The Difference Between Being Alone and Being Lonely

When we talk about states of being, some people are alone, some feel alone, and others feel lonely. While the terms might sound borderline similar, there is a difference between being alone, feeling alone, and feeling lonely. They can exist with each other and one can exist without others too.

In this article, we talk about these three stages of being and how they can impact our lives and wellbeing.

  1. Being alone: Being alone simply means not physically have other people to interact with. It might be a state that causes some people discomfort and to some, it might be solace. When being alone brings people comfort and they can enjoy their own company, real growth happens. Being alone pushes people to understand themselves better, focus better, and grow comfortable in their solitude.

    Being alone is a state where a person tries to spend time with themselves and befriend themselves. It is an opportunity to connect with yourself and understand yourself like you would a new friend. While initially being alone can cause discomfort, getting to know yourself and spending this time alone can help people blossom into self-aware individuals that are in touch with themselves. This awareness can help build better relationships, reduce codependency, and increase self-confidence.

    Being alone is an activity that not only helps people get comfortable with themselves but also helps increase productivity, creativity, and resilience. People can begin practising being alone by starting rituals like meditations, journaling and self-reflection, and picking up a solo fitness activity such as running.

  2. Feeling alone: Now, this is a tricky one. Feeling alone is more often than not a symptom of mental health problems. It is a feeling of emptiness and floating that is often accompanied by depression, anxiety, and other disorders. Feeling alone can feel like forced isolation by the person experiencing aloneness. It often comes with pattern behaviours like pushing people away and physically feeling a hollow in the chest/abdomen area. Sometimes feeling alone can be accompanied by physical symptoms such as nausea, increased heart rate, extreme guilt, or anxiety.

    People experiencing aloneness often need help from their loved ones and might sometimes also require professional guidance. Feeling alone for prolonged periods of time should not be ignored. This feeling can often lead to negative coping mechanisms such as addictions, excessive sleeping, binges, and more.

    People struggling with feeling alone can begin by identifying their triggers and reaching out to loved ones for help. It is important to understand that you are not really alone and sometimes your mind can play tricks on you. This feeling of aloneness often comes in waves and it is important to be able to create a support system and plan for when this wave hits.

  3. Being lonely: Finally, loneliness is a feeling where a person feels that their social interactions and life is not fulfilling enough to make them feel like they have people around. While feeling alone is intrinsic, feeling lonely comes from the lack of external socialising based on how introverted or extroverted someone is.

    Feeling lonely can often lead to two different paths. Some people can turn to negative coping mechanisms such as addiction, while others can really embrace their loneliness and find freedom and companionship within themselves. This can lead to a feeling of liberation and fulfilment. While being alone and feeling lonely are quite similar, being alone has to do more with being physically alone and actually not having people around and being lonely has to do more with a mental state of feeling alone.

Eventually, it comes down to being able to rightly identify what you are feeling and seeking the right support when you need it. If you are alone and comfortable with it but would like to switch it up, it might be a good idea to join hobby classes that help you engage with like-minded people. If you are feeling alone, please seek professional help or reach out to someone you trust. Confide in them that you are struggling. Seek help. You are stronger than you think. And if you are feeling lonely, it might be a good idea to connect with people around you and remind yourself that you are not really alone.

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