“In solitude the mind gains strength and learns to lean upon itself” – Laurence Sterne
Loneliness is something we all face at certain points throughout our lives. It used to be an emotion I would try to avoid at all costs, and it’s an emotion that caused me an incredible amount of anxiety throughout most of my 20’s. I would reach for anything to fill the empty void: travel, relationships, shopping, alcohol, food, filling my schedule so I didn’t have a single minute to spare – only to find that the emptiness, the loneliness, was still there regardless. Sometimes it even came back stronger.
I’ve felt loneliness in several situations. While travelling by myself, after leaving college and moving cities, starting over in a new country. I’ve felt loneliness in a room full of people I know, and what surprised me the most, is that even with two kids and a husband, I hit a point where I was the loneliest I’ve ever been.
Through this, what I’ve come to learn is that loneliness isn’t filled by having a busy life or filled by having lots of people in our lives. Loneliness isn’t filled by anyone in our lives aside from ourselves.
Loneliness is a call to connect with our hearts. To connect with our souls. To learn to love ourselves and become our own best friends. It’s a call from our spirit, telling us that we’re not giving ourselves enough attention, and it’s time to turn inwards.
By embracing our loneliness, by following our loneliness to see what it’s here to teach us, not only will we stop searching for false security in people and life circumstances around us, but we find a lasting inner peace that stays with us no matter where we go, or what’s happening in our lives.
I can honestly say that since I’ve gone down this journey of getting to know myself, of falling in love with myself, and becoming my own best friend, sure I have periods where I feel as though I’m missing human connection. However, I no longer experience the deep, dark, depressing throws of endless loneliness that I once did.
Here are 4 ways I’ve learned to embrace my loneliness and use it as a vehicle for beautiful change and growth:
1. Be ok with feeling uncomfortable
We are a society who tries to avoid being uncomfortable at all costs. If we start to feel a tad uncomfortable, we immediately try to figure out how to make ourselves feel better. We distract ourselves, which I found out, is exactly like a Band-Aid. It may cover the loneliness up for a while, but it’s not going to fix the underlying wound.
So, get comfortable with being uncomfortable. What does this mean? When the feelings of loneliness arise, sit with them. Welcome them. Sit in silence, close your eyes, breathe in for 7 seconds, hold for 4, and breathe out for 5. Repeat this 10 times and notice how it calms you.
How do you feel? Notice the sensations in your body, in your mind. Coming back to your breath brings awareness to what’s going on inside and turns the focus inwards rather than on what’s happening in your life externally. This is one way to start connecting with yourself; it’s a portal to your soul.
2. Get to know yourself on a deeper level
Do you know you are? I mean really know who you are? What do you love to do? What lights you up? What causes are you passionate about? What are you good at? What is your purpose in life? What work are you here to do? Are you on the right path, or are you living life based on what you “should” be doing?
I was so caught up in life doing things for everyone else, and chasing a definition of success that society deemed worthy, that I had completely lost track of who I was. I was living my life in a way that wasn’t making me happy, and through loneliness, I was able to realize this and course correct.
3. Learn to love yourself
Louise Hay’s work was a game-changer for me. I never knew loving yourself was a “thing”, and once I learned that the most important relationship in our lives should be the one with ourselves, everything shifted. It took a cancer scare for me to learn to love myself on a cellular level, but it doesn’t have to take an extreme like that for you to learn to love yourself.
Start by doing these two things: Stop criticizing yourself. Just stop. Cold turkey. When you catch yourself saying negative things about yourself (or two yourself) in your mind, just stop. Say “I love you, and I’m not going to talk about you this way anymore.” It’s amazing when you shift your critical thoughts to thoughts of love, how your whole relationship with yourself begins to change.
The second thing to do is stop scaring yourself. Don’t future trip. When you catch yourself thinking too much about the future and worrying about how your life is going to turn out, stressing about the problems in your life, come back to your breath.
Again, close your eyes, take 10 deep breaths. Feel the breath of life fill your lungs and heal your body. Feel how amazing and beautiful life is – and how alive and magical your beautiful body is. This is something I do several times a day, and it truly is life-changing.
4. Use time by yourself to grow into the person you were destined to be
Change your perspective on loneliness. It doesn’t have to be a feeling you just drown out. Rather than spending time numbing your loneliness through tv, Netflix, a bottle of wine, or even amplifying it by endlessly scrolling social media, take advantage of this time to grow.
When I moved back to Australia after a world-backpacking trip, for one year my phone literally did not ring once. I had no one to talk to, no one to do things with, no one to go for a walk with or grab a coffee. I was truly alone, and it was one of the loneliest times in my life. I remember walking through a city full of people and sitting on a fully packed train, yet none of them knew I existed.
It sent me down into a downward spiral at first, but through coming back to my breath, and knowing it was ok to feel these feelings, I knew it was time for me to turn inwards and take a spiritual journey. I was tired of band-aids.
I read personal development and spiritual books, spent a lot of time in nature which naturally helps us turn inwards, I learned to meditate, deepened my yoga practice, and studied Law of Attraction. I learned what I REALLY loved (not just what I thought I should love), and I started really living life for me again, rather than for everyone else, or in a way that everyone else thought I should live my life.
Looking back on the lonely times in my life, before I knew how to embrace the loneliness, I was reckless. I was anxiety-ridden and even depressed, doing everything I could to avoid the feeling or make it go away.
But once I learned to embrace my loneliness through these 4 tips, the periods in my life where I’ve been lonely since, are the periods of the most intense and beautiful growth.
They are some of the most magical times in my life and I honestly look back on them and smile. I cherish those lonely times because through them, I’ve grown into the person I am now.
I am my own best friend, I always have my back, I have a love for myself that was missing for so many years, I no longer live life trying to please everyone else, I love spending time on my own, I’ve found my purpose in life, and I feel an incredible peace no matter what’s going on in my life.
There truly is no better way to be, and I genuinely look forward to the beautiful, lonely times yet to come – because they always will, and that’s ok.
Erica Carrico is a certified Career & Life Purpose Coach at www.ericacarrico.com. Through coaching services, speaking, and writing, Erica supports awakening souls to ignite their fire, reconnect with their soul, unveil their purpose, and transition into a career that is in alignment with who they truly are