Helping ourselves through tough times is an act of service we don’t always feel like performing…
But it’s necessary. Today’s post is part three of 5 Best Practices When Feeling Lonely, Isolated, or Alone. In case you’ve missed the previous posts, I’ll recap here quickly.
Part one shared Practice 1: Allowing for our feelings (read it here).
Part two, shared Practice 2: Moving your body, & Practice 3: Positive eating habits (read it here).
This post has Practice 4: Mind Management, & Practice 5: Connection.
As I said before, the 5 practices are not in any specific order.
Let’s get to number four:
4. Mind Management.
THIS. IS. A. BIG. ONE. That’s not to rank it top, each of the five practices is as integral as the other. Our mind function is undeniably impacted by exercise and nutrition, which affects and is affected by the way we feel. That said,
If we think we’re doing well, we’re going to feel like we are. So, it’s on us to take control and do all we can to help our mind out.
For context, loneliness occurred for me as I spend most of my time alone during the day. On weekends my daughter is with her dad. What works for me may not work for you because what we each think of as ‘doing ok’ is subjective. That said, the strategies used during my months of loneliness are relatively universal. So let’s dive in.
4.1. Life doesn’t need to be ok for me to be OK
One of the first steps to managing the mind is to let go of the belief that you can only feel content when the world is as you prefer. For most of us, life does not look like we want it to right now, so how do we sell ourselves the idea that we don’t need it to be? How do we get our overwhelmed minds to pipe down and be ok with this current reality? We instruct the brain.
The brain creates our mind and controls the body. So when we instruct the brain, we take care of the mind and the body.
Hack the brain, create the mind
To refer to my personal journey, in the absence of life looking like I wanted it to, I had to entertain an idea I didn’t want to. My intimate relationships had always been the linchpin in my life so I had to entertain the idea that it was possible to be single and feel okay with my life. That felt like an EPIC ask. Seriously. Most days I wasn’t even sure if it was possible for me personally, BUT I did it.
ACTION: Having acknowledged the way you feel (read part 1), you can decide to let go of the need to have life a certain way in order for you to be ok. Entertain the possibility that it could look another way and you be just as happy.
We step into a new reality when we stop giving energy to what we have no control over and direct it towards a life we CAN create.
4.2. Cultivate a new reality
Becoming OK with a new reality often takes time, we’re creatures of habit after all. One of the most challenging things I found was steering myself in ways I didn’t really want to be steered. Part of me was game, but then another part still felt like I was going through the motions.
I was curious though, that if I did it long enough, it might produce a new reality? I told myself that looking after my body with diet and exercise, a commitment to personal development and later, helping others, was the new priority.
ACTION: What do you need your brain to get behind as being most important to you in this new reality. What habits do you need to cultivate to get yourself to believe it?
4.3. Chalk Up Personal Success
A degree of routine or certainty to our day suits most of us, most of the time. This pandemic has meant lots of uncertainty. The brain thrives with direction so engineering as much certainty or direction as you can is key.
Some of us are currently working from home (with or without kids in the mix) and have little ‘extra’ time. Others are not working and have too much time alone. The absence of purpose often makes it hard to motivate to do even the smallest of tasks you know you could be doing.
Regardless of your lot right now, deciding ‘this matters, this is what I’m doing’ goes a long way towards creating a framework for your days.
ACTION: Get as many of your senses involved in cultivating your daily habits. Did the thing? Tick it off a habit tracker sheet or create any mini "YES" moment. This lets you know: 'I'm doing something good here', I need to do this again. Rinse & repeat.
4.4. Be Deliberate about Doing and Being
Doing the do can feel good but we also need to feel fulfilled. Identifying tasks for your day that give you a sense of both achievement and fulfillment is a great mind-hack.
Easy tasks like sorting, cleaning, chores, or executing the workout may not be top of your fun-list but are achievements all the same. They need doing, you make them happen – cue the dopamine hit!
Things that fulfill our being are those that give the exhale of deep satisfaction or joy.
Finally, the last (and short) point of my 5 Best Practices When Feeling Lonely, Isolated, or Alone: CONNECTION!
To consider why connection is so important for us, I believe it’s because of the deeper feelings it elicits.
Even if we don’t realise it or think we don’t need it, we want to belong. We want to feel we fit somewhere and that ultimately, there’s a point to our being here.
Through family, work, and various social networks, for the most part, we evolve with this need automatically met. Some of us enjoy being connected to a lot of people, others prefer fewer people. Both are good.
With the plug pulled on life as we knew it, our connection balance has been majorly tipped. Our regular points of contact are severely restricted and some of us are completely alone.
The good news, particularly at a time like this, is that there are multiple ways we can feel connected. The genius of social media and video calls has connected us in ways that would make it unthinkable without. We can also experience connectedness in nature, through moving our bodies, faith, prayer, music, books, and films.
If you’re alone (by yourself) or feeling lonely (you can feel this even when surrounded by others), then taking the time to do engage in practices that will connect you are vital.
In closing, a note on mental health…
From personal experience, I know all too well that there are some days you wake up and those saber-tooth tigers are at the bottom of the bed. From the minute you open your eyes you’re on high-alert with a sense of ‘everything is not ok’.
You can do all the things you know to do to keep yourself buoyant and still feel you’re fighting a losing battle. It’s a scary thing feeling unsure of whether you can get yourself back or not. If you know you’re coming undone on a deeper, more cellular level and you feel your body is leading your mind to worry rather than the other way round, please get whatever help you need
I’ll leave you with one last recommendation, a light, and insightful read. BELONG by Radha Agrawal is an enjoyable book that explores our inner workings as humans in easy-to-understand sketches and words.