Some people live alone and feel lonely. Some people live with others and feel lonely. Some have social interaction but still feel lonely. Loneliness is a risk factor for cognitive decline. So, what is loneliness all about?
It is sometimes described as the feeling we get when our need for rewarding social contact and relationships is not met.
Two great books on the subject are Brené Brown’s Braving the Wilderness and Vivek Murthy’s book Connection.
Also, listen to this podcast on Spotify https://open.spotify.com/episode/5k83Zo3xagECvKANgmcRTl where the two authors are talking about loneliness and connection.
Sometimes we feel lonely when are main group of ‘friends’ don’t really get who you are and what is important for you. Also, maybe you don’t know. Discovering your purpose is a journey. When you live your life with purpose it’s not so easy to feel lonely.
Of course, if you are experiencing grief from the loss of someone close to you, that journey through grief must happen. A ‘must see’ film is Griefwalker, about the work of Harvard-trained theologian Stephen Jenkinson, who teaches that death empowers us to live and that we must know grief well in order to appreciate our own lives. Many may find Jenkinson’s belief that our deaths are not something to be denied or avoided but ‘befriended’ as challenging; he points out that not every culture fears death as we do, which is so often a driving force behind our suffering.
But how do you find your purpose if you’re not sure what it is? Here are two good exercises:
Exercise: finding your purpose 1
1 Sit comfortably in a quiet place. Recollect how you felt at the age of ten. What gave you your sense of purpose then?
2 What was your sense of purpose at ages 15, 20, 26 and 35? Write down whatever comes to mind without too much deliberation, making a list of different purposes you’ve been aware of at different times in your life.
3 Now, ask yourself, ‘What gives me a sense of purpose now?’ Write down as many of your current purposes as you can.
4 Now, become still, perhaps by doing a meditative practice, or just focussing on your breath, and ask your innate wisdom, your higher intelligence, ‘What is my true purpose?’ Offer this question without ‘thinking’ the answer, and write down, without censorship, whatever comes to your mind, starting with the words, ‘My purpose in life is …’
Exercise: finding your purpose 2
Another way to become clearer on your purpose is to answer these questions:
1 What do you love to do or enjoy doing?
2 What makes you feel good? What gives you a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment?
3 What are you good at?
4 We all have certain gifts or talents. For some it’s the ability to listen; for others it’s having a clear mind. What are some of your gifts?
5 What is needed now in the world, in your community or your family?
6 How can you use your gifts to help or to serve?
When you contemplate these questions, and put the answers together, you will find some powerful insights into your own purpose and, with that, more of an understanding as to how you need to change your life to feel socially rewarded and not isolated, which is the key to unlocking feelings of loneliness.