Loneliness or Solitude? (How to Make Single Life Work For You)

Loneliness or Solitude? (How to Make Single Life Work For You)

I ran across this quote the other day and thought it was really interesting

“The great omission in American life is solitude; not loneliness, for this is an alienation that thrives most in the midst of crowds, but that zone of time and space free from outside pressure which is the incubator of the spirit”. — Marya Mannes, author and critic

The quote stood out to me because I’d recently been reading the comments from our Reboot Your Brain Summit. One of the questions I’d put out to the viewers was:

Is There Something More You Want To Learn About Your Brain or Mind That I Haven’t Asked You?

One viewer responded, “How to feel happy, loved and fulfilled when I am single.”

My heart went out to that viewer because I’ve BEEN there and because she’s not alone. Many of my clients tell me they feel lonely in their life. Sometimes it seems like loneliness is the single biggest hurt people are facing and then . . .boom . . .here comes this quote with an unexpected statement.

Is a lack of solitude causing more unhappiness than loneliness?

People tell me all the time that they are lonely . . . even when they ARE married, have a family and are surrounded by people all the time. I wanted to tell this viewer that, but I know it’s sometimes hard for a single person to believe a married person can feel lonely.

There is a difference between loneliness and solitude – both on the physical level in the brain and on the emotional level in the heart. Whether you feel discontent with being alone or discontent that you don’t have enough alone time, it comes down to two things:

  1. Your perception…what you believe about your situation.
  2. The right rhythm between interaction with others and solitude . . .  for YOUR brain (much like the “busy brain” balance I posted about not long ago).

Let’s talk perception first . . and I’ll share an example from my life.

In my 20’s I had a pattern in my relationships. Whenever a boyfriend tried to break up with me…..I was completely devastated. I say “tried” because I just wouldn’t let them break up with me. This is embarrassing to write, but I would cry and negotiate and be so emotional that the poor young men just gave in! Lol! Then just a short time later I would end things with them. This was my coping skill. If I ended the relationship, I wasn’t lonely and it didn’t bother me. Seriously . . .I would be OVER it a day later and completely believe that we were never a good match. I just could not have that perception if I let them end things and have the last word. (Yes there’s control stuff in there 🙂 )

Perception comes down to what you believe about the situation. In my case, I believed if the other person ended our relationship it meant I had failed, I wasn’t worthy and I wasn’t good enough.

If I did the breaking up, I believed I made a decision because they were not the right person for me.

Either way…the ego mind ran wild, huh??

[Tweet “The greatest technique I know for changing a perception is to return to TRUST.”]

In yourself & a higher power.

Step out of your mind ESPECIALLY when what your mind believes it hasn’t been making you happy! Even when you can’t find the reason something happened with your conscious mind . . . trust that there is a reason. Maybe someday you will see it. It doesn’t matter if you ever do as long as you trust. It can also be extremely helpful to return to GRATITUDE. When a relationship doesn’t work out, be grateful for all the things being single allows you . . .for however long that is. I have a friend who is single and has spent the last year traveling the world. I have another friend with a husband and 3 kids who can only DREAM (right now) of traveling the world. The greatest part of being single might be learning to love yourself, be with yourself, be your own best relationship and do what you want when you want it!

As for the rhythm between solitude and socialization . . .

The Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience recently published a study on loneliness. Using a fMRI scanner, subjects were rated on their loneliness. The subjects who rated as lonely had the least activity in the ventral striatum of their brain which led to a hypothesis that loneliness may result from reduced reward-related activity. Low activity in ventral striatum is associated with depression and OCD.

This tells ME that loneliness is a matter of perception AND not engaging in rewarding activities!

It’s my opinion that regardless of whether you are single or in a relationship, it is critical to your happiness to take time for yourself – do the things you love, pamper yourself with self care AND have some time for solitude. Solitude has many benefits such as better concentration and better relationships due to giving your brain down time for recovery. Too much stimulation from too many people is perceived by the brain as a stress and comes with all the damaging effects of any other stress. As with most things, our human rhythm is engagement . . . recovery . . . engagement . . . recovery, etc.  We do ourselves a huge disadvantage to think we can thrive without either of these elements.

I’ll bottom line it . . .

  • Fill your life with people and many different kinds of relationships (friends, lovers, creative partners, business partners, community members, etc)
  • When you are in a relationship . . . work hard to carve out time for solitude.
  • When you are not in a relationship . . . take full advantage of the recovery time as the next relationship will be here any minute.
  • In either situation . . . don’t let the “situation” be your cause for happiness or unhappiness.

As Deepak Chopra says “happiness for a reason is just another form of misery.”

If this sounds too hard and like a bunch of BS (especially if you are feeling depressed right now) give yourself the physical advantage by healing your brain chemistry and supporting good brain function and then TRY giving yourself more loving rewards.  What have you got to lose? The human entity is capable of MIRACLES every day . . . don’t let the mind tell you otherwise.

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