As our society continues to age, more and more are living alone. How can we live alone and not be lonely?
I have joined the over 32 Million single-person households in the US this year. Living alone has been quite a transition. My cat and I are living alone in an apartment. But the pandemic caused isolations made it harder. The hardest part of living alone for me has been the lack of daily contact with other people. The pandemic has affected our ability to connect with other people- no hugs, no closeness, and no group meetings. Seeing other people when you go to the store doesn’t really count, although it helps you remember that there are others out there. Living alone raises interesting changes- no one tells me what to do or when to do it. No one tells what to eat or when to go to bed. And on and on. I am totally in charge which is a blessing and a curse.
Humans require connections
Being alone isn’t just about those of us who live alone it is also about those who live alone and have lost their connectedness. We are social beings and need to relate with others. Many families meet that need. A large extended family makes this even easier. But we connect with others in other ways as well, through work, activities, and common interests. These common interests could include book clubs or electronic communities of people with similar interests, pets, the arts, or health activities. The important thing is to connect. For the elderly, as we lose our connections, we become more susceptible to stress, worry, mental illness, and loneliness. Many people living alone are fighting the battle of loneliness.
Loneliness is psychologically damaging and poses serious threats to our well-being and long-term health. We have all heard the stories of the spouse who dies shortly after his partner passed away. I think this directly results from loneliness. Loneliness can lead to depression, a higher risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and arthritis according to psychology today. The age group most affected by loneliness is elderly, and as the baby-boomers are maturing, this is becoming a bigger problem.
Loneliness is a state of mind. You can learn how to reframe your thoughts and your feelings of being alone. Studying mindfulness practices helps you learn to change your point of view or your framework for viewing what is going on in your head. Mindfulness and meditation are the overarching fixes for loneliness, along with the 10 other things I have listed below. Here is a link to a website called headspace that is a place to start and get additional ideas to help with mindfulness. Here is another site on mindfulness Besides learning how to meditate and be more mindful, I have listed 10 other ideas to help you live alone but not be lonely.
10 things to do to overcome loneliness and loss of connectedness.
“Learn how to see. Realize that everything connects to everything else.”-― Leonardo da Vinci.
If you have family members around, they are a crucial part of the battle against loneliness. During these times of coronavirus, it is especially difficult to see our families and friends. It is up to you and me to start contact using one or more of the ideas below.
Reach out and talk to people- Almost everyone these days has a phone. Call someone up and just chat for 15-30 minutes regularly.
Look for community activities- You can take part, at least after covid. If you are a senior, go to your senior center and get to know others. Work to build new friendships.
Find an activity you can share with others- walking, bike riding, yoga, or other activities help with two issues- inactivity and loneliness. It is easy when you are living alone to do nothing. This leads inevitably to poorer health and more time alone. If you live in an area where you can go out and sit on your porch-do it. It is a good way to meet more people.
If you play card games- get into a group for bridge or other card games. An hour of card games or board games can light up an otherwise dreary day.
Go to concerts, plays, and other events- After the pandemic subsides of course. These provide an opportunity to take part with others, expand your mind, and get you out of your house.
Use your computer to connect with others- For example, I spent an hour this morning talking with two other people about writing, one in Ireland and the other on the east coast. Using the computer to meet and discuss ideas with others is especially useful during the pandemic.
Take a class online – Learn something new. They teach many of the courses at little or no charge. Not only do you learn a new skill, but you meet others with whom you can connect.
Start a journal- Write what you are thinking or worrying about and then forget it. This will help remove it from your conscious mind and allow you to think of something else.
Develop recipes for 1 or 2 and learn how to cook so you don’t create too many leftovers. One extra serving for the freezer is enough. I was used to cooking for all 5 of us, so now I have to learn how to scale down my quantities, so I don’t have to eat the same thing for a month.
Teach yourself how to bake- Then you can have fresh bread and dessert whenever you want them, and your house or apartment will smell better.
This list is not exhaustive. As I finished number 10 at least two more came to mind – get a pet being the biggest. Whether it’s a cat, a dog, birds or fish, they give us something to do and will bring joy and connectedness into your life. The second is to meditate to become more mindful.
The essential challenge is to transform the isolation and self-interest within our communities into connectedness and caring for the whole. -Peter Block