The Great Difference between Lonely and Alone


The majority of stereotypes surrounding the lives of single people typically fall into one category: loneliness. For some reason, we often assume that those who haven’t been lucky in finding that special someone so far suffer from unbearable loneliness all the time. But actually, there’s a huge difference between alone and lonely. Let’s figure it out and see what one can do to deal with the feeling of loneliness if it suddenly kicks in.

doesn't mean I'm lonely when i'm alone

Lonely vs. alone: what's the difference?

What it means to be “alone”

You can define “alone” as “having nobody with you at the moment.” So basically, this means that you’re all by yourself, and there’s no one around. You’re alone in the bathroom, having a shower before work or in the garage, washing your car. It’s not that the word “alone,” in this case, has negative or positive tones to it. It just describes you having no company at the moment. If “alone” is a state of being, then “lonely” is a state of mind. Sure, when you’re all alone, you inevitably begin dwelling upon things you don’t have, but at the same time, you get a chance to finally discover something about yourself, something you couldn’t notice because your thoughts were occupied by someone else. To be alone means to take the time to think about what you expect from the person you’ll have by your side next time because you want to make sure you do everything you can to never encounter loneliness again. Being alone is more like sitting in a chair, reading your favorite book and hoping no one will interrupt you. You do everything by yourself and, most importantly, for yourself, as well. “It doesn't mean I'm lonely when I'm alone,” you might say, and that would be true.

Sure, there are moments when alone and lonely cross paths. It’s those moments that you’re waiting in line to get a coffee and notice a sweet-looking couple across the road. They’re so happy that they basically radiate positive energy, and for a second, you remember the times when you were just like them. For that second, you feel that something’s aching down your chest, but this feeling quickly passes.

The time you spend alone may empower you and refill you with strength and self-confidence. If you succumb to loneliness, you’ll waste a priceless chance to become better as a person. Find company in yourself!

What does it mean to be “lonely,” then?

The definition of lonely is “feeling unhappy because you’re alone and have no friends.” Compared to being alone physically, this word describes your emotional state, adding bright negative vibes. If you’re feeling lonely, this means that the fact that you’re by yourself makes you sad. Having no one to interact with is uncomfortable to you. That’s the key difference between alone and lonely. This dull feeling never goes away and keeps following you non-stop. Regardless of how active or busy you are at the moment, you can’t shake it off. Usually, the feeling of loneliness is especially strong when people lose a person who used to make their life more colorful. It never comes along, bringing a whole bunch of other “exciting” side effects with it, including, insomnia, painful memories, and confusion. Loneliness deprives you of the brightest aspects of your life, making you constantly feel their absence. You can’t help but keep asking why? Why does life can’t just give you a break? Why are you so unlucky?

how to not feel lonely when aloneLoneliness leaves you with a bottomless hole deep inside which you can’t fill no matter what you do. Loneliness is what makes you rethink the decisions you’ve made and the words you’ve said at nights. It’s what makes the songs you used to love so much sound horrible.

Do lonely and alone relate to each other?

So, does alone always lead to lonely? Not at all. Some people can be alone but never lonely. Actually, some consciously chose to be alone. They have nothing against the “me, myself, and I” kind of company and quickly get tired of others disturbing them. Do you have to be alone to feel lonely? Again, no. For example, there may be no emotional connection between you and your partner, so you don’t even have common things to talk about. In this case, you may feel lonely despite spending most of your free time with them.

Dealing with loneliness – why it can be so difficult

Coping with loneliness can be a tough task because you’re dealing with a complex issue. But it needs to be done to bring your life back to normal. Here’s what makes your fight against loneliness hard.

Loneliness often combines various emotions

The main problem is that we might feel lonely but simply can’t describe what’s going on in our minds. Usually, it’s a mix of depression, anxiety, and hopelessness, but you may also come across sadness, anger, grief, uncertainty, and so on. There can be two or more emotions at the same time, and all of them fuel each other. Because of this, you might feel lonely but not alone. It may seem to you that the future holds no purpose for you whatsoever.

Our brain makes us avoid the feeling of loneliness

Often, we choose to ignore the feeling that poisons us, but unfortunately, this strategy doesn’t work in the long run and does more harm than good, leading you to a vicious circle which complicates the situation. We spend the first few days of the week to forget about the painful feeling of loneliness that catches up with us on weekends. And on Thursdays and Fridays, we realize that the terror will return on Saturday. The weekend is spoiled again. And it never stops. Instead of getting rid of loneliness, we make things worse with our behavior. And as the problem gets uglier, it requires more time and effort to solve it and figure out how to live alone and not be lonely.

What else makes loneliness tough to overcome?

There are a few more things you should know about loneliness to boost your chances to get rid of it once and for all.

Loneliness never goes away forever. You should accept this, but it doesn’t mean that you’ll give up and become a victim of your mind. Fighting loneliness will lead to a better understanding of the problem. Each step will make you less scared of feeling lonely, which is your ultimate goal. Soon, you’ll be prepared to face loneliness next time it crawls back into your life.

There will be times when you’ll want to wallow in hopelessness, pitying yourself. We all have such moments from time to time. This will pass, but during those periods, you’ll probably have no strength to deal with loneliness.

Loneliness will definitely make you feel disheartened, but this doesn’t mean that you should give up. The only way to break that vicious circle and learn how to not be lonely when alone is to keep going.

Loneliness makes you think that you’re a black sheep, but it’s not like that. Calling yourself a loser for no reason isn’t a good idea. And never forget that you’re not the only one feeling lonely.

When you begin curing your loneliness and or at least make it disappear for some time, you’ll feel worse at first because you’ll face reality, and it’s always painful.

How to accept loneliness

If there’s a rating of social stigmas, the first place in it would go to the one about loneliness. A lot of people are afraid of admitting that they’re lonely. They prefer to stay tight-lipped about their problem because of the fear that people will judge them. This makes it even harder to cope with loneliness. As long as you keep judging yourself for feeling lonely, you’ll never find enough strength to take actions. And then you’ll start judging yourself for doing nothing to accept loneliness and defeat it.

Here’s the general idea: if you don’t have any friends, something’s probably not right with you. And with mass media describing mass murderers as loners, the fear that others will judge you begins to thrive. But we already know that the feeling of loneliness has nothing in common with the number of friends we have. It’s all about our emotional state. Being lonely often means feeling no meaningful connections with others.

How to be alone but not lonely

As mentioned above, loneliness never goes away completely. So the only way to defeat it is to learn how to accept it. The first step is the hardest one.

Stop judging yourself

how to live alone and not be lonelyGiving up self-judgment is a huge accomplishment. You’ll only make things worse blaming yourself. If you don’t have that special someone, it’s totally OK to feel lonely. But there are other reasons, as well. In the modern world, it’s not that easy to establish a strong connection with someone. By accepting that feeling lonely is as natural as feeling hungry, you’ll get closer to solving your problem. Loneliness has little to do with social skills. When we feel lonely, we rarely think about going outside and interacting with people. It’s the last thing you want to do when you’re depressed and isolated.

Start practicing compassion

Sympathize yourself. Remember that loneliness is familiar to all of us and affects every person one way or another. Sometimes, you may be feeling lonely when you're not alone. It’s a part of human life. Imagine a friend telling you that they’re lonely. How would you answer? What would you say? Try to show empathy for yourself. Allow yourself to turn to other people for help. There’s nothing shameful about loneliness: sooner or later, all people encounter this feeling, so you shouldn’t be upset about it. Show some understanding to yourself and express sympathy to those who are lonely.

Deal with your shyness

Remember that people don’t get communication skills from birth. They’re developed, and that’s why they’re called skills and not superpowers. Often, shyness and self-doubt are the results of incorrect attitudes or the fear of communication. Here’s how to not feel lonely when alone: keep in mind that in order to please people, you don’t need to be perfect. If you feel insecure, try to look around to distract from thoughts and feelings. Focus your attention on the other person and listen to them, not yourself. Remember that there’s nothing wrong in making mistakes when communicating. People pay attention to them much less than you think. Most often, people are so passionate about themselves and their fears that they simply have no time to pay attention to the insecurity of others.

Ask yourself what you’re missing in life

Loneliness will help you understand what you lack in life and what you want. You can be surrounded by people and lead an active lifestyle but feel lonely at the same time. Loneliness is sometimes not a lack of social contacts but a lack of deep emotional connections. Ponder what you’d like to get from life.

Keep track of moments when you’re lonely. Perhaps the worst of all is when you’re at a busy event or at home. Think about what can weaken the feeling of loneliness. Maybe you could take a friend to an event, and when you are lonely at home, call your sister or watch a movie. Think of possible solutions to your alone vs. lonely problem (but don’t assume that you need a partner to get rid of it).

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