Thanks to the current digital age, we constantly find ourselves in the depressing folds of silence. Chandrika R Krishnan offers some helpful suggestions to ward off the doleful feeling.
The silence of the house that enveloped me during my not-so-recent illness brought home the truth of the huge malaise of our present day society – loneliness. I realised that though my state was temporary, there are many out there who seem to be living in this constant state of ennui, waiting for something exciting to happen. Quite a few are even dragged into this cesspool of loneliness, which ultimately leads to depression. As Mother Theresa put it, “Loneliness is the leprosy of the modern world.” The plague of loneliness seems to be pervading everywhere. We seem to be alone, despite being among many.
The causes for loneliness can be innumerable. First, the empty nest syndrome compounded by the breakdown of the joint family. Second, an increasing number of women are choosing to remain unmarried and suddenly find themselves lonely once they set foot into middle age and this syndrome is further aggravated with the niggling health issues that growing older entails. Moreover, work-related movement in search of newer pastures adds to the problem. As does lateral growth within the workplace.
Reasons for solitude
Dr Vishnu Vardhan, associate professor, department of psychiatry, Rajarajeswari Medical College and Hospital, Bengaluru, opines, “Though loneliness is a concept entailing an individual, it could be better understood in the background of global issues like breakdown of our traditional joint family system, impact of migration from villages to cities or foreign countries, popularly known as empty nest syndrome.”
But what if there is no nest? Do we feel lonely then or do only married people feel lonely? An unmarried colleague confides, “I feel like a teenage kid who is no more a child and not yet an adult. Sometimes, I feel a misfit in my family because all of them are busy in their own world. I have outgrown my old school and college friends and it is difficult to recreate the magic that you once shared with them. You are no more a part of their world and they, not yours!”
So, is marriage the only solution to ward off loneliness? No, definitely not. Being lonely in a marriage is far worse than being alone. Imagine being married to a person with whom you share no emotional connect. Even the physical connect starts wearing off after a while.
Yes, loneliness is one of the realities of today’s extremely commercial world. It is indeed an irony that even in a world dominated by television, phones, emails, Facebook and Twitter, we could feel so utterly alone. People are busy like never before and somewhere, we have lost touch with our fellow beings.
Hollywood celebrity Drew Barrymore once said in an interview, “There’s a tremendous difference between alone and lonely. You could be lonely in a group of people. I like being alone. I like eating by myself. I go home at night and just watch a movie or hang out with my dog. So, I have to exert myself and say, ‘Oh God, I’ve got to see my friends because I am too content being by myself.’” It’s true. Solitude is one amazing space to be in. The funniest thing is that the person who can make you happy is also the person who can make you feel miserable. The key is to like the person you are alone with – which is yourself.
Beating the blues
Beware, loneliness can lead to poor mental health and increase in other health-related problems. It is of paramount importance to learn some techniques to ward off this feeling.
The key here is to stop being judgemental and be more acceptable of other people. Most of the time, we do not invest in relationships. We hardly give a chance to others and even ourselves. Apart from cultivating lots of patience, one must understand that it takes acertain give and take to make anything work and you need to learn to give yourself wholly to everything that you do. We do so many things to ward off any future financial crisis, but we forget to deposit credible amounts in our happiness account.
We need to remember that there would be a time when we need to keep ourselves occupied and not depend on others to keep us entertained. We need to learn and find some ‘me-time’ right from the beginning, so that we are better equipped to handle the situation when we have all the ‘me-time’ in the world. Reading, painting, sewing and gardening are some of the hobbies that one can cultivate. And no, watching TV is not a healthy hobby and needs to be curtailed as it makes us live in a make-believe world.
If you aren’t a big fan of commercial entertainment, you can learn the art of giving. It is said that people who have learnt this fine art are considered to be much more happier with being alone than those who hoard. Practise giving time to underprivileged people; it’s an effective way to ward off loneliness. Teaching, counselling and reading are all ways to give back to the society that has been kind on you. For those really bad lonely moments, I always rely on the tactic of counting my blessings. Yes, counting your blessings and being suitably thankful makes one happy. They create a happy environment and this in turn, makes one feel more positive about life.
Many vouch for the power of spirituality in beating the blues. The meditative feeling of bien-être (well-being) comes in when we are connected to a superior power or a meditative silence. Ultimately, it boils down to being comfortable in your own skin.
Reserve some time for yourself.
Remember, this is the time when you can think, dream or reflect upon your life and not be bogged down by any distractions.
Loneliness is not the end of the world. There is definitely light at the end of the tunnel; all you have to do is to reach out for it.