As part of humanity, we all experience loneliness occasionally. I know I have. When I was first divorced in 2000 and found myself spending major holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas alone for the first time, I didn’t know what to do with myself. I remember the first time I set up my own little Christmas tree in my first apartment at 43 and lifted ornaments from a box with my children’s pictures from years gone by, I cried. My daughter was wayward by that time, and my son was living with his father and his father’s mother – the perfect storm.
I turned on myself.
Thoughts of what did I do to deserve this, and I just wasn’t good enough to keep things together, danced their dirty dance in my brain. They taunted me. They poured fuel on the fire of self-blame and disgust.
The sense of loneliness was almost overwhelming, and I wanted to throw a lavish pity party complete with party favors crafted to look like guilt and shame. But I found that I was the only one attending and it was no fun at all.
Loneliness is more than just the absence of company; it’s a complex emotional state that can have detrimental effects on our physical and mental health. Whether our feelings of loneliness stem from retirement, an empty nest, divorce, death of family and/or friends, or simply overwhelming feelings of isolation and feeling invisible, the impact of loneliness can wreak havoc in a variety of ways.
I’m here to tell you that you can triumph over loneliness! Sometimes it involves winning an internal fight, sometimes it’s sweeping out the cobwebs of resentment, and sometimes it’s a gentle movement of emotions.
I look back on my early days of aloneness, wondering why I allowed myself to wallow instead of taking intentional action. What I do now during holidays or other trigger times is engage in “happy place” activities like cooking 5-star meals for myself and actively involve myself in things that bring me joy like going to the gym or reading my favorite personal development books, or binge watching The Office, Andy Griffith, or I Love Lucy.
These are my happy places, and I’m guessing you have activities that move you into your happy place, too. Perhaps it’s being out in your garden tending to your plants or vegetables. Or maybe you love to go for long nature walks or paint or create something on an online platform like Canva.
Embracing community involvement can be a powerful antidote to loneliness. We can explore local clubs for women over 60 or engage in volunteer opportunities where we can connect with like-minded individuals. This not only provides a chance to make new friends but also fosters a sense of purpose and belonging. We are often the wisdom in the room!
In the digital age, technology offers incredible opportunities for staying connected. Women can join online communities, participate in virtual classes, or engage in video calls with friends and family. Platforms like Zoom and social media can bridge the gap, allowing for meaningful connections irrespective of physical distances.
I’ve enjoyed many Zooms with my Nigerian pastor friend living in the UK, although I must confess that it messes with my ears to hear his Nigerian accent and then he’ll include his grown children who have very pronounced British accents. I love that in today’s digital climate we can literally talk and “see” people from around the globe.
Conversely, we may need a time-out from technology. After all, we are bombarded by tweets, buzzes, dings, and dongs on our phone. It may seem counterintuitive to cut yourself off from the online world when you’re experiencing loneliness, but quiet nature walks or finding a swinging park bench to swing like a kid while you collect your thoughts can be wildly helpful in connecting you to Someone larger than yourself.
Nothing combats loneliness like exploring new hobbies and interests with others who like those same things. Sites like meetup.com and eventbrite.com or even nextdoor.com provide opportunities to explore events for people with mutual interests. Engaging in activities that bring joy not only fills time but also opens avenues to meet new people. Whether it’s learning a musical instrument, joining a book club, or taking up a creative pursuit, these endeavors can be fulfilling and socially enriching.
Quality over quantity is essential when combating loneliness. It’s emotionally healthy for women over 60 to invest time and energy in nurturing existing relationships and building new, meaningful connections. This could involve reaching out to old friends, attending social events, reunions, or participating in group activities that align with personal interests.
By adopting these five approaches, you can create a fulfilling and enriching life that you love. Finding your happy place, joining community groups, embracing technology, exploring new hobbies, and cultivating meaningful relationships are powerful tools to gain the upper hand on loneliness.
In what ways have you personally experienced loneliness, and what approaches have you found effective in combating it? Reflecting on your relationships, how have you cultivated meaningful connections, and what advice would you give to others seeking to do the same?