Guest Column

Being alone and being happy about it

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Being lonely sucks.

We all have been there; we crave social and emotional needs but can’t find it, so we feel empty, which makes us feel lost and afraid. Yep, it sucks! What makes loneliness worse is that our society applauds extroverts, which gives shame to people who are alone.

The Covid-19 pandemic has created countless articles talking about how loneliness is at an all-time high, which is understandable and should not be taken lightly, as the effects can lead to depression, suicide, insomnia and social anxiety. According to neuroscientist John Cacioppo, who has made a career out of studying loneliness, “The absence of social connection triggers the same primal alarm bells as hunger, thirst and physical pain.” Put simply, “Humans don’t do well if they’re alone.”

What I find interesting, but not surprising, is researchers are finding that loneliness has little to do with social interaction and more to do with how people see themselves. In other words, just adding people to our lives won’t necessarily take away our loneliness, as loneliness is not quantified by the amount of time we spend alone, but rather by how we feel about the time we are alone. For example, too often, when I am by myself, I choose to be unhappy and not being grateful for the good in my life. Why do I do this? Can someone please tell me? We must get our thoughts right, as loneliness is the battlefield in our mind.

This might be a good time to share an arguably funny quote from an unnamed source that I suggest is spot on, “Loneliness is dangerous. It’s addicting. Once you see how peaceful it is, you don’t want to deal with people.” Yep, our thoughts create our destiny. They are that powerful!

As someone who is single (divorced) and often alone, I can confidently say that I prefer solitude over “noise.” Although I consider myself an introvert, I can be talkative and inquisitive, but I get incredibly exhausted by human contact. Perhaps this is a bit weird for many, but that’s me, warts and all. I crave isolation, as this is where my thoughts and dreams energize me. I often say that secret is in the silence. While reading “Paul: A Man of Grace” and “Grit” by Charles R. Swindoll, I found the author’s comment about the Academy Award-winning actor Tom Hanks, who starred in “Castaway,” remarkably thought-provoking.

“It was one of those films with few words but an enormous amount of emotion. He plays the part of an executive with FedEx, whose fast-paced work took him on flights all over the world. While flying aboard a freight-heavy 747, he experiences the worst of this fears. The plane crashes in the Pacific Ocean not far from a tiny, uninhabited island. He is the lone survivor and he washes ashore bruised and shaken, but thankfully, alive. He will live-totally alone-on that remote piece of land for four years.

The changes that occur within him are slow, but ultimately, extensive. He goes thorough great bouts within himself, struggles too deep for words, and finally learns to live on the bare essentials of island existence. Back home in the States, there’s a burial in his honor and life speeds on without him. How he escapes is fascinating, but the good news is he is picked up by a ship and is, at last, returned safely to the now unfamiliar work of life as it used to be. And he doesn’t fit in at all.

The changes that transpired within him are so radical, so all-consuming, he finds himself a different man — much deeper, much more observing, much less demanding — all because of the lessons learned in solitude, quietness and obscurity.

For those of us that find being alone problematic, allow me to suggest four simple and easy, but life-changing things to do to help break us out of our loneliness. It works for me and I am confident that it could work for you.

  1. Quit complaining: Complaining makes us forget our many blessings. Moreover, nobody likes being around a chronic complainer.
  2. Be grateful for what we have: If we are attached to how things should be, we are going to feel depressed. With depression comes loneliness.
  3. Serve others: Such an easy path to joy and happiness! Altruism is arguably the secret to living a happier, healthier and more meaningful life.
  4. Feed our faith and our loneliness will starve: Silence is a way to know God. We might be single but let’s remember that the Spirit of God lives inside of us, so, we are never alone!

I will allow Henry David Thoreau to give you my closing argument on the notion that we can be alone and be happy about it. “I love to be alone. I never found the companion that was as companionable as solitude.”

Harry Pappas Jr. CFP®

Managing Director-Investments

Master of Science Degree Personal Financial Planning

Certified Estate & Trust Specialist ™

Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™

Pappas Wealth Management Group of Wells Fargo Advisors

818 North Highway A1A, Ste. 200

Ponte Vedra, Florida 32082

904-273-7955

harry.pappas@wellsfargoadvisors.com

The use of the CDFA™ designation does not permit Wells Fargo Advisors or its Financial Advisors to provide legal advice, nor is it meant to imply that the firm or its associates are acting as experts in this field. 

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