Many people are under the impression that being alone goes hand in hand with being lonely. However, while solitude does sometimes lead to feelings of loneliness, this isn’t always the case.
In fact, some people feel less impact from being alone than others. This group of individuals prefer being by themselves and don’t feel lonely in the least… even after an extended period of solitude. That being said, what’s the real difference between feeling lonely and being alone? Keep reading to find out.
What Is Loneliness?
Loneliness is an unpleasant feeling of isolation, disconnectedness or abandonment. Feelings of loneliness have been linked to depression, loss of sleep, an increased risk of stroke and high blood pressure. Sounds quite scary, doesn’t it?
Loneliness is a complex emotional response which affects people in many different ways. We feel loneliness when we can’t communicate or connect with other people. This means that you don’t necessarily have to be alone to feel lonely, especially if you’re surrounded by people that you don’t feel comfortable communicating with.
Humans as a species are very social and many of us feel a need for contact on some level. It’s very common for a person to feel lonely at one point or another during their lifetime. Events such as a breakup or the loss of a loved one can lead to temporary feelings of loneliness. These feelings typically fade as time goes by.
On the other hand, when it comes to cases of being chronically lonely, the dreadful feeling is brought on by the person rather than the environment. This means that the feelings of loneliness cannot be easily relieved and will likely be more permanent.
You can assume it’s loneliness when:
- You feel isolation that comes with an unmet expectation or unreturned feeling
- You cry when no one is watching
- You feel a huge sense of emotional abandonment
- You struggle to find distractions, to free yourself from what you’re feeling
- You start blaming yourself for how you feel
The Effects of Solitude
Being alone affects each of us differently. While many people tend to view being alone as a negative, there can be positive effects of social isolation. Being alone gives us time to think, which can help to improve our concentration and other cognitive functions. It also gives us time to reflect on our experiences and process what’s going on in our lives.
Getting a little time to yourself also helps in avoiding overstimulation or stress brought on by too much of a stimulus – in this case, social interaction.
Being alone isn’t always a good thing, however. Studies show that complete social isolation can have a negative impact on our health, even if we don’t feel lonely. If we go for a long time without talking to anyone, it can also get us out of practice when it comes to listening and communication skills. It’s important to interact with someone every now and then, whether it’s a friend, relative or even someone more distant like a stranger or a pen pal.
You can assume you’re alone when:
- You feel a sense of freedom by being isolated
- You feel so consumed with yourself that you smile for absolutely no reason
- You feel mental or physical freedom
- You feel like it’s okay to follow your heart
- You love yourself, so you want to be alone
In conclusion, although being lonely and being alone are closely related, they are two entirely different things. Sometimes, being alone can be a good thing, especially if you need to unwind.
But, being lonely is almost never a positive thing. If you feel like you are lonely, take whatever steps you can to reach out and make a connection with someone. In the end, you’ll be glad you did.