Feb 5, 2020
By: Dr. Julia Becker for Waco Today
Valentine’s Day is a chance to celebrate love and connection. This day celebrates not only romantic love, but all the connections in life that bring us joy, meaning, and contentment.
Research shows that our connections with others profoundly impact our happiness, productivity and physical health. A holiday dedicated to celebrating relationships also shines a spotlight on relationship concerns and dissatisfaction.
Many people express feeling lonely in general, and these feelings are often intensified on Valentine’s Day.
In an era of increased social connection, why is loneliness such a problem? Although lonely people may have many friendships, acquaintances and large online social networks, the quality of these interactions is often lacking. These interactions may be superficial, creating a longing for something deeper and more meaningful.
As we spend more time communicating with friends and family online, this leaves less time for in-person communication. Furthermore, in-person interactions may become more superficial as we begin to expect the type of quick, efficient and convenient interactions that occur online.
Loneliness is a state of mind, rather than simply the act of being alone.
Loneliness is an emotion that may occur when you are alone or when you are with others. Simply being alone is not enough to create a feeling of loneliness. In fact, it’s healthy to enjoy spending regular time alone.
You may feel lonely as you talk online to several people at once. You may also feel lonely while socializing at parties, work gatherings and family events.
The feeling of loneliness comes from feeling disconnected, not understood, or not valued. It is therefore possible to have many friends, coworkers or family members in your life and still feel lonely.
First work on understanding your lonely feelings.
To conquer loneliness, first recognize and name the emotion. Take some time to explore what is behind your feeling of loneliness.
This may involve noticing when the loneliness occurs, what situations or thoughts contribute to feeling lonely, and which relationships most often lead to feeling lonely. TOP ARTICLES1/5READ MOREState authorities arrest Waco man onchild porn charges
Try to suspend judgment of your feelings. This might include being aware of your beliefs about what you “should” feel, and then working to keep these thoughts from clouding your understanding of your emotions.
Refrain from escaping from lonely feelings.
When loneliness lurks around the corner, it can be tempting to dive into social media or stay busy with work and social activities. However, these types of escape behaviors often lead to shallower and less meaningful connections, trapping you in a state of loneliness.
To overcome loneliness, it’s essential that you become comfortable with sometimes being alone. Acceptance of alone time reinforces that you are valuable, with or without somebody present to affirm your value.
Alone time also allows you the opportunity to reflect, recharge and make decisions about what types of connections you will pursue.
The opposite of loneliness is connection.
Combating loneliness involves finding ways to strengthen social connections. Think about a time you felt connected and fulfilled in your relationships. What types of connections did you have? What did you like about your friendships, and what allowed you to feel supported and loved during that time? How might you form similar connections now?
Connection is more than common ground.
Perhaps you and your friends have similar interests, career paths or backgrounds. Sounds like a perfect match, right? Maybe not.
Having so much in common sometimes keeps relationships superficial. When you have common ground, you may remain focused primarily on the common ground. You may even fail to recognize that the other person has different beliefs and perspectives, and therefore conversations do not explore these differences.
Forming friendships with dissimilar people will force you out of your comfort zone in your conversations. You may have to work harder to find common ground, but the result will likely be a richer and deeper connection.
Relationships are such an important part of our mental and physical well-being. As we prepare for Valentine’s Day, I encourage you to look beyond the chocolate hearts and greeting cards. Take some time to assess your level of fulfillment and connection in your most important relationships.