however uncomfortable, can help us reckon with parts of ourselves,” Julia adds. “It’s a way to take stock and wonder if we might want to live differently.”
It might be hard at first, but we can try to view loneliness as an opportunity to engage with ourselves in more meaningful ways. Perhaps let your mind wander to unlock your creativity. Ask your deepest questions or reassess your goals. Maybe do some deep thinking about your current life or habits, or even ask yourself: Why do I feel lonely? The answers are all up to us to discover.
Get comfortable with the uncomfortable.
Remember growing pains you had as a teen? It’s a reminder that growth isn’t always fun. But if we can learn to recognize uncomfortable feelings as they arise—loneliness, fear, sadness—we reclaim some of their power.
“I think we’d do well to rehabilitate loneliness,” Julia says. She likens sitting with our loneliness to allowing a wound to heal: it’s uncomfortable. Yet, we know that the tenderness we feel is a sign that we’re on the mend. “You don’t pick at [the wound]; you let it be, and, after some time, your body repairs itself,” she adds. When loneliness is brewing within you, could you accept that its aim is ultimately to take you to a better place?
Try to make the most of it.
While loneliness is a great opportunity for reflection, it shouldn’t be a chore. Use this time for some solo activities, whether that’s a DIY spa day, a new recipe, or a home project. With time (and patience), alone time can even become enjoyable. You might even discover a new hobby.
Not feeling all that creative at the moment? Make a list of enticing self-care opportunities that you can reference when you’re feeling blue: go for a walk outdoors, rewatch a favorite movie, or take comfort in a journal.
You can also use loneliness as a cue to think deeply about who you might want to reconnect with. Embracing loneliness can help strengthen our relationships with others. “We’re more present—better able to listen to others, focus on them, and engage—when we take the time to get calm and ground ourselves,” Julia says. Maybe it’s time to make that phone call you’ve been waiting for or contact someone you haven’t seen in a while.
Remember, you’re human.
Getting comfortable with loneliness won’t happen overnight, and some days will be harder than others. But we have strength in us to reshape how we check in with our feelings. And remember: no matter how isolated we might feel, loneliness is one common thread that connects us all.