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What’s the difference between being alone v. loneliness?

Although being alone and lonely are oftentimes interchanged, they mean different things. Outpatient therapist, Sharon Melin, says that the key difference between being lonely and being alone is emotional attachment. Being alone is a state of being, while loneliness is a feeling. We can be perfectly happy being by ourselves, but we can also be lonely even if we’re with a group of people. Loneliness stems from feeling like our true self is not seen or understood either by others or from within. Solitude is craved by many people, while feared by others. Part of this has to do with our relationship with ourselves.

What causes loneliness?

There are many reasons why someone could feel lonely. There are situations that can cause loneliness such as moving to a new location, divorce, the death of someone significant in a person’s life, and many other major life changes. Another reason that someone might feel lonely could be due to being unhappy with their relationship with themself. People who lack confidence in themselves often believe that they are unworthy of the attention or regard of other people, which can lead to isolation and chronic loneliness. Of course, there are times we feel lonely, and that can be totally normal. However, if you’re feeling lonely more often than not, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

How to feel less lonely?

Learning to accept ourselves as we are is a daily practice. According to Nystrom Counseling, there are habits we can implement to work on bettering our relationship within, like:

  1. Recognizing your internal critic: Call yourself out when a negative voice takes over. Recognize the thought, then let it go. Replace it with a positive alternative.

  2. Practicing self-care: This includes the basics like taking care of your physical and mental needs, but it also includes fulfilling promises you make to yourself. Did you tell yourself that you’d do the dishes and pay that bill? Do it. Every time you fulfill a promise (no matter how small) you build more trust and confidence within.

  3. Acknowledging where you’re at: Make peace with your past and come to terms with your current reality. Part of accepting ourselves is taking note of how/why we got to where we are and what we can do to change it.

Source: Hannah Hippe, Nystrom & Associates, “Being Lonely and Being Alone: What’s the Difference?,” https://www.nystromcounseling.com/grief-loss/being-lonely-and-being-alone-whats-the-difference/#:~:text=The%20key%20difference%20between%20being,with%20a%20group%20of%20people

Kendra Cherry, VeryWellMind, “Loneliness: Causes and Health Consequences,” https://www.verywellmind.com/loneliness-causes-effects-and-treatments-2795749

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