*This month I share a few thoughts on loneliness because above all other complaints I believe this is an arm of the human condition that can swing to the deepest pervasive malady. It's experienced by all people worldwide, and from my experience, I found that accepting and owning the feelings was a good start to dealing with loneliness. Olivia Laing's article,"The Surprising value of Loneliness, the Most Stigmatised Feeling" addresses the transformative power of personal acceptance and responsibility:
So much of the pain of loneliness is to do with concealment, with feeling compelled to hide vulnerability,[...] But why hide? What's so shameful about wanting, about desire, about having failed to achieve satisfaction, about experiencing unhappiness?
I've known times of loneliness even in my younger years, but I'm happy to say my creative time alone is seldom lonely; although there are still intervals of loneliness stemming from social isolation. I do not know if seniors are more prone to loneliness than the younger crowd, but I tend to lean towards the former cohort because of the assumption that seniors have weathered traumas of separation, divorce or death of a loved one - episodes with which young people may not be familiar. Consequently, many seniors must confront the unfamiliar and shocking landscape of living alone.
It's during these times that loneliness can manifest as an acute pain and can often stem from the frustration of mobility issues or more often a result of diminished physical and social contact with other human beings. The late Ross Peters of the Centre on Ageing at the University of Victoria BC shared his input. He said that without disclosing the existence of a magic pill to rid us of the “ L ” disease factors such as friends, neighbours, leisure activities, and research address loneliness in a positive sense. Judging by some lifestyles and the amounts and kinds of substances used to keep from feeling lonely it would seem there's a lot of work to do to "tame the pain". Relentless popular music cries out, “ I can't live without you.” To make matters worse studies associate loneliness with a “ unhealthful connection with money, blown up hopes, and tiresome efforts to keep up with the Joneses.” The other side of this is as Peters suggested when we sensibly respect the value of money seniors who suffer financial hardship and consequently feel more lonely can benefit considerably with some supportive cash allowance.
The notion of work to improve mood states may be suitable for people who would prefer to exercise their creativity in place of just watching television or handling a cell phone.
To begin, I will ask if you could make a choice between turning off your cell phone or your television for five minutes so that you are not distracted in any way. Close your eyes, feel the silence, and then form a picture in your imagination. Let the picture change to other images. With a little practice, you may also do this just before sleeping. By concentrating on the present moment including your surroundings rather than past or future worries you might begin to feel a pleasant inner stillness. You can go back and turn on the television or cell when you're ready and perhaps make another “choice” tomorrow to experience more silence and stillness. What would you do if you found your movies more interesting to “watch” than those on the television? If you enjoyed this activity over time, note how your lonely feelings have changed.©
*Update on my June 2012 article.
ResourcesInstitute on Aging & Lifelong Health
Affluenza in American Society