Loneliness affects us all. If you’re traveling alone, or find yourself in a new set of life circumstance where you are disconnected from those routines and people that add comfort to your life, it is almost inevitable that you will come to feel lonely at some point. It is difficult to build lasting, deep relationships on the road, because nearly everyone you meet is in motion, in transition. You say hello and just as promptly say goodbye, and in the end you find yourself alone again. Humans are by nature social animals, and this constant flux in our sense of belonging and community begins to take a toll.

It should be noted that loneliness does not necessarily mean being alone, but rather it implies a greater sense of separation, of disconnection. There times I feel just as lonely in a crowded bar as I do by myself.

When is loneliness a good thing?

Loneliness has certain benefits, and like any other human emotion, it is necessary to feel sometimes. Loneliness forces introspection. When you are alone, you are able to focus on yourself, and your own mind. In these moment the potential to learn about yourself is greatest, and from this introspection comes growth. Furthermore, loneliness bestows upon you time to devout to yourself and your own endeavors. You are able to focus your time and attention on any task you chose, and the gamut of things you can do alone, whether for entertainment or betterment are endless. When you don’t have to take another persons time or desires into consideration, you are free to do anything at all. So in this way loneliness presents us with an opportunity. Furthermore, a feeling of loneliness can force us to interact, and break out of our comfort zone. From this, fascinating and exciting situations are bound to arise. Be aware, however, because the benefit can become detriment if loneliness is allowed to grow unchecked.

When is loneliness a bad thing?

Long periods of isolation and loneliness can cause destructive or depressive behavior. Withdrawal, depression, anti-social behavior, obsessive thinking, draining of confidence and self-esteem are all things that can manifest in such extended periods. The difficulty in noticing some of these lies in the fact that they emerge gradually, and are typically cyclical in nature. Obsessive thinking and self-esteem issues in particular have a way of very efficiently perpetuating themselves. You may notice yourself pushing away those people that are important in your life, and taking up actions and relationships that only serve to perpetuate the self-destructive tendencies, rather than add real value and meaning to your days. It is crucial that you continue to be aware of your feelings, emotions, and outlook, and notice when it’s time to make a change. Just as Loneliness can be positive, and offer growth, so too can it be harmful and cause you to suffer mentally and emotionally. In those times that you find yourself lonely, and entering into destructive behavior, what do you do?

What to do when you’re feeling lonely

Foremost you must allow yourself to feel it. Don’t shy away from negative or painful emotions, but rather let them run their course, and see what they can offer you. Seek balance, however, and be aware enough to realize when the emotion becomes detrimental or harmful. if you find yourself becoming withdrawn, obsessive, or depressed  it is time to adjust. Do so by forcing yourself to meet new people, or take on new activities. Take a moment to re-asses the current relationships in your life, and see if they may not be adding to this sense of loneliness. Reach out to people that care about you, be they family, friends, or partners, and speak your mind about how you are feeling. There is no shame in feeling lonely, and it is no indication of weakness. We all feel vulnerable at times, and those that love us will understand and care.  Take on new hobbies or projects, ones that are social in nature in particular. In this way you’ll not only meet people, but meet people with similar interest. You need not be an island, as there are always others around. Seek them out and make those connections, however brief they may be, because they still have potential to enrich your days, and cause you to grow.