I am in Rhode Island where I am sheltered in place and coming up on week four of the “stay at home” order. As I walk my dog in the neighborhood ‘sans’ mask – I don’t see my neighbors, the streets are empty and there are no children playing on the sidewalks. It feels quite lonely.
With all that is going on with the pandemic, it’s easy to feel stressed. Understandable, but stress can actually worsen social isolation and feelings of sadness. For most of us, the stress and busyness of all of the extra things we have to do now, (sanitizing the house, queuing to get into a supermarket, homeschooling the kids) covers up any underlying, nagging feelings we might have of loneliness.
However, there is a difference between being alone and being lonely.
The reason we feel lonely is that we are not connected to ourselves. It’s possible for us to feel lonely even when we’re surrounded by lots of people. Sometimes loneliness is about being isolated from other people, but most often it’s about us not feeling connected to ourselves.
When we feel that something is wrong, something is missing we seek something outside of ourselves to fill the void. Maybe it’s another person, another Netflix series, another Facebook peruse – it’s another ‘thing’ to fill the gap, fill the void we feel because of the loneliness inside.
Even though it’s easy to think we are lonely because we don’t have someone to share our lives with, it’s not an external thing but an internal thing. It’s coming from a place of disconnection – inside. It’s coming from within us.
Being alone is something quite different. Being alone is your capacity to enjoy being with yourself. It arises because you feel connected with yourself and therefore you enjoy being in your own company.
One of the best ways to connect with yourself is through meditation. In meditation, you are encouraged to remember what it is like to just enjoy being with yourself. To like your own thoughts, your own body, and your own feelings. Meditation is about just being ‘you’ with ‘you’. You will come to appreciate the silent, peaceful core of who you are if you try it.
I encourage you during this time to try meditation – to go within, to move from being lonely to alone. Watch my video with Dr. Carol Greco, clinical researcher and psychologist at the University of Pittsburg’s School of Medicine and my colleague at UPMC’s Center for Integrative Medicine talk about meditation. She also guides us through a short meditation that had me feeling so calm and collected after.
If you want to delve deeper into meditation, Carol has kindly offered this 9 Minute Meditation for Stability – perfect for times of uncertainty and increased anxiety. If you are feeling overwhelmed or need more personalized, one-on-one support, please feel free to schedule a complimentary consult today.