To be alone can be a lonely time. It can also be an opportunity.
With lockdowns, firebreaks and circuit breakers becoming a potential outlook for the future of the world it has raised significant worries for mental health professionals and the human need to be part of a group. Many mental health campaigns are fighting for those who are struggling while being on their own and who are feeling lonely. These campaigns can be seen on most social media platforms, news outlets and posters.
As humans have evolved, they have learnt to rely on each other for support, food and protection. There are some researchers who believe that when you are alone, your survival means being on hyper alert always, which is extremely tiring for the human body.
This fight or flight mechanism that is keeping you watching for all possible scenarios that could mean danger, is a great burden to bear for just one person and in the long term, it is believed that the hypervigilance leads to increased cortisol; the stress hormone. This, in turn leads to weakening immune systems, brain cell death and cardiovascular disease. Due to this it is considered important by campaigners to reduce the isolation faced by the nation and campaigns have made headway in grasping the attention of all. With researchers at Brigham Young University finding that loneliness and social isolation can lead to a 50% increase in premature deaths, it is essential to get the support to those facing loneliness.
What many people fail to realise is that there is a distinct difference between being alone and being lonely. To be alone means that there is no one else with you. Many people like solitude and there is considerable research to suggest that it is healthy, strength building and necessary for survival. Loneliness on the other hand, is not only having no one else in the room or house with you but feeling an immense sadness about the situation.
Is it possible that the culture of today considers alone and lonely to be unequivocally united? Mental health campaigns provide knowledge about social isolation, give people the support that they need and bring awareness to the feeling, however, is it possible that they are jumbling up a message that needs to be kept clear to avoid intensifying a belief system that solitude is lonely?
Since the lockdowns have begun there have been many campaigns that stress the importance of being in touch with people. These initiatives are lobbying for the government to stop the lockdowns for the sake of the mental health of those affected.
If the message is indistinct then there is danger of the self-fulfilling prophecy contributing to the idea that people need to be surrounded by people to remain mentally healthy and potentially causing people to focus on what they have not got instead of opportunity.
There are many positives to being alone and research is strong that it is necessary for overall wellbeing and to develop a sense of self. Studies have shown that being able to be alone increases happiness, life satisfaction and stress management. If you can find a way to enjoy it, then less depression too. Further research has shown that children who are raised to be able to do things on their own are better behaved than other children.
There are people who can enjoy being alone, who seek out solitude for their mental health, creativity, productivity and time to think. For example, writers who need quiet and calmness to be able to write will seek out alone time, lock themselves away or book time away in a place where thoughts can flow freely. If each person who did this was also feeling lonely, positive outcomes would not be achieved.
Many Social Scientists state that unaccompanied time allows you to focus on yourself and get to know who you are. Being surrounded by others means that you may put your own thoughts, feelings and beliefs on hold for others. The search for belonging and company can overpower individual strengths and characteristics. Being on your own, without judgement from others allows you to become who you are meant to be, try new things, become more comfortable in your own skin. According to one study, people who are highly intelligent need to be alone and are not satisfied with socializing.
According to several researchers, the fear of being alone is directly linked to self-confidence. In this way, unconfident people tend to rely on others to make decisions for them, ask for advice and support. Being alone allows you to make your own decisions and to see how they work out without the group watching any practice runs. These authors highlight how each challenge overcome single-handedly improves self-esteem and confidence.
Others, who have hectic lives have often become habitual in what they do to get through, they are constantly on high alert. People who struggle with anxiety and depression have so many things that they need to face daily, thus not providing themselves time to think, just be and rest. Opportunities like lockdowns can allow that break required. It can allow rest, recuperation and an eagerness to go freshly into the world once it reopens.
To be alone encourages independence and self-love. There is a magnitude of research that also shows that if you are independent, happy with yourself and understand who you are and what you want from life, your relationships will improve. The following quote from Ronto says it perfectly.