More than five years ago, I made a decision that would change my life: to stop dating.
I was 44 years old, single and depleted from former relationships. I had been married twice, divorced twice and I was tired. I think tired is might be an understatement. I was exhausted and angry because my relationships were not working out. Why was it so damn hard?
I decided to take a dating break to figure out the answer. The break lasted three years.
One of the first things I discovered was that I found I no longer needed all the friends around me all the time as I had once thought I did. Looking back I realize that was normal.
You change as you get to know the real you, which makes your desires change, which makes your relationships change. If you think about it, the whole process is quite natural: as your relationship with yourself changes, it only makes sense that your relationship with others will change as well.
Another thing I discovered during my three-year get-to-know-me-better period, was that the journey to self-discovery can be lonely. I remember having dinner one night with a dear friend who had encouraged me to take the hiatus from dating. I looked at her with tears in my eyes as I verbalized and admitted I felt lonely the first time. I said, “You never told me this journey would make me feel lonely.”
She looked at me and said, “If I told a person that ‘waking up’ makes them feel lonely, no one would want to do it.”
Perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised to discover how lonely I’d be. After all, I had intentionally decided to spend some time alone! But, being alone is a state: you are alone when you go solo to a store, or shopping, or attend an event by yourself.
Being lonely, on the other hand, is a feeling.
Loneliness for me is this empty feeling that takes over my body.
It’s as if an invisible, sad energy inside me takes over. And it’s scary. When loneliness would creep in my head, I’d ask myself Is this how it’s going to be forever? The demon inside my head would always answer:”YES! OMG you will be lonely forever!”
At that point, I’d have to force myself to stop the negative self-talk and remember to do my favorite five steps to combat being lonely. I’d like to share those five steps with you here now.
1. Be Kind To Yourself
My first go-to step is always the same: to be kind to me.
I like to do something for myself to remind me of how special I am. I like to buy flowers and put them in vases all around the house. But it’s also important to be kind to yourself emotionally.
When you find yourself mentally reprimanding yourself or thinking about the negatives in your life, remind yourself how of wonderful you are and of all the wonderful qualities that make you, you.
2. Keep Busy
I think it’s great to do something to keep your mind off being lonely so keep busy doing what you love to do. If you enjoy cooking, maybe consider cooking a large dinner and invite your family and friends over to enjoy the lovely meal together. Do not sit home night after night telling yourself you are a lonely person with no friends or family.
Get up and get going. Connect or re-connect with people you know. Go to placed you’d always wanted to go but could never find the time.
3. Learn Something New
Have you ever wanted to take a class or learn something new? Use your alone time to do it. If you always wanted to learn a foreign language, now is the time. Take an art class. Begin to research something you always wanted to learn but never took the time to do it. Learning is a great way to keep your mind busy and get you thinking about new thoughts and ideas.
4. Read, Watch & Listen
Take time to read, watch or listen to stories about loneliness and human emotions. I highly recommend spending time learning about the emotions you find yourself feeling.
If you are feeling frustrated, lonely, whatever the emotion, research it, “Google” it. You will be amazed by what you learn.
The most important thing you’ll discover, though, is that you are not the only one to feel the way you do. In fact, it will blow you away as you dig in and do the research to see how many of us experience loneliness at one time or another.
5. Reach Out To Friends & Family
Your friends do not know how you feel unless you tell them. I am not suggesting you call or text them, “Hey, I am lonely.” I am suggesting you reach out and ask them to spend time with you.
But, keep in mind it is positively okay to admit you’re lonely.
Everyone has experienced loneliness at some time in their lives. All you have to do is ask someone and they will share their story. Beating loneliness is the best with friends and family.
Being lonely is a natural feeling, one we all experience at different times. You do not have to prove how strong or how independent you are by fighting the loneliness by yourself. You can be the strongest person you know and reach out to someone and say, “I am feeling lonely and I need your time.”
Asking for what you need is the bravest thing you can do for yourself.
And remember this: if you do not ask for something you may never know what the answer could be. Besides, what is the big deal if they say no? Be true to yourself and ask for what you need.
For me, being single for three years was an eye opening experience.