How to be alone without being lonely

IMG_0874“You can’t be lonely if you have learned to love the person you're alone with”We are living more separately now days than we did 30 years ago when social connection was a lot more common and science is now proving the impacts this has on our health. Loneliness is one of the top reasons people see a therapist in the US now and a recent study suggests that over 25% of Americans feel they don’t have any close friends with which they’d share a problem. In the age of social media when we may have hundreds of friends on facebook we are actually getting increasingly lonely.Whilst it is true that social connection is vital to our happiness this is not to be confused with co-dependency, this is fear of being alone that results in seeking our happiness in somebody else and relying on having another half to make us complete. Over the last year I’ve learned that often we seek out others to plug holes in our own self and that no-one is designed to make us happy. Sometimes our fear of not wanting to be alone is a way of avoiding ourselves by being with someone else.It is nearly 12 months since I left a long term relationship and I’ve learned so much about myself since being single, about who I am and what I want. I think it’s crucial for everyone to spend time on their own at some point in their life and this can be a positive thing. Having said that though, as a singleton, I am aware that as I progress through my thirties the longer I am single the more likely it is that I will acquire cats!I’ve gone through the lonely nights, the closing of a door that was such a big part of my life, the fear of the unknown and worrying about the future. But I enjoy cooking what I want for dinner and nobody complaining there’s no meat, not having turned the TV on for days, playing my own music at my own volume, spending lazy weekends doing as I please and most importantly having half a bar of chocolate and knowing the other half will still be in the fridge when I return to it.It takes courage to leave a relationship and for some the prospect of being alone is too scary to handle which is why so many people remain in unhappy relationships. However, I’ve learned that there is a difference between being alone and being lonely. When I took the time to be alone I found I had the solitude and freedom to enjoy my single life, learn about myself and spend time with me. It helped me develop the capacity within to make my own way without needing a companion or a guide.As I adjusted to being on my own my fear of the unknown has become an excitement about the possibilities that exist, but I needed time on my own to figure this out. For a while it felt like a void, a nothingness, this is the gap between what we knew and felt familiar and what is yet to come. Often engulfed by the fear of the unknown, we hang in this space of nothingness between the past and the future and sometimes despair at the uncertainty. But rather than being a big black scary hole of nothing, this time in between what was and what is yet to be is full of potential, full of opportunity. It is the beginning of the rest of your life, it is not a void at all but vibrant with absolute potential.I have learned that we can be on our own without being lonely and that we can be alone but not empty. When we are lonely we are missing something or someone, it is a negative emotion and we feel a hole inside that needs to be filled. But when we’re alone, we are not lonely but in the presence of ourselves and can enjoy the freedom our solitude brings.

Being resilient in the face of change

ZIMG_0134 (67)Over the years I’ve learned that happiness is not the mere absence of suffering or temporary cessation of unhappiness, it’s less about elation and perfection, more about purpose and fulfilment, being connected to who you are. A big part of this is resilience, tough times will come to us all, it’s how you deal with it and bounce back that impacts your happiness.It’s only the end of the road if you fail to make the turn, life has many twists and turns for us to navigate.Growing up I thought I was the only one suffering and I thought that adults must have it all figured out and when I grew up I’d come to this enlightened point in my life where I knew all the answers, I thought that’s what coming of age was, imagine my disappointment! Now I’m grown up (some days) I realise everybody hurts, we are all fighting our own battles, pain is inevitable which is why resilience is so necessary. If suffering is inevitable then it seems silly that avoidance of pain is a major preoccupation in our modern world and the methods we employ to achieve this often contribute to more of the very pain we are trying to avoid; addictions, eating disorders, debt.Unfortunately sorrow will always come, even to those who are happy but the good news is it will also go, impermanence is the nature of all things. This is good news if you’re going through a tough time, know that it won’t last but the same is also true when things are good and we are happy, this too will change, everything is impermanent. If we are able to accept this and enjoy what we have when we have it this goes a long way to helping us be more resilient. But our struggles make us what we are today, it’s because of the tough times we are strong and have learned the lessons of our life. It may be true that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger. A monk once told me, mistakes are our teachers and we are never too old to learn. Where you are now is where you’re meant to be, trust it will turn out right in the end. There are no mistakes, only lessons, negative experiences teach us things and give us an opportunity to be stronger. As Paul Coelho said “Straight roads do not make skilful drivers”.Resilience is something that we should be working on all the time, not just when we need it. You don’t learn to sail in stormy seas and a tree grows its roots in the good times to enable it to weather the storms, resilience is the same, don’t wait until you need it to begin to cultivate it. As we go through change we go through the process of losing something and adjusting to something new, almost like a grieving process. It begins with shock and denial, moves on to anger and eventually we reach acceptance and move on and get over it and the new becomes the norm, until it changes again.BKS Iyengar said; “Change is not something we should fear. Rather it is something that we should welcome. For without change nothing in this world would ever grow or blossom, and no one in this world would ever more forward to become the person they’re meant to be”.Having to go through the pain of letting go of the old enables us to find the growth and opportunities of the new. However that period of nothing between letting go of old before we’ve grasped hold of new is the most fearful bit, gap of unknowing and what often sends us running back to cling onto what we know rather than being left out in the dark grasping onto something that’s not there yet and no security, like trapeze artist who has let go of one bar but is suspended in mid air yet to grasp the next. But facing the fear and moving forward allows us to grow and achieve amazing things, only then we can look back on our journey and see how far we’ve come. Change is the nature of everything, nothing stays the same, change is the only constant. Within our lives and work we have a wide range of concerns, some of which we can influence and some we can’t. Make the best use of what is in your power and take the rest ass it happens, this puts you back in control. By focusing your energy and attention on doing something about the things you can control rather than those things you have no control over, you’ll feel more empowered and positive rather than feeling like a victim of circumstance.Charles Darwin said “in nature it’s not the strongest most intelligent that succeeds, it’s those that are most adaptable to change”.Top tips to cultivate resilience

  • Know that change will always come and learn to adapt
  • See change as an opportunity – ask not what you are walking away from but rather what you are walking towards
  • Look after yourself – be well
  • Remember it’s not what happens to you, it’s how you react to it
  • There are no mistakes in life, only lessons and negative experiences teach us things and give us an opportunity to be stronger
  • Where you are is where you’re meant to be