Are you alone?
Do you struggle with loneliness?
If so, you are not alone! A government survey published in July 2021 reported that 80% of the UK population feels lonely sometimes.
However, you may be surprised to know that it is younger people who expressed the most feelings of loneliness, with our age group being, overall, the least troubled by feelings of loneliness. While 11% of people aged 16-24 said they felt lonely often or always, in the 65-74 age bracket it was only 3%.
The fact is, many people feel lonely at some time – and it may well be that you are reading this blog item because you are aware of your own sense of loneliness.
There are plenty of places, including elsewhere on the Joy Club blog, where you can find good advice about how to alleviate loneliness – but I want to focus on the subject of aloneness, and how being solo need not always be a bad thing.
Loneliness tends to be relieved in one of 3 ways:
- I seek out other people’s company
- Others, recognising the problem, come to me
- I learn to be comfortable in my own company
Have you thought about the distinction between loneliness and solitude?
“Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.”
There are, of course, a number of reasons why, later in life, you are having to face the experience of being solo:
- You may have, sadly, lost the companionship of your life partner – through bereavement, or perhaps relationship breakdown;
- Through retirement, you may have lost the banter and friendship of work colleagues;
- As a result of relocation (your choice or enforced by circumstances), you may have left your social networks behind.
Any of these changes are reason enough for a person to feel isolated, even abandoned. In fact, it may well be that you have been so affected by life events that you could be suffering from depression – in which case you might consider having a chat with your GP to get their advice.
However, for many of us, being alone is one of those things that we acknowledge and try and battle through.
I’d like to take a different view of the problem to see if there are some possible solutions.
“Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your own presence rather than of the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement.”
You may or may not agree with this quote – but it, at least, suggests there could be positive aspects to being solo.
On the whole, those of us of an introvert disposition are more likely to be able to come to terms with solitude – for it is often there that we find our energy – recharge our batteries.
Extroverts thrive on being around others – off whom they bounce their positive energy, so for such people being solo may well be challenging.
So, here are some suggestions for making the best of your aloneness, being solo:
- Maybe you could go out and engage your senses: find a park, walk in the countryside, or just in your garden – enjoy the world around you. I love doing a bit of people watching, or taking in the sights, sounds and smells.
- Or you could use mindfulness to centre your soul; meditation/prayer can help you to find an inner peace – you may find keeping a journal helpful to record your feelings.
- Then again, you could use hobbies and activities to fill those empty moments (maybe reactivate an old hobby): getting lost in a good book; watching a movie; going to concerts/gigs/plays; listening to, or playing, music; art and photography can be great ways to finding satisfaction.
Ralph McTell’s “Streets of London” may ask us
So, how can you tell me you’re lonely
And say for you that the sun don’t shine…
but, hopefully, you can find ways to embrace the solitude and discover the joy of your own company!
Peter Slee has recently retired from a senior position with a charitable care provider in a chaplaincy role. Peter has also held positions of responsibility as a Baptist minister, and a retail manager, in varied contexts. Retirement, which came sooner than expected, has given him the opportunity to develop his photographic and artistic inclinations (landscape photography, lino-printing and dabbling in acrylic painting). His 3 grandchildren also bring him great joy.
Peter is one of our pastoral specialists at The Joy Club, alongside Caroline Dobinson. They run our ‘Listening Ear’ support group sessions. You can find out more about these meetings here.