Do you believe that your loneliness is bringing you down? Or do you welcome these periods of isolation and rest from time to time?
Loneliness and periods of solitude may seem similar at first glance, but there are big differences that separate these two.
Here are the reasons why they’re different.
1) Loneliness is involuntary.
Do you feel that you have no one to reach out to? No one to talk to about the things that matter to you?
That’s loneliness. It’s a feeling of isolation and desperation that can stem from many different causes – be it physical distance from loved ones, lack of social interaction, or simply feeling misunderstood.
While you may experience the same sentiments when you’re alone, loneliness distinguishes itself since it may feel inaccessible to the person feeling it. They want to have their social needs met, but due to their circumstances, they feel as if they can’t have that connection.
2) Being alone can be empowering.
Do you feel a sense of comfort with time spent alone?
Solitude is a choice. It’s the decision to spend time alone because you want to, not because you feel like you’re stuck in a rut.
You may choose to be alone because you need time to reflect, recharge, or simply because you enjoy your own company.
Being happy alone is when you walk confidently into a restaurant and order your favorite meal at ease. Or going traveling and discovering more about yourself and life in the process. This, oftentimes, can be empowering.
Loneliness has the opposite effect. It’s when you’re consumed by feelings of inadequacy and isolation from the community around you, causing you to feel hopeless.
3) Loneliness can cause low self-esteem.
According to a study led by Małgorzata Szcześniak published in the National Institutes of Health, loneliness has also been found to diminish self-esteem even in elderly people.
This lack of self-esteem found in lonely people may also perpetuate a vicious pattern that causes them to avoid or reject opportunities to improve and get better.
This can often be reversed by taking active steps towards seeking recovery, like finding a therapist, improving your daily habits, and practicing mindfulness.
4) Being alone can be one’s preferred state.
Do you prefer, or even seek, being alone?
Some people simply enjoy their own company and feel more energized when they’re alone.
This doesn’t mean they’re lonely, it just means that they have a natural inclination towards spending time with themselves and their own thoughts.
Introverts are a great example of this. They often find more stimulation and happiness in their own company than they would in a group setting.
However, it should be said that introverts can also fall into the trap of isolating themselves too much, so it’s important to find a healthy balance.
5) Loneliness can lead to physical and mental health risks.
Did you know that being lonely can wreak havoc on both your physical and mental health?
While being alone is completely fine on occasion, spending too much time by yourself can cause a strain on both your physical and mental health.
On the physical side, loneliness can leave you vulnerable to having cardiovascular diseases and stroke later in life. (VeryWellMind)
On the neurological side, loneliness can increase the risk of antisocial behavior, depression, increased feelings of stress, and impaired decision-making capabilities. (VeryWellMind)
But that isn’t the end of it. Loneliness may also disrupt the normal and healthy routine of everyday people. Lonely people may feel compelled to take drugs and vices to cope with their feelings, or significantly alter their dietary and exercise habits.
What Can You Do About It?
Loneliness can leave you feeling isolated and disconnected from the world around you. It’s often a result of a lack of social interaction, a bad past experience, or a combination of personality traits that make it difficult for someone to form relationships.
If you suffer from feelings of loneliness, know that you’re not alone and that you can overcome it.
Therapy is a great solution, but there are many ways you can form new and genuine connections as well. Reach out to groups, talk to your friends more authentically and genuinely, or pick up a hobby and find a like-minded group of people to talk to about it!
All it takes is a little forward momentum, and you can see positive changes in your life in due time.
That’s all for now, Psych2Goers!
- Szcześniak, M., Bielecka, G., Madej, D., Pieńkowska, E., & Rodzeń, W. (2020). The Role of Self-Esteem in the Relationship Between Loneliness and Life Satisfaction in Late Adulthood: Evidence from Poland. Psychology research and behavior management, 13, 1201–1212. https://doi.org/10.2147/PRBM.S275902
- Cherry, K. (Sept 1, 2021). Loneliness: Causes and Health Consequences. Very Well Mind. Retrieved at https://www.verywellmind.com/loneliness-causes-effects-and-treatments-2795749
- Hammig, O. (July 18, 2019). Health risks associated with social isolation in general and in young, middle and old age. PLOS One. Retrieved at https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0219663
- Paul, M. Ph.D. (nd) Loneliness vs. Aloneness: Why The Difference Matters, According To A Psychologist. Mind Body Green. Retrieved at https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/difference-between-loneliness-and-being-alone