This post was written by Leo Babauta, originally for Zen Habits. Republished here with permission.
Sometimes we all get lonely. You might be so used to having people around you to the point that being by yourself becomes strange, quiet, empty. And this feeling of emptiness can be frightening. Here’s what to do when you’re lonely.
What to Do When You’re Lonely
Sometimes it’s nice to spend time alone, but for many people, it’s a depressing thing. We can run to junk food and mindless distractions and sometimes even destructive behaviors, just to comfort ourselves and hide from the fear of being alone.
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I’ve been exploring this feeling of loneliness, and I recommend that exploration for others who feel alone sometimes (or much of the time). It’s enlightening.
We run from the feeling of loneliness and try to fill the emptiness with comfort, and that’s a very human thing to do. We want comfort, and we don’t want to confront the distressing feelings we might have.
But try turning toward these bad feelings. There’s a lot to be learned there. Opening yourself up to the feeling of loneliness, allowing yourself to really feel it and see it … this is where growth can happen. This is where you can learn about yourself, and what it’s like to feel pain, and how to cope with it.
Turn inward and feel the pain. Where is it in your body? What kind of sensation is it? What is the quality of this sensation, the intensity of it, and does it change? Be curious about it. I’ve found that it isn’t as bad as I think, once I allow myself to look at it.
Turn inward and see what else is there: a sense of curiosity, a sense of wanting intimacy, a desire to be a good person, a better person, a sense of being flawed. See everything that’s there, really look.
And what you see is the divine. You are filled with wonder.
This cannot be seen when we are with others and our lives are filled with busy-ness and noise and distraction. This can only be seen when we are alone, and there is space to notice, and we allow ourselves to look.
Once you learn to appreciate the wonder inside of you, and find that you are enough, as you are, and that there is happiness right where you are … then you can be OK with being alone. And be much more content alone, or with others.
Once you find this, then find people in a running club or a yoga class or something like that, and be interested in them. Because this wonder is inside of them too, if you allow yourself to look.