“The soul that sees beauty may sometimes walk alone.”—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I think it is safe to assume that everyone experiences bouts of loneliness throughout their lives. You will recognize it quickly because it is a dark, sad, pathetic, and unwanted feeling. It creeps in uninvited and takes residence for as long as we allow it to — that is, until we are strong enough to pick ourselves up from that pit of depression and move on. Easier said that done though, right?
Middle school seems to introduce us to this idea of being lonely fairly well, and then high school adds another level of intensity. When our college/university years come, we experience so much heartache and rejection that we can almost say we are experts in the subject. But then, just like that, adulthood happens and we find ourselves in a whole new ball game of loneliness. What I find interesting is that for those of us of faith, no matter how many times we have been taught that God is always with us and that we are to trust Him in times of trouble, we still get overwhelmed by loneliness to the point that we convince ourselves we are truly alone and forgotten.
Back when I was attending Bible School in California, a group of college students (including myself) would visit a local convalescent home bi-weekly as part of our Christian service requirement. We would spend time with the elderly, singing and doing crafts with them, and just loving on them. This was one of those programs that you do once as duty, but then compassion takes root in you and it quickly stops being a project. I met several elderly people whose families had abandoned them, and the highlight of their day was the company of these college students who quickly became familiar strangers. It rarely came up in conversation, but you could clearly see it in their faces and hollow eyes — loneliness was their faithful companion.
I have also visited several convalescent homes and orphanages in my many travels abroad. I met people, both old and young, who seemed to have a similar story of being or feeling lonely regardless of the fact that they were surrounded by a kindred cluster of people. An interesting thing about our conversations was finding out that some individuals came from a famous or wealthy background. These were people who, at some point in their lives, experienced the adoration of fans and family members, but were now a shell of who or what they once were. Befittingly, our conversations took us down memory lane, and there was almost always that hint of loneliness embedded in their stories.
One unforgettable lady I met was a relative of Anne Frank. She spoke beautifully about her cousin, but what caught my attention was that despite her beaming smile, her eyes seemed to get lost from time to time. In Japan, I met an artist who gave me a similar feeling. Even though he inspired me and gifted me one of his drawings, I could tell he longed for a time far gone. I have also met singers, performers, businessmen, poets, beauty pageant contestants, and yes, even ministers and people of strong faith, all struggling with bouts of depression caused by their loneliness.
“Loneliness is my least favorite thing about life. That thing that I’m most worried about is just being alone without anybody to care for or someone who will care for me.”Anne Hathaway
So, how do we get through those times when it seems we are the only person alive in the world? I am no expert, but I do have a lot of experience in this department. So, here are 10 things that work for me:
- Find fun things to do – when you are busy, your mind is busy. Therefore, there is very little room for negative thoughts. But the trick is doing fun things, not just busy things.
- Visit people or invite them over – even the “lone wolf” types know that sometimes you need company. It may feel awkward to reach out at first, but you may also find yourself laughing and having great conversations. Try getting out of your comfort zone!
- Read – Believe it or not, reading is calming and inspiring. It allows your mind to imagine and dream; a great medicine!
- Dance – Yes! Believe it or not, dancing alone is fun and liberating. You can do this when you cook, clean, and or even when you’re singing in the shower (hey, we ALL do it!). No shame in that since no one is watching.
- Travel – It doesn’t have to be abroad. You can go to the next town over and spend several hours there. Just get out and people watch, bird watch, taste new foods, and experience life on your own. You will find it empowering!
- Take long walks – Get out with nature and breathe in some fresh air. Look at the scenery, journal, read, picnic, or exercise. Just get out and you will feel alive!
- Talk with someone – There is nothing wrong with seeking professional help to deal with your feelings of loneliness and depression, especially for those who are people of faith, myself included. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel guilty or shameful for getting help beyond prayer and supplication – that is why God provided us with professionals. This can be His way of meeting you where you are.
- Pray – Even if you seek professional help, do not neglect prayer. This has been most comforting to me in times of deep sadness and loss… just talking to God and leaving it all there with Him. Getting my thoughts and words out have helped me find solace, comfort, and encouragement.
- Learn – You are never too old to learn something new. Take a workshop/class or attend a conference. Frequent book readings, museums, cooking classes, dancing classes, etc. Join a Bible study or take adult learning classes at your local college. You’ll be surprised how much excitement learning brings to your life.
- Invite someone to join you for an adventure – Go for a drive or take a day trip with a sibling, friend, or relative. You can do all of the above by yourself, but imagine how much more fun you would have with someone else!
It is typical to find ourselves alone sometimes. However, we don’t have to be lonely. So fight through the negative feelings trying to get you down and do what Phillipians 4:8 says — think on good things!
Be brave and courageous. You’ve got this!