Loneliness is a complex emotion. All people experience loneliness uniquely – because it can be sparked by a variety of causes and feel differently for everyone, loneliness can sometimes be challenging to identify.
Sometimes people mistake loneliness with other complex emotions. For example, some people have a difficult time being alone. The idea of spending time alone is challenging for them; when they find themselves in a situation where they’ll be alone with themselves and their own thoughts, they immediately crave the company of another person. This is often mistaken for loneliness, though it is quite different.
Why are some people not comfortable being alone with themselves or their own thoughts?
There are a variety of reasons why a person may not enjoy spending alone time with themselves. Past trauma, anxiety, and personalities are all factors that can cause someone to feel incredibly uncomfortable when they aren’t in an environment with other people.
For example, an extremely extroverted person may thrive in environments where they get to interact with others – if they have the chance to eat lunch with a friend or spend time in a group, they’ll choose those opportunities over spending those times alone. If a person experienced significant trauma, they may not feel comfortable spending time away from others because they feel safer in a group or partnered setting.
Why is not being okay with being alone not the same as loneliness?
Loneliness spurs from a period of time without interaction with other people. When a person suffers from loneliness, it’s often due to a major life change that’s affected their regular routines or relationships. When this type of loneliness continues without cessation, it’s referred to as chronic loneliness
A person who feels lonely often struggles to overcome this emotion even in circumstances where they are surrounded by other people. A person experiencing true loneliness will still feel lonely even when they’re surrounded by other people. For example, it’s possible to still feel lonely when you’re at a house party with a hundred other people. These emotions affect the way the lonely person forms relationships, interacts with others, and feels about their connections with people.
While not wanting to be alone is similar in some ways, there are major contrasts that make it different from true loneliness. When a person doesn’t want to be alone, they don’t struggle to form and maintain relationships with new people. In fact, these folks likely have lots of good relationships with friends, family members, and other people they prefer to spend time with rather than being alone. These people may think they’re feeling lonely, but truthfully, they are only distressed over the idea of being alone.
How can someone get more comfortable with spending time alone?
There are benefits to enjoying some alone time. When you can spend some one-on-one time with yourself, you have an opportunity to relax – spending time with other people can be a draining experience! Learning to get comfortable with being alone can take practice, but it is possible to develop this skill.
For example, to get yourself more acquainted with alone time, you can:
- Spend your alone time engaged in a new hobby or skill you want to learn.
- Spend your alone time watching a new TV show or reading a new book.
- Spend your alone time getting some exercise and enjoying movement.
- Spend your alone time in nature to enjoy the great outdoors.
- Spend your alone time treating yourself to some enjoyable self care, such as a relaxing hot bath or an afternoon nap.