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Profound loneliness can go back many years. Some sources say that the roots of profound loneliness come from experiencing lack of love as a young child. Sometimes a deep loneliness comes with having a physical difference or suffering from a mental disorder that leads to discrimination and isolation. For others loneliness may come from struggling with friendships in school, perhaps having been bullied or having no one to sit with at lunch. Being on the playground with no one to play with can be a very lonely feeling. Having different interests, such loving sports when others are into video games, can be very lonely.  Maybe as a child you had a single friend who moved away or you had an argument with that friend that led to a loss of the friendship. Loneliness in childhood seems to be related to loneliness as an adult, including an increased sensitivity to loneliness.

In the researchI’ve read, there is no one idea or one path to move from loneliness to contentment. There are general ideas that seem to work. The best approach seems to be that each individual chooses how to use the general ideas in ways that work for him or her.

It’s Not Just You

In her book Freedom from Loneliness, Jennifer Page notes the importance of realizing you are not alone in feeling lonely.  Realizing that many other people also feel a deep loneliness can help lift feelings of self-blame. Knowing that loneliness is an experience that most people have at times in their life and serves a purpose may help allieviate the shame of loneliness.

What is Loneliness for You?

Defining what loneliness is for you is an important step before searching for a solution. What is your goal? Do you want people to do activities with every weekend or less frequently? Are you looking for companionship during your time off from work? Do you want to have friends you can share your deepest feelings with? Just being around people more of the time is unlikely to meet your needs and may lead you to believe that nothing you do works. If what you really want is to have someone to go to the gym with, and you join a book club with the idea of meeting more people, you may be quite miserable and unable to stay long enough to find someone who also wants a workout companion. Becoming part of a group is usually difficult and takes time, so choosing something you really love to do anyway is important. Going to a workout class may be more effective and successful.

It seems most people have friends that fit activities in their lives. They have friends they go to the gym with, friends they go out to dinner with, friends they talk with at church and friends who they share their daily lives with. Some may only be friends in one category, such as work friends. Pay attention to when you feel the most lonely and work toward solutions that fit that situation.

 Working on Connections with Mindfulness of Actions

For many people loneliness is about not feeling connected. Just spending time with other people will not ease the situation and can feel worse by highlighting the lack of connectedness you have in your life.  In fact, when you first start working on getting more connected, the idea of being in a group of people may be too much to consider.

As Page discusses, you can work on connecting to your world. To connect with the world, your focus must be outside yourself. Taking walks in a park, focusing on the animals or plants that you see could be a way of connecting with the world. Maybe you enjoy gardening. Digging in the earth, planting veggies or flowers can create a sense of connection, being a part of a whole.

Whatever you do, do it wholeheartedly. Being completely involved in the activity helps create a sense of belonging and connectedness. Judging yourself or the activity creates distance and disconnection. If you cook, embrace that experience. Notice the smells, the textures and colors of the ingredients and the process of creating food. If you ride a bike, notice the sensations in your body, the feel of the air on your face and the views around you.

Doing an activity wholeheartedly means you are not stuck in your head, saying, “I’m a loser, these plants will never grow, and it won’t make a difference anyway. Being in your head, judging yourself or others often adds to loneliness. If that happens, which is normal, redirect your attention to the activity you are doing. Be mindful of what is outside of you.