In this world full of people, so many of us feel so lonely at times.
The current climate of self-isolation is not helping. We need innovative ways to stay connected. To keep that human connection going which is not easy for shy people even at the best of the time.
I read two stories last week that might get you thinking about how to combat your loneliness.
A few years ago, after reading in a book that people who feel a strong sense of community have been proven to lead longer and happier lives, Maria Bamford started working to overcome her natural shyness and fear of interaction by saying hello to her neighbors in Eagle Rock, a diverse and partly gentrified area on the northeastern edge of Los Angeles. She bought a park bench and had it installed on the median strip in front of her house. She then spray-stenciled the words “Have a Seat!” on the sidewalk in front of it. To her delight, the bench is often occupied. “It’s like a birdfeeder for humans,” she says.A 2014 New York Times Megazine Profile
Two things became obvious from this snippet. One, you need to do some effort on your part to stay connected. And second, innovation goes a long way.
Here is the second story, that illustrates how Elizabeth Gilbert, the writer of Eat Pray and Love feels connected to her houseplant during her self-isolation.
When I got this plant, eight years ago, she was such a tiny thing. My world was a totally different place back then, and so was hers. When she was little, her leaves barely reached out of the pot that she was in – a pot that seemed comically over-large for her at the time. Now she takes up so much space that I have to duck under her great reaching fronds in order to get to my socks out of the drawer beneath her.
How can something become so beautiful, just by staying in one place, surviving only on light and water? How can something that is so still and quiet feel like such an explosion of beauty and energy? I have spent the last eight years running in fast circles around the world – laughing, sobbing, striving, bouncing from drama to drama. All the while she has sat right here with a very different agenda – and looks at what she as become.
Over the last eight years that I have been alone in this house, I have been looking at her a lot. I’ve been listening to her. She has been my friend and my teacher. She has a great sense of humor, She’s really good at being quiet. She is really good at patience and trust. She has all the answers.
Experts say that loneliness is a complex emotional phenomenon that has its bases in survival during childhood. All of us have experienced some degree of abandonment if only for a short time, and remember the painful and scary feeling that goes along with it.
If that is what you are experiencing during self-isolation then it might help to act on some of the suggestions readily available online.
Realize that loneliness is a feeling, not a fact. When you are feeling lonely, it is because something has triggered a memory of that feeling, not because you are in fact, isolated and alone. The brain is designed to pay attention to pain and danger, and that includes painful scary feelings; therefore loneliness gets our attention.
Reach out because loneliness is painful and can confuse you into thinking self-deflating thoughts. Try writing as a means of getting them out of your system. It will help to get active, ring someone and do some small talk, connect with some like-minded people on online forums, read a good book, hang out with someone non-human, do some volunteering and plan at least one social activity a week.
Keep in mind you need to look after yourself before anyone else can look after you.
This world is a beautiful place, you don’t need to keep on staring at ugliness. Look for the beauty around you and focus on that.