It’s 7:15am. You roll over, shut off your alarm, check your social media, and shake the last of the sleep from your body. Time to conduct your day. You’re hoping today is more bearable — ok, less miserable — than yesterday. Or, should you just crawl back in bed and give the day a big “Screw You” middle finger? This last month has been met with a lot of tears, that seem to come out of nowhere and always when you least expect it. At Costco: tears. Driving the kids to school: tears. Bathing the dog: tears. Netflix and chill: tears. And the last thing you want to face at the start of a new day is more tears.
Your friends have been trying to help, even going as far as setting you up on a few dates– the horror. And your family has been urging you to meet new people, or take a trip to clear your head. These options are all fine and dandy, but they aren’t a solution: they’re a distraction to cover up your feelings of loneliness; hence, the tears.
There’s probably a million and one articles out there that talk about trying something new, jumping on a dating site or taking a trip to distract yourself from vulnerable emotions, like loneliness. And, while these options can stop the feelings of loneliness in the moment, loneliness always comes back, often with a vengeance, until it’s dealt with, instead of distracted from.
Hitting up that dating site or booking that Alaskan cruise are okay for a quick fix, but not for dealing with what’s going on at a deeper level. The reason loneliness keeps rearing its ugly head in your life is not because your ex moved on quicker than Usain Bolt in the 100-meter. That was just icing. And you probably saw the red flags long before they jumped ship and left you for who they had on the side.
The thing is, if they’re tossing people out of their life like nothing, that speaks of their character. But, it begs to ask why you would welcome an unhealthy environment in the first place? Enter, loneliness.
Loneliness often has a deeper cause, and chances are, if time is given for reflection, those 'a-ha!’ moments usually come flooding in. And with that, can come the awareness of why distractions are even used in the first place.
Why We Feel Lonely
There’s usually unfinished business that triggers feelings of loneliness. Some of the common culprits are:
Distractions: So, what are distractions, anyway? Well, if it can be in excess, it can be a distraction: the gym, dating, relationships, hobbies, sex, gambling, eating, and shopping, to name a few. The purpose of a distraction is just that: to distract you from the bigger picture. Think about it: when you’re driving, the last thing you want is a distraction because those few seconds your eyes are off the road can end in disaster. So, why distract yourself with dating sites, one-night stands, or bouncing from relationship to relationship when it’s only a Band-Aid? Distractions aren’t a solution but are there to temporarily numb the pain, which is why you can find yourself running from feeling vulnerable and chasing distractions.
Regrets: Ruminating on the past won’t fix it, and missing someone you impulsively booted out of your life won’t bring them back. The thing with regret is that it doesn’t start out as regret, but ends there because of what was said or done, or not said or done. So, what happens? You obsess on what you could have said, or what you should have done, which can leave you feeling lonely, frustrated, and flirting with self-hate as you spiral down the rabbit hole. Regret is tied into accountability, and if accountability is limited, then regret and shame can replace it. And what temporarily pushes away those feelings of regret and shame? Yup, distractions.
…noticing a pattern here?…
Deeper Issues: Core issues can spark feelings of loneliness. Patterns to distract feeling lonely or not good enough often begin in childhood and can stick with us throughout our adult lives unless they’re faced, accepted, and changed. By the time we notice we may have something deeper going on, we’re often knee-deep in distractions, and knee-deep in a cycle.
What We Can Do About It
Alone, Not Lonely: There’s a difference between being alone, and feeling lonely. Recognizing the difference and making a distinction between the two can help you with sorting out if it’s really loneliness you’re feeling, or if you’re struggling with being alone. Or, if there’s something else going on.
Ditch the Dating: If you’re feeling lonely, try ditching the dating scene for a while. Or limit your time socializing. It sounds counterintuitive, right? But, if distractions are used to cover up feeling lonely, that puts a person in a vulnerable spot emotionally. And that means vulnerable for attracting an unhealthy relationship.
Cash in on Friends & Family: Enjoy time with low-stress friends and family, and balance time with them and time alone. With time alone can come insight.
Keep a Journal: Jotting down your feelings, thoughts, experiences, and patterns is a positive tool, for positive change.
Insight and Awareness: Connect with a therapist or coach who specializes in goalsetting and lifestyle enhancement.
Small positive changes made today, add up to large, positive changes tomorrow.