No wonder Elvis was so popular! In the past—way long ago past- we wrote each other letters. It would be fun to check our mailbox in anticipation of a return note from a friend or family member.
More recently, you can remember friends calling, going out to events together, anticipating another outing on a regular basis. However, as of late, something has changed. You’re not sure when things changed, but now you are home alone more, without activities to attend, and no people to see. You feel lonely.
What changed? Probably a number of things have impacted this dramatic change. Some of your friends have gotten ill, died or moved away. For one reason or another, your friends are no longer available. Fewer activities are designed with you in mind. They just aren’t interesting or scheduled at a time that works for you. Might there be anything else that has changed? Maybe you, too, have changed.
As we get older, our interests change. More importantly, how we related to one another can change. For instance, the less we read and go out into the world, the less we have to talk about. The less we go out, the fewer people we have contact with, the more likely we will become depressed, and further disinterested in the world, leading to an unfortunate vicious cycle. As we withdraw, feeling vulnerable and uncertain, the less connected we become to the people closest to us. We lock them out. We feel lonely.
What can you do about loneliness?
“By allowing ourselves to show our vulnerabilities, we provide an opportunity to build and increase trust.” Byllye Avery
How true this is. A good place to start to turn around this loneliness cycle is: talk. Talk with those closest to you; share your feelings. Tell your friend, you daughter, your neighbor that you are feeling lonely. It is ok to say that you would like to just have some time to get together over tea or to share what it feels like spend hours at home alone. Sharing your vulnerabilities does not make you weak; instead, it shows your strength.
You also can take the initiative and invite someone to do something that you enjoy. It may be as simple as having coffee together, or watching your favorite tv show. More than likely, the person you invite will be grateful for the invitation, just as you would be.
Both of these tips combat both loneliness and isolation. Loneliness, however, is a feeling that can be present even if you are spending time with people on a regular basis. Combatting loneliness is a different cup of tea.
Loneliness comes from inside, as opposed to isolation, which is the result of lack of contact – from the outside. Loneliness is part of your memory and often results from loss. You may be lonely because your spouse is no longer by your side to share day to day activities, because you remember what an active life you used to have when you were busy with work and family, or because you recall times when you were left alone as a child. Any number of memories can trigger loneliness.
There are a couple of things you can do to manage these feelings of loneliness.
1.Acknowledge them. It’s ok to have these memories. They are part of who you are.
2.Share them. As suggested above, sharing vulnerabilities will create closer relationships.
3.Record them. Write in a journal or record them on tape. It is always helpful to get them out and your family will be grateful to have these memories in the future.
In sum, if you are lonesome tonight, instead of waiting for Elvis to show up, you can do a couple of things to help with loneliness:
1.Take a risk- share your feelings with others.
2.Offer your own invitations to do the things YOU love.
3.Acknowledge and share your memories.
You can turn the cycle of loneliness around by just taking one step. By connecting with one other person, the two of you are no longer lonely and together, you are on a path forward. You are changing your life. You don’t have to be lonesome tonight.