Lonely vs Alone

Girl sitting on a swing at sunset with an empty swing beside her
Photo: © Antonio Guillem / 123RF Stock Photo

Do any of these experiences ring a bell?

  • Being at a party but feeling disconnected from everyone?
  • Talking to a friend but wishing you were by yourself?
  • Feeling a sense of emptiness or deficit in life?
  • Craving to call a friend and just talk your heart out?

And what about these?

  • Reading a book in silence and feeling accomplished?
  • Smiling while thinking of an old friend who’s far away?
  • Sitting at the beach and realizing how beautiful life is?
  • Studying alone and feeling a sense of fulfilment?

Feeling disconnected may be a sign of loneliness, as is evident in the top 4 examples. On the other hand, one can be by oneself (solitary) and yet feel accomplished and content as is seen in the bottom 4 situations. How and why then do we drop into these negative zones of solitude and at other times crave for this personal space that we use for introspection and self-growth?

A point of view

Loneliness and aloneness are often conflated. The dictionary itself describes loneliness as a state of sadness because one has no friends or company. As if something is missing from life, a sense of incompleteness and inadequacy based on an inability to build relationships with people. Many think that being solitary accounts to being lonely and the unwritten rule says that one must surround oneself with friends, classmates, co-workers, family, cousins or acquaintances; or even choose to be in a public place to assure that there are people around. Particularly at a young age, being by oneself may be considered by fellow teenagers as less cool, detached, isolated, aloof or even dejected, abandoned or even depressed. This negative perception can lead to all of the above negative emotional outcomes while a positive insight can arouse optimistic consequences.

Here’s what solitary time can enhance for you:

  • Self-awareness
  • Productivity
  • Creativity
  • Mindfulness
  • Attentiveness
  • Problem solving
  • Memory.

The true and real alone feeling is defined as a moment of self-reflection where one is thinking nothing, feeling nothing, doing nothing; and hence has an opportunity to reflect on oneself; to reappraise, readjust and regulate one’s life.

Rebooting hardware

Loneliness is usually a negative perception whereas aloneness is a positive choice we can use to our advantage. The true and real alone feeling is defined as a moment of self-reflection where one is thinking nothing, feeling nothing, doing nothing; and hence has an opportunity to reflect on oneself; to reappraise, readjust and regulate one’s life. Often we are stuck in the rut of things and we don’t find the time to stand and stare within, to reboot what may have been dysfunctional. The alone time directs your energy inwards and allows for this self-analysis. It rather is a mandatory state we all should allow ourselves to be in.

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Dr Shefali Batra

Dr Shefali Batra

Founder at MindFrames
Dr Shefali Batra, Psychiatrist and Cognitive Therapist, is the Founder of Mindframes and Co-founder of InnerHour. She is available at shefali@theinnerhour.com. Read more at mindframes.co.in and theinnerhour.com
Dr Shefali Batra

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Dr Shefali Batra

Dr Shefali Batra, Psychiatrist and Cognitive Therapist, is the Founder of Mindframes and Co-founder of InnerHour. She is available at shefali@theinnerhour.com. Read more at mindframes.co.in and theinnerhour.com