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How Can We Be Happy if We Are Lonely?

Lee Aldrich MiddlesageMy…how our interactions have changed over the years. People we pass on the street frequently look away. Meeting somebody’s eyes and saying hello is falling by the wayside. We text, instant message, email and say we have “talked” to somebody. More and more of our offices are in our homes so contact is frequently by phone or video-conference. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram allow us to connect….don’t they?? But even with all this “connecting”, we seem to be more lonely and alienated than ever in our history. How can we be happy, if we are lonely?

According to Kendra Cherry in the article “Loneliness” for About.com Psychology writes,

“loneliness is actually a state of mind. Loneliness causes people to feel empty, alone and unwanted. People who are lonely often crave human contact, but their state of mind makes it more difficult to form connections with other people.”

While there is a perception that being lonely and being alone are interchangeable, being alone is the absence of people, while being lonely is a state of being that makes us feel isolated. Working from a home office, a move to a new area, a death of a spouse or partner, the kids moving out for good, are situations that can cause our feelings of loneliness. We are social creatures and need face-to-face interactions, but the newness of situations, our fear of rejection, or worrying about fitting in, can make it hard for us to reach out to others. And at times it can even be difficult to reach out to those we know.

Merriam-Webster defines loneliness as:

1a : being without company : lone

b : cut off from others : solitary

2: not frequented by human beings : desolate
3: sad from being alone : lonesome
4: producing a feeling of bleakness or desolation
file1991274909628Loneliness then, is a lack of contact or engagement with other people that makes us feel isolated and sad. When we are lonely, it not only affects us emotionally, it can affect us physically. Just as a bad relationship can cause undo emotional stress, which in turn can wear down our immune system, so can loneliness. According to “Loneliness May Cause Physical Illness” by David Gutierrez, researchers at Ohio State University, found that people who

“ranked higher on the loneliness test also had higher levels of cytomegalovirus antibodies, indicating lowered immune function. They also reported higher levels of pain, depression and fatigue.”

So, if our loneliness is wrecking havoc on us emotionally and physically, how can we fix the problem? Kendra Cherry, shares University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo’s suggestions:

  1. Recognize that loneliness is a sign that something needs to change.
  2. Understand the effects that loneliness has on your life, both physically and mentally
  3. Consider doing community service or another activity that you enjoy. These situations present great opportunities to meet people and cultivate new friendships and social interactions.
  4. Focus on developing quality relationships with people who share similar attitudes, interests and values with you.
  5. Expect the best. Lonely people often expect rejection, so instead focus on positive thoughts and attitudes in your social relationships.

DCF 1.0The Behavior Exchange Challenge is all about looking hard at ourselves to determine which behaviors we have that negatively impact our lives. Once we are able to define the behaviors, it is only then that we are able to change them. If we are lonely, it is up to us to change that. To reach out, to find people with our interests, to realize that the loneliness itself is a reaction to a situation that cries out for change.

If we are lonely, no matter how many Facebook “friends” we have, tweets we send out, or on-line relationships we enter into, if we do not have face to face interaction with other people we run the risk of becoming lonely. We are social creatures who need each other for conversation and companionship, to share our feelings, thoughts and interests, to let us know that we are alive and part of this world.

So the question is….are YOU lonely?




  1. ‘loneliness causes people to feel alone’-Even the author, Ms. Cherry confuses the two. We all need to learn to be comfortable being alone. But, being lonely can arise in the midst of a marriage w/ 5 kids or in a crowded room. I am single-Alone and it’s just fine, 98% of the time. There are times when I feel lonely but it’s not an emotional crisis.

    This is a complex subject and for older women and men who are living alone, those times of severe loneliness can be problematic. Thank you for broaching this subject.
    Walker Thornton recently posted…How To Create Trust and Authenticity-You Are Your BrandMy Profile

  2. Lee

    18 July

    I think her point is that when we are lonely we feel alone and isolated. That’s not to say that when we are alone we are lonely. I am alone a lot, but I have social outlets be it video conferencing or talking to others and I’m rarely lonely.

    When people are lonely there is a feeling of isolation – not just being alone – but like being on an island cut off from others.

    Thank you for your comment, Walker, it’s always lovely to have you stop by!

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