We are all on a journey. During the journey we pick up a few friends, lose a family member, get married, stay single, have children . . . Our journeys are just a little different for each of us. But, one of the common threads that winds its way through the lives of single women raising children, is loneliness.
You might not be lonely right now, but you probably remember a time when you were and you may experience those feelings again. One of the best ways to leave them behind is to be prepared before they happen!
Loneliness is worse when you’re in a relationship that should fill that need but it doesn’t. Loneliness seems just a bit easier when you really are alone. There’s a certain poetry to life and loneliness is just one of the stanzas.
So, before the next bout happens on your journey, let’s get ready to squash it!
Loneliness is a feeling and not a fact.
We all have feelings. We also have control over our feelings. It may not feel that way. In fact, sometimes it probably feels like quite the opposite – our feelings control us!
But, the reality is that feelings are not alive. They are a function of our thoughts and control our actions which predict the results we experience in life.
Let’s back that up just a bit and start from the beginning.
Thoughts create feelings.
Feelings drive actions.
Actions predict results.
YOU control your thoughts.
Therefore – you also control your feelings.
Try this experiment. Think of a person in your life you love and are not angry with at this time. Close your eyes and picture that person in your mind.
Now, open your eyes and pretend to be mad at them. Speak out loud about how they treated you badly the last time you were together. Tell yourself that they have lied to you for years about how they feel. Say things like, “I am so mad at XXX right now! She had no business putting her nose in my business!”
Talk out loud like this for about 4 -5 minutes. Don’t say these things in your head. Neurologically, it will be easier to demonstrate this concept if your brain ‘hears’ the words coming out of your mouth.
Be real about what you are saying. Don’t just give this exercise lip service.
After 5 minutes, check in with how you’re feeling about this person. The likelihood is that you are mad and may not know exactly why!
Feelings are generated by our thoughts and are NOT FACT.
This means that . . . you can change how you feel when you change how you think!
In order to change what you’re thinking you’ll want to do something very simple. In fact, it’s so simple that you might overlook it thinking that it isn’t important.
Don’t confuse simple with unimportant or easy.
1. Take inventory of your life.
It’s simple to do, but when you’re feeling bad it can be difficult. Although there may be quite a lot of things in your life that are going RIGHT, when you feel bad it’s hard to remember what they are or acknowledge the importance they have in your life.
This is exactly one of those times when your gratitude journal will make all the difference in how you feel when you go to bed tonight. This is exactly the time to take out your journal and read the entries for the past week or two.
But, don’t just skim the page and mutter to yourself . . . “Well, I know all these things. I wrote them!”
Instead, read each entry and take the time to visualize what it was that you were grateful for that day. If it was the smile on your daughter’s face, then visualize that smile. If it was the joy in your son’s eyes, then visualize that joy. If it was your car starting without a problem, then hear the car’s engine purring. If it was the sun shining after 2 days of rain, then remember how it looked and felt.
What you think will determine how you feel.
2. Reach out to a good friend.
Loneliness and sadness can be debilitating. It can cover us with a dark cloud that feels impossible to get out from under.
It’s almost as if all the responsibilities in life come crashing down on our shoulders, without anyone to share them with. It can be overwhelming – and it makes the loneliness even worse.
Suddenly we aren’t just lonely because we want someone in our lives, but we are lonely because we also want a shoulder to lean on.
Your friends can’t take the place of a life partner, but they can help to ease the burden of what you’re feeling. Loneliness can take us down a long, dark tunnel in which other feelings of being an outcast, unworthy, unlovable and a host of other “un” words live.
Share your feelings with your friends and ask them to help you out of your funk. You don’t want to wallow in your loneliness – you want out!
3. Keep track of what you’re thinking.
It’s a great habit to write down 2 or 3 things that you are grateful for each day. The journal is helpful in troubled times in your life and it helps you to track your journey through life.
Another habit that will help you steer clear of loneliness and sadness is to keep track of your thoughts and what you think throughout the day.
Each time you find yourself thinking that you are lonely, don’t have the benefits in life that others do or other negative thoughts – replace it with a positive thought.
It is almost impossible to just stop thinking about something. If you were told to stop thinking about a purple elephant, you’d be thinking about the purple elephant.
But if you were told to think about a yellow tiger each time you started thinking about a purple elephant, you’d be much more successful.
Our brain can replace a thought with another thought, but it’s much more difficult to just stop thinking about something.
Choose a positive thought that makes you smile and then when you start thinking something negative, replace it with that positive thought. It might be about a past event or situation, it could be your favorite place to sit and think . . . it doesn’t really matter what it is, as long as it is positive.
4. Focus on something or someone outside of yourself.
One of the greatest gifts we have in life is to give ourselves to others. When you’re lonely you’d like that person to be your partner. However, you can still give the gift of your special presence to others and receive even more in return.
Being a single mom usually means you do not have oodles of spare time each day. You might wonder how in the world you could spend one more minute doing something for one more person.
The idea is to step outside of who you are as a mother, and into who you are as a single PERSON.
Try doing something inside of a time you already have scheduled. For instance, you may go to church every Sunday morning. Consider doing volunteer work at the church during service. The children are already in Sunday School and you have a free hour to serve in the coffee ministry or at the information desk, helping and talking with other adults.
Or, you and the children might bake a batch of cookies once a week and take them to different neighbors you don’t know. Everyone enjoys a surprise plate of cookies and you’ll meet more people than you might expect!
Take the children to a nursing home close by and read to the residents. You’ll be doing something for someone else, and teaching your children the gift of giving themselves to others.
There is no one answer to getting rid of loneliness in life. However, there are multiple answers – which is even better. Be prepared before you feel overwhelmed. Practice the four steps outlined above and the likelihood is that you won’t be facing the challenge of loneliness anytime in the near future.