There are many benefits of meditation for loneliness.
Recently, I’ve been suffering with feelings of being alone in the world, feelings of isolation, disconnection, and friendlessness, as many people have.
Statistically, there is a very good chance that you know what loneliness feels like. According to research published by International Psychogeriatrics, three-quarters of people experience moderate to high levels of loneliness [source]. So ironically, we are not alone in being alone. The study also showed that both men and women are equally likely to be affected by loneliness.
Thankfully, we can use meditation for loneliness. Meditation is the simple act of focusing on one thing in the present moment. It is a simple but powerful exercise that can have a profound effect on loneliness.
What are loneliness and meditation?
It is quite shocking what loneliness does to a person. Loneliness can cause anxiety, depression, anti-social behaviour and feelings of worthlessness. Loneliness is associated with a 50% in mortality rate from any cause. It is a serious health problem. The reason why is that loneliness causes inflammation and inhibits the immune system, largely because of stress. As former Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy says, “We evolved to be social creatures. Thousands of years ago, if you were connected to other people, you were more likely to have a stable food supply and to be protected from predators.”
The funny thing is, many people don’t truly understand what loneliness is. There is a difference between loneliness and being alone (aloneness).
Loneliness is a mental state that is marked by a dissociation between what people want in a relationship and what they actually experience in that relationship, according to research published in Cambridge University Press.
There are a couple of important points that you will want to note here. Firstly, it is a “state of mind”. In other words, loneliness is not caused by actually being alone. Some people have very many friends and a close family but feel alone anyway. And some people have no one but do not experience the mental state of loneliness. When we use a meditation for loneliness we recognise the nature of this emotional condition.
It is the mental state that matters, not the actual reality of being alone. And secondly, it is based on what we want from a relationship, in other words: Desire.
As you can see, loneliness is a condition that is entirely based on your mind. It is a mind-set created by the difference between what you think your relationships should be and what they actually are. This is crucial, because it means that your mental state is everything to this condition. It is based on emotion.
Meditation is the simple practice of focusing the mind on the present moment, often by observing the breath.
There is a direct link between meditation and loneliness. Meditation gives us the power to observe the emotion calmly and mindfully, which reduces our reactivity to it. So if you have ever wondered how to let go of loneliness, by which I mean to let go of loneliness the feeling rather than the actual state of not being with other people, then meditation will certainly help.
Effect Of Meditation On Loneliness
Part of the reason meditation helps with loneliness is because it helps us overcome the emotion and to improve our mood.
Let me illustrate this with an exercise.
Let’s take a quick mindful moment right now.
Take a few deep breaths mindfully. Do it now. Now become aware of the feeling of loneliness. Notice that it is an emotion. It is a feeling. It is not actually being alone. It is a feeling in your mind. That’s what loneliness is.
Can you see it in your mind right now? That energy? That sensation of isolation? Just notice how it is a feeling. This is important because you need to understand that loneliness is not the condition of actually being alone in the world. It is the emotion.
Some people are all alone but who do not have that feeling of being alone. They don’t mind the fact that they don’t have that many friends or close family. They are happy alone. And this is important. Because although having friends and family is great, we should not be dependent on them for happiness. Yes, we can be happy to have people in our lives, but we can also be happy on our own. Just because we are alone does not mean we have to feel lonely.
Because loneliness is an emotion, we can reduce the feeling with meditation, just as meditation can reduce other negative feelings.
Some of my students ask me what Buddha said about loneliness. There aren’t any direct quotes using the word, but you can certainly interpret Buddha’s thoughts about loneliness. Buddha taught that the idea of a separate self is a delusion, in which case we are always connected to others and never truly alone. Plus, Buddha taught to observe the states of the mind, of which loneliness is one, so certainly he would have advised monks to meditate on the sensation of loneliness and see it as what it is in the present moment. I wonder if monks get lonely… but perhaps they are too enlightened to be influenced by that emotion.
Here I would like to share my first meditation for loneliness.
In a moment, I will share some techniques that will actually help you not to be alone. They will help you to feel more connected to other people and to gain new friends and even potential romantic partners if you’re lonely in love.
First of all, however, I want to share a meditation to stop feeling lonely. This method is all about the sensation of loneliness and being okay on your own.
Try this meditation for loneliness.
- Firstly, if you are new to meditation, read my beginners guide to getting started with mindfulness.
- To begin, find a quiet place where you can sit without being disturbed. Sit comfortably with good posture and simply breathe for a few moments.
- Become aware of the process of breathing. Let your breath flow in through your nose and go deep into your abdomen. In other words: do diaphragmatic breathing.
- Take 25 breaths mindfully, just being aware of your breath moving through your body. This will induce your relaxation response and quieten your mind.
- Now, notice how there are various thoughts and feelings in your mind. Observe these. Do not judge them as “good” or “bad”. Do not fight them. Do not cling to them. Just let them come and go as they will, while you observe them.
- Now notice that one of the feelings that exists in your mind is the feeling of loneliness. Can you sense this feeling inside you? Observe it. Notice how it feels. Don’t let yourself sink into it. Don’t be affected by it. Just observe it.
- Now remind yourself that it is just a feeling. Nothing more. The feeling of loneliness is just an emotion. It isn’t a “real thing”. It is simply a mental state.
- Notice how at times that feeling of loneliness comes and goes. Like a wave on the shore, sometimes it comes up close, and other times it fades into the distance. Notice its undulating state. Notice how when it comes, it also goes. This is normal and natural. Emotions come and go, but we tend to dwell on them. Do not dwell. Instead, let the feeling come, observe it coming, and then let it go and observe it going. This will teach you to be less reactive to the feeling of loneliness.
- Now recite the mantra, “This is just a feeling, nothing more”. Recite this 108 times while meditating. This will train your mind to understand that loneliness is just a feeling, an emotion. It doesn’t reflect you. It doesn’t mean anything. It is just an emotion.
- Be aware that if you cry during this meditation, it is perfectly okay.
What this meditation for loneliness will do for you
With this exercise, we have gained an understanding of the emotion behind loneliness.
Conquering this emotion can have a profound effect on our well being and our happiness [READ: Meditation Techniques For Happiness].
Loneliness causes us to feel disconnected, unsupported, purposeless and trapped. And because of this, it can have serious effects on our mental health. But the meditation above will help you to stop being so affected by the emotion, and this will reduce the symptoms of loneliness.
Some of the mental health effects of loneliness include [source]:
- Depression [READ: Best Meditation For Depression]
- Cardiovascular disease and stroke
- Increased stress levels
- Decreased memory and learning
- Antisocial behaviour
- Poor decision-making
- Alcoholism and drug abuse
- The progression of Alzheimer’s disease
- Altered brain function
Meditation can help with many of these problems. The exercise we looked at above will reduce your reaction to the feeling of loneliness, and this can dramatically improve your health.
It will also help you stop being alone. Part of the reason people are alone is that they feel lonely. The emotional condition of loneliness creates the external reality of being alone. The emotion convinces us that we do not have anyone, and perhaps that other people do not want to be around us. This causes us to dissociate from other people, becoming ever more lonely.
By meditating on loneliness, the emotion, we can stop being affected by the feeling, and this will, in turn, help us to connect to other people.
As well as using the exercise above, we can also use meditations to stop being alone, to connect with people, make friends and to stop being alone in love.
More Meditations For Loneliness:
As well as the exercise above, there are other techniques we can use to help with the various aspects of loneliness. For instance, there are meditations to stop being alone and to make friends. There are methods to feel more connected to people.
Use This Exercise To Make Friends And Lovers
Although loneliness is technically an emotion, it is connected to our real-world relationship to other people. If you are lonely, you are likely seeking more or better friends, and perhaps romance [READ: How To Attract Love].
Thankfully, there are techniques you can use for both those things.
If you want to use meditation for loneliness to make more friends and perhaps get dates, I highly recommend the Buddhist meditation called Metta, which also goes by the name “Loving Kindness Meditation”.
This is a method that is all about giving and receiving warm feelings. This can have a profound effect on the the feeling of isolation and can help us to feel more connected to other people and to have a better social life. It helps with loneliness because it makes us feel the love and kindness of other people in our lives. And it is backed by science.
Researching the neuroscience of loneliness, the University of Chicago discovered that a lonely brain constantly scans the environment looking for social threats. If you’re lonely, your mind is hunting for hostility. And naturally this is not going to help you overcome loneliness. Indeed, this is why attempting to socialize more won’t solve the problem because when you socialise you’re looking at everyone as a threat. However, this is also the great thing about using Loving Kindness Meditation for loneliness. It trains the mind to look for signs of friendliness, not hostility.
lt from feeling a lack of warmth from other people. We are lonely because we don’t feel other people in our lives. But we can change that. Read my guide to Loving Kindness Meditation to find out how.
Use This Exercise To Improve Social Confidence
One of the most common causes of loneliness is lack of self worth, especially if it causes social anxiety.
Simply put, when we do not feel worthy of the friendship and love of other people, we will not receive it.
This is entirely caused by the way the mind processes beliefs. Essentially, the human mind is always looking for evidence to prove that its own beliefs are correct. That’s why if you believe you do not deserve company, you will continually look for evidence to support that belief. This is also how people can feel alone even when they have a lot of friends. If they themselves do not believe they are worthy of friendship, they will think that their friends are not genuine and are not truly there for them.
This is essentially a problem with self worth. And what it comes down to is this: If you believe you are worthy of love, friendship and company, you will get it. It’s that simple.
Developing self worth, however, can be a challenge. If, for instance, you were brought up for years to feel worthless, it is not very easy to simply snap your fingers and feel better about things. It can take serious effort to overcome such a deeply ingrained negative belief.
One of the ways you can overcome any negative belief that surrounds your loneliness is through cognitive behavioral therapy. This technique has been shown to have a positive effect on loneliness [source].
What is important to remember about loneliness is that it is a mental state. Too often, we focus simply on the reality of literally being alone. But in fact this is not the root of the problem. We know this because many people actually are alone but are still happy in life.
The problem is an emotional one. The feeling of loneliness is the issue. The feeling. Because not only does this feeling cause the emotional pain associated with the problem, it also causes us to dissociate from other people, which is the root cause of actually being alone.
Meditation can help. We can use meditation to stop the feeling of loneliness. And we can use meditation to replace loneliness with more positive emotions, such as the feeling of being connected to others, and the feeling of having love and support.
The meditations for loneliness that we have looked at on this page will help you to take control of the underlying emotional problem, and this, in turn, will help you to stop being alone and to improve your relationships with other people.
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