But there are downsides as well. Independent living can also mean being lonely, not having anyone to talk to, and having to make all decisions by yourself. For some, this can also mean being afraid, feeling isolated, and maybe even hating the silence enough to keep the radio or TV on all the time.
Signs of Lonely Living
There is a difference between being alone and being lonely. Although living independently and alone is usually a good thing, being lonely is not. Loneliness is an emotional response to being alone. You might be alone and be relieved that you can finally have a few quiet minutes to think or to get something done. That’s easy to handle.
But if you are experiencing a feeling of isolation, of not being connected to anyone else, physically or emotionally, you will feel lonely, even if you are in the middle of dozens of people. There might be people talking to you or doing something with you, but if you don’t feel connected to them you will feel lonely.
Reasons for Feeling Lonely
The most common reasons for feelings of loneliness relate to self-concept and self-esteem generally or to a particular event. If you generally feel lonely, this might be tied in with how you see yourself. You may feel that you have no friends and that no one likes you. You might consider yourself shy, and have difficulty finding things to say to people you meet so you stay away from large gatherings of people.
For other people, a feeling of loneliness might be tied in with some particular event, like the loss of a loved family member or pet. Maybe you are really unhappy with where you are living. Your feelings may be so strong that you feel that you have no one will understand what you are going through.
Coping with Loneliness and Independent Living
It takes courage to cope with loneliness, to move out of your comfort zone to different places and people. Start with what you should NOT be doing. Spending time with others feeling just like you will not help. Remember that using drugs and alcohol to take care of loneliness will only make the problem worse. And getting lost in TV soap operas will take your mind off your situation for only a short while.
There are many approaches you can take to deal with loneliness. Remember that what works for someone else will not necessarily work for you. Each one of us has to find our own personal way of coping. Here are some ideas.
• Focus on the present. Do not get stuck in the past. There are opportunities every day of our lives.
• Be yourself and be proud of yourself.
• Learn to enjoy being alone and quiet sometimes.
• Try not to be shy about speaking to a stranger in a line-up somewhere or in the elevator or lobby in your building. Even a simple sentence about the weather is an opening to a conversation. Be prepared with a few ideas.
• Make yourself attend social events or join classes or groups, perhaps right in your own building. Community kitchens are great as you get to take home food.
• Volunteer somewhere. Grocery and clothing programs are often looking for volunteers. Or, perhaps a tenant support worker would like to have you on call to visit newcomers to the building.
• Find a pet. Just don’t take on an animal that you cannot care for properly, especially if you’re not even sure you would like it. Start with a goldfish!
• Fill your apartment with happy music. You could even dance and sing to it!
Finally, be sure to ask for help when you need it. This is not a sign of losing your independence, but rather a positive step in ensuring your success in living by yourself!