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Fighting Feeling Lonely

"Lonely: Sad because one has no friends or company."
"Lonely: (of a place) unfrequented and remote; isolation."

The words 'lonely' and 'loneliness' have the most negative connotations and instil a sense of sympathetic sadness in us as soon as we hear the words uttered. But the problem with that is that so many of us feel loneliness in our lives and for some, it can be frequent, distressing, and downright disheartening. Loneliness is often misunderstood, that word that is in fact multi-faceted and means something unique and different for each and every individual. Someone sat alone at home watching TV can feel lonely. Someone in a stadium watching a band play live to the 500,000-strong crowd they are part of can feel lonely. It has different meanings and affects on each of us but one thing is for certain - it fucking sucks if you're feeling it.

I've talked about being an introvert here on NB before many times and I've shared how much I can enjoy my own company and very rarely crave the company of others. Despite being like that, there are times that my anxiety can come into play and prevent me from socialising so it's no longer a choice to hide myself away from the world, but more of a restriction I've put on myself and thus making my "lonewolf" attitude actually quite loathsome. Being introverted, shy, quiet, or someone who enjoys their own company can always be subject to pangs of loneliness just as much as the next person in a completely different social context of preference. Loneliness doesn't always mean there is a lack of human interaction but it can be a longing or an aching for other things such at places, comforts, things that simply make us feel whole and happy. Whilst my loneliness comes and goes, it really gets me down when it does rear it's ugly head so I have a few ways to try and help me cope when the big L does show up at my door:

Reading, Podcasts, & Gaming
It's probably cliché to say, but reading gives you the option to immerse yourself in a different world entirely contrasting reality most of the time and that can help a lonely mind escape. If reading isn't your thing, podcasts are a great alternative. I don't know about anyone else, but whenever there's a podcast on in my household, I feel almost like I'm having a conversation. Hearing other voices no doubt has this effect, but if it's a podcast I'm invested in and have an opinion on, it can make me feel included in the content as I will feel I have that own opinion to add to the current chat. Podcasts can also be great for escapism, for laughter, and for just generally making you feel better if you pick the right ones! The last thing to mention is this sort of "pass-time" category is definitely gaming. Just like reading, video games can certainly help you lose yourself in another world but there's also the added benefit of being able to play so many games in online multi-player, co-op styles that you can be social from the comfort of your own home, even if you thought you weren't up for speaking to anyone.

The Pantheon, Rome, Italy

Social Media & Online Communities
Now, I know this next point could be a double-edged sword, but hear me out. Whilst I'm definitely someone who sees social media as a damaging thing sometimes, the flip side of that is that it is fantastic for bringing people together. Twitter is my go-to no matter how I'm feeling, but I know if I'm particularly feeling down or lonely, there's someone always there to talk me around. It's interesting for me that that platform, full of people I've never met, can usually be more reliable and supportive than say Facebook that just include my friends and family... Social media can help you find like-minded people and means that you can talk, debate, transfer stories etc. again, all from the comfort of home if going out to shake of the loneliness isn't for you. Online communities on forums and various different club sites can also be an avenue to explore. Although Tumblr was not necessarily one of those, it was a huge crutch for my as a late teen when I was first coming to terms with my social anxiety. I actually "met" two of my best friends on that site who I have since spent so much time with so they can work wonders.

Getting Outside
If staying at home just simply isn't an option or you're happy to explore every avenue to get rid of that lonely feeling, getting outside can work *wonders*. I've talked about the benefits of getting outside so many times before, but I'm still a firm believer that getting out - particularly in nature - can really help any negative thoughts or feelings you may be experiencing disappear. Going to the woods or the coastline can be so quiet and helps you realign with nature. You might be alone, but being alone doesn't necessarily equal lonely. Being alone in these surroundings can actually feel empowering or can at least produce some clarity on why exactly it might be that you are feeling lonely in the first place.

Leave the House at Least Once a Day & Spend Time in Coffee Shops, Libraries, Museums etc.
Kind of linked to that previous point, getting out of the house or out of a mundane routine can be incredibly beneficial. As much as I'm homebody and an introvert and therefore my favourite place is at home and not with large groups of people I have to socialise with, I notice a considerable difference in my optimism, motivation, productivity, and just general happiness if I'm ultra lazy and don't leave the house over the weekend. It almost creates this unfulfilling cycle that you play out in loop so I always recommend getting out of the house - even if it's just to pick up milk at the supermarket - so you've had that burst of fresh air and environmental change. Although some people experience loneliness in group settings or in crowds, spending time in coffee shops, libraries, museums etc. can help fight the lonely feeling too. These places can be a bit of an introvert haven as you're still surrounded by bodies but there's minimal interaction. It can really help shake that loneliness without making the socially awkward amongst us heave. It can also be a complete change of pace for those extroverts who need to take a step back.

The Pantheon Ceiling

Self Care & Getting Dressed
Now now, you should all know by now I'm the biggest advocate of the self love and self care because I think it can really elevate your mood and particularly when you're feeling lonely, it can help shake the surface feeling of that away. Obviously self care can manifest itself in a whole range of different activities, but I personally find making sure I have a good morning routine so I start the day off on the right foot and practicing yoga (if and when I remember) can really help with my mood. Self care things like this aren't of course directly linked to battling loneliness, but they can help you regain control of your life, helps you to be mindful, and generally feel more cared for within yourself which can have a positive effect on other feelings - such as loneliness. Another step that I think can really help in this whole "generally feeling better so therefore possible not feeling lonely too" grouping is getting dressed. Something so simple as having a shower and getting dressed can really change a day and mood around for me, so it's a simple one to practice so you can assess just how serious the down-feelings are once you've made that first step.

Embrace the Loneliness for the Sake of Creativity
I'm going to finish up this post by suggesting possibly the silliest "fix" for this problem. Embrace it. There I said it. Daft right? No, you're wrong. Loneliness changes with the flow and ebb of the tides of time and can disappear overnight or it might linger around you for a while, either way it's never a constant and it can be tackled. As it's not something all of us experience all of the time, it's actually quite nice to embrace it sometimes. Feeling lonely has sometimes been the culprit of some of the most beautiful art to be painted, some of the most heartfelt words to be written, some of the most relatable songs to be sung... It can actually be fantastic if you're someone who enjoys being creative from time to time so maybe this time when the lonely bug is catching, don't be so quick to fight it. Invite it in and see what it has to offer you.

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