counseling, forgiveness, loneliness, lonely, psychology, relationshipadvice, relationships, resentment, self-help

Loneliness: Do You Ever Feel Lonely?

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What do you believe makes us happiest and most content in life?

Some people might say money and success. Accomplishments and material possessions. Fame and fortune.

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Research shows this is not true. True joy and fulfillment comes from good relationships and feeling connected.

Loneliness is at the opposite end of the spectrum.

Loneliness is an emotional state we have when we feel disconnected. Our need for connection is ingrained in our DNA. Loneliness is a signal that something is not right. 

People have a fundamental need for inclusion, to be part of social circles, and for close relationships. We function best when our social needs are being met.

As someone who works in mental health, feeling lonely is a common experience that people report to me. I always ask clients if they feel lonely during our initial session. Nine times out of ten the answer is YES. I truly believe loneliness in our country is on the rise and may be the next public health crisis (if it isn’t already).

If you haven’t suffered from it, I guarantee you someone in your life has.

In this technological age, people are feeling more disconnected than ever from their fellow man.The feeling of loneliness or being detached from others is not just a human emotion; it is a complex emotional response to a multitude of factors.

Loneliness a universal human emotion that is both complex and unique to each individual. Because it has no single common cause, the prevention and treatment of this potentially damaging state of mind can vary greatly.

Loneliness represents a fundamental discrepancy between the relationships we have and the relationships we want.

Loneliness is a serious issue, as it can lead to despair and depression. It is often an emotion experienced by people who end up committing suicide. In my humble opinion, if I had to pick one thing that is key to living a happy life,  I’d say: strong, close bonds with other people.

The hardest times in my life have been overcome by the close bonds I have with my family and friends. The happiest times of my life have been THAT much more joyful because I was surrounded by the very same people. Connecting with others is a strong psychological need and is fundamental to our well-being.

Research shows loneliness can be more deadly than smoking or obesity. It can lead to a whole host of physical ailments. Loneliness does not harm just the mind but the body. Emotional pain lights up the same part of our brain as physical pain. An insult can feel just as painful as getting your hand slammed in the door.

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When someone says you broke my heart it is not just an expression. Emotional pain hurts. LONELINESS IS PAINFUL.

Loneliness is a state of mind. It is distinct from being alone which is a choice. Many people love to be alone–some people say they find solace in solitude, do their best work in solitude. Being alone is not synonymous with being lonely. We can be surrounded by people yet still feel quite lonely.

Loneliness is a silent killer. It is an epidemic. People, at alarming rates, are reporting being lonely. I think the nature of relationships has changed in the last couple decades and we have failed to adapt. We live in this “always on” society. We are always connected digitally but failing to connect emotionally.

The lack of empathy in our society is alarming. Many people unless forced to empathize will unfortunately simply not do it. Most likely because being empathetic requires being vulnerable. Being vulnerable opens us up to being hurt and judged. Therefore, for many being vulnerable is too great a risk to their emotional and psychological well-being.

Yet the cost of this lack of vulnerability and empathy…is loneliness.

The reality is we need to be able to connect and empathize with others to be truly happy and fulfilled. We need to expand our capacity for kindness and compassion to overcome said loneliness.

One key — maybe the key — to happiness is strong connections to other people.

What are some signs you may be lonely?

~Irregular sleep: sleeping too much, too little, or struggling with falling asleep

~Low-grade, chronic anger and feelings of resentment

~Change is eating: eating too much or too little

~Being addicted to your phone

~You get sick frequently–every cold, every virus

~Shopping alot

~You spend time with other lonely people

~You are constantly tired

~You feel depressed

~You are drinking more or self-medicating in one form or another

~Taking long showers

~You blow things out of proportion

If you read the aforementioned, and you are thinking, “Yes, I AM lonely — so now what can I do to change it?”

1.Help others — teaching, volunteering, caring for children, aging parents, or animals — all helps to mitigate loneliness. These are also suggestions I give my clients suffering from depression–to try to shift your focus from self to serving others in some capacity. It can do wonders for many common mental health ailments. Helping others can also alleviate feelings of loneliness. Prioritize and ritualize connecting with others.

2.Try to figure out what’s missing from your life. Do you have close friends? Are you close with certain family members? I am talking about genuine closeness where you talk about feelings and emotions, not just physical closeness. Are you and your partner communicating outside of the superficial?  Do you feel you contribute to the world and society? Do you have something outside of yourself you derive meaning from? Think long and hard about what you feel is missing from your life. The more clearly you understand what’s missing, the more clearly you’ll see possible solutions.

3.Be positive and open-minded. Are you struggling with negative emotions? Negative emotions like judgement, anger, envy, ultra-competitiveness, jealousy, guilt, resentment are all are warning signs something needs to change in your life. These emotions also hinder your ability to connect with others. People can pick up on your negativity and will steer clear. Loneliness in and of itself can make people feel more critical, jealous, judgemental, and negative. If you recognize that your loneliness may be affecting you in this manner, you can take steps to counter it. Counseling might be a great place to start the journey to overcoming your negative emotions and feelings of loneliness.

4.Ask yourself, “How am I relating to others?” Are you communicating to others you are a safe, trustworthy person to connect with? Are you judgemental and negative? Are you respectful of differences? Are you open to building close bonds with others or do you feel other people are not to be trusted? Do you look at other people as kind and warm or selfish and cold? How you view others is an important part of this process. Do you do your part in reaching out to others? Are you scared to put yourself out there? Take time to reflect on your self-defeating thoughts. Remember we all eventually reap what we sow in our relationships.

5.Learn to be at ease with yourself. Accept yourself. The good,the bad, and the ugly. Stop running from your perceived faults and shortcomings. Some people spend their whole life in non-acceptance of their whole self. If you live your life this way, you will inevitably feel lonely. You will not be at ease in your own skin. If you cannot accept all of you, it will lead you to feel you NEED others. Loneliness will follow suit.

6.Check your ego at the door. The ego always lead you to feel lonely. Do you find you feel superior to others? Or inferior to others? Two sides of the same coin both of which will ensure loneliness. When we feel lonely, we tend to blame external factors including other people. The best way to stop feeling lonely in your life and relationships is to examine your thoughts and world view. Is your ego in the driver’s seat? An out of control ego coincides with feeling “separate” from others and life itself. The very nature of the ego is separation. Our ego drives us to be very isolated. In order to be connected with need to be seen, heard, and valued. In order to feel this way, we need to be capable of making OTHERS feel seen, heard, and valued. It is a two-way street. If your ego is in the driver’s seat, you will almost certainly struggle with loneliness for as long as that is the case, you will not be capable of truly seeing, hearing, and valuing others.

I truly believe we can change this trend in loneliness. But first we need to figure out a way to address this growing empathy gap in our society.

Try asking someone how they are doing. Be brave and put yourself out there. But remember people can only meet you as deeply as they meet themselves.

No matter who you are, you’ve probably experienced the depths of loneliness at some point in your life. If you are feeling lonely, remember, this too shall pass. If you are willing to do your part. It’s no wonder that loneliness can be an unhappy feeling, because most people enjoy other people’s company, and feeling connected with those who are important in our lives. Addressing your loneliness could be the key to unleashing your healthy mind.

I believe with a little ingenuity we can all have the relationships we want and need.

To schedule a counseling session with me (AND if you are a reader who lives in New Jersey):

https://anewcounselingservices.com/erin-theodorou%2Cm-ed-%2C-lpc

Anew Counseling Services LLC

617 Oradell Avenue, Suite 3, Oradell, New Jersey, 07649

(551) 795-3822
etheodorou@anewcounselingservices.com

 

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counseling, psychology, self-help

The Psychology of Envy

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Do you find it hard to be happy for the success of others?

Do you gossip about people?

Do you feel extremely competitive with others?

Do you find yourself becoming more and more judgmental of other people?

Do you find yourself comparing yourself to other people on the daily?

Do you find yourself undermining other people’s relationships?

Do you feel happy when you see someone fail?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may be struggling with the emotion of envy.

Envy is one of the seven deadly sins and it can be very destructive to your life and your relationships.

Bertrand Russell said, “Beggars do not envy millionaires, though of course they will envy other beggars who are more successful.”

We tend to direct our envy at the people who orbit our social stratosphere–friends, family members, neighbors, colleagues. The reason for this is these are the people we frequently interact with. These are the people we can “realistically” use as a measuring stick to gauge ourselves against.

Most of us would not compare ourselves to Bill Gates but we may use our friend or coworker as a way to gauge our success because we feel we are on a similar playing field.

We cannot experience envy if we are not comparing ourselves to others.

Envy is an emotion we feel when we engage in the social comparison game. Whoever you are envying you believe you are in competition with–yet there are no winners to be had in this game. People who struggle with envy tend to be people who frequently compare themselves to others.

When you compare yourself to another and come up short, you are likely to feel envious.

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Envy is an emotion we all feel from time to time.

It is an emotion that unfolds in a predictable fashion. First, we must face a person with a superior achievement, quality, or possession. Second, we must want whatever this person possesses for ourselves, OR wish that the other person didn’t have it. Finally, we must be disturbed by the emotion we experience when we are in the company of this person.

These type of experiences are available to us on the daily.

Maybe we see a neighbor get a new luxury automobile and look at the ten-year old car sitting in our driveway with feelings of envy.

Maybe a friend gets a new promotion and makes more money then we will ever be able to make in our field and feelings of envy arise.

Maybe our sister travels frequently and often. We can’t afford it and don’t have the luxury of taking time off of work. We begin to feel envious of her.

Any of those scenarios may feel familiar to you.

Unfortunately, the emotion of envy runs rampant in our modern-day society.

With social media, we all get a peek into the lives of others (or at least of the facade they like to present to the world).

Envy is the pain we experience from being confronted by the advantages of others. It causes us to feel anger, disappointment, and resentment.

These emotions turn us against others–and ourselves. Envy truly is a green-eyed MONSTER.

If someone is envious of you, it is not a compliment. They likely hate your guts.

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Envy is a secretive emotion. Very rarely will you hear someone admit they are envious of someone. To neutralize feelings of envy, the envious person is likely to continually denigrate the target of their envy to anyone who will listen. This works to simultaneously diminish the target of their envy and elevate themselves in comparison.

Envying someone can become an obsession. An unhealthy obsession.

It is a cheap, easy way to give ourselves a boost to our self-esteem–by destroying the goodness we see in others.

It does not matter what the metric you may be using to compare–money, looks, youth, intellect.  You can always find someone worse off than you are IF you are looking for that.

But you will also find someone better than you if you are looking for it.

The reality is there is ALWAYS someone younger, in better shape, better looking, with a better career, more money, better behaved kids, or whatever it is you use as your measuring stick.

Envy is a short-sighted approach to life. We lose sight of the bigger picture.

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For instance, we may envy our friend, who is a doctor–a person with a prestigious career, nice house, luxury car, who travels to exotic places…. BUT we do not envy what it took to get her there: the hundreds of thousands of dollars of student loan debt, the stress of her job, the debt from starting a practice, the cost of malpractice insurance, the years upon years of schooling and residency. We often look at the end result and not all the work or the numerous sacrifices that went into achieving it.

Oftentimes we envy people for things we don’t even WANT for ourselves if we were given the opportunity. Perhaps we are envious of the doctor yet we hate science and math. We would never want to go to medical school and study all the material that is required to BE a doctor. We wouldn’t want to have touch other people’s bodies or be around sick people. Thus we are envying someone who does something for a living we don’t even enjoy nor have a desire to do.

Personally, I could never envy a doctor because I would never want to do what is required to become a doctor.  I would not be willing to be a Bio or Chem major in college. I don’t enjoy the sciences OR math. Would never want to take the MCATS. Or go to medical school. Have to SEE blood. Touch body parts that have not seen the light of day in years. Or deal with insurance companies/HMOs. Or tell someone they are dying from an illness. The list can go on and on for all the things doctors deal with in their profession that I would not be want to do.

When you feel envious, you are often looking at an idealized version of someone else’s life. Not the reality of their day-to-day life.

 

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What should you do if you find yourself struggling with the emotion of envy?

1)Use envy to motivate yourself. Look at whoever or whatever it is you are envious of. What do they have that you want? Use envy to help you figure out your goals, desires, and values. Do you feel envy when you see a friend’s never-ending travel pics on Instagram? Maybe you have an untapped desire to travel and see the world. Feeling envious when you see a friend in a bikini pic? Maybe it is time to look at your own diet and workout routine. It may be time to work on creating the physique of your dreams. If used appropriately, envy can be a compass guiding us towards things we want in our OWN life.

2)Practice self-compassion. Whatever you feel, don’t be so hard on yourself. Envy tends to arise in someone with a critical spirit–towards others AND themselves. Don’t fight against whatever it is you are feeling but try to engage in these emotions in a positive way. Envy leads to poor decision-making. All emotions, including the uncomfortable ones, are teaching us something about ourselves. We tend to be hard on ourselves for feeling the normal range of human emotions. It is okay to feel envious. However, it is not healthy to act out on these feelings towards others.

3)Start a gratitude practice. Often I have clients start a daily gratitude journal. Envy is counting other people’s blessings instead of being appreciative of our own.  Gratitude helps us focus on all the positive things in our life. Practicing gratitude helps people to be more satisfied with their own life and less focused on others.

4)Reflect on what you feel is missing in your life. If you are feeling envious towards your friend, what is it you feel is missing from your own life? Envy tends to arise from having low-self esteem and feeling unfulfilled. Spend some time reflecting on your goals, desires, and dreams. Is there something in your life that is making you feel dissatisfied? Make a realistic game plan to work towards achieving all that you want out of your life. If you are busy working towards your own goals, you won’t have much time to spend feeling envious of others.

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5)Understand your own capabilities. If you are jealous of a singer or athlete, ask yourself if you have the capabilities to achieve what they achieved on that level. I cannot be envious of someone who sings or is an incredible athlete because I am not capable of either.  I am a 100% okay with that because I accept those are gifts I do not have. I find it is more productive to focus on the strengths I do have and build on those. We all have different aptitudes and potentialities.

6)Ask yourself if you really want what someone else has. Are you envious of someone who makes big bucks working in the financial sector but you are risk averse and HATE numbers? This go back to looking at the reality of the life of someone you are envious of. Are you a working mom who when you son gets sick starts to wish you were a stay-at-home mom? Yet when you were on maternity leave you were dying to get back to work because you missed it? We fall into feelings of envy when we forget about the compromises involved in our choices. The compromise we ALL have made in our choices.

Perhaps you have days you wish you could be home with your kids but you enjoy the professional fulfillment of your career and being independent is an important value to you-financial and otherwise. You wouldn’t be happy being financially dependent on someone else or without the ability to use your education and skills. Your kids are also already in school so you wouldn’t be home with them most of the day anyway.

Therefore your envy of a stay at home mom is not what you really want if you were to weigh the pros and cons. You are solely focused on the benefits and not the big picture of what that choice means giving up. This is a common dilemma I hear from women especially as it relates to balancing one’s career with being a parent. Don’t fall victim to the grass is always greener syndrome.

7)Be cognizant of the negativity envy brings to your life. Envy damages and destroys relationships. It creates unhealthy competition. It leads to negative feelings about yourself AND others.

Envious people think life is a zero sum game. They view another person’s win as their own loss. This comes from a scarcity mindset.

Indulging feelings of envy is a road to unhappiness. Have you ever met an envious person who did not seem miserable? Unlikely.

Feelings of envy are likely to lessen as you mature and as you learn to be realistic of your potentialities and accept your limitations.

Try not to worry about what others have.

At the end of the day, we all have our OWN race to run. Comparing yourself to others is a race your will NEVER will and all it will do is SLOW you down on your way to achieving your goals.

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