Being Alone vs Being Lonely

My wife is going to conference out of state for a week. This means that I will spend a fair amount of this week at home by myself. Even if I find ways to fill my days, this best case scenario still leads to nights alone. But I don’t foresee being lonely.

I have spent a deal of my life by myself. I know this sounds crazy from the second of five children, but hear me out. For a large portion of my childhood, I had interests that kept me by myself. Between playing in the woods behind my house to building with LEGO blocks in the basement, I was always doing things my siblings didn’t want to do.

College led to similar situations. Even when sharing close quarters with roommates, I was often doing my own thing. I never shared a room with someone I shared classes with nor with someone who had similar hobbies. So again, often by myself.

The important lesson I learned is that there is a difference between being alone and being lonely. This difference is important to understand. Being lonely is a sad state, where one longs for something else. It can develop into something worse, like depression. Loneliness is generally to be avoided.

Being alone is not the same. There can be great benefit to being alone. It gives time to decompress, let off steam and stress. It is equally important to give yourself time for contemplation and self-reflection. These moments can be some of the best of the day, allowing for greater appreciation of the other moments in the day.

Too often we rush from activity to activity, from one group to another. From work to friends to family, always in a social interaction, always being part of something larger than ourselves. Sometimes, a little time by yourself can make all the difference.

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