There was Isolation Long Before there was COVID-19!
I was recently asked the question, “How do I stop feeling so lonely in the evenings?” The question really had nothing to do with COVID, it had to do with the fact that this woman had broken up with her boyfriend a couple of months prior and she was struggling. She said she was mostly fine during the day, but when evening set in so did the loneliness. We have so much going on during the day that keeps our minds/bodies occupied and our mood up – work, errands, chores, exercise, outdoor activities, and social gatherings (though not right now, of course). But most people settle in for the evening on a regular basis even if they venture out socially a couple times a week. If you’re used to settling in for the evening with someone else then being by yourself is going to feel lonely. Time should cure this to a certain extent, but here are some things you can do to shake up your routine in the meantime.
Things you can do to occupy your alone time
- Exercise – go to the gym (when it reopens), go for a walk, a bike ride, even put on some high-energy music and dance around your living room. Being active releases endorphins and endorphins make you happy. Just make sure to stop a couple hours before bed. When you’re all hopped up on endorphins there’s no way you’re going to get to sleep. You need to give yourself a couple hours to unwind.
- Read/watch/listen to something inspirational. I spent yesterday afternoon listening to an uplifting podcast and I felt so good afterward! I decided I need to do this more often, especially at the end of the weekend or beginning of the work week when I especially need a boost. Find something that relaxes and uplifts you. Maybe even listen to it while taking a bubble bath! Self-development books are good, too. Just don’t drop them in the tub. J
- Read/watch/listen to something funny. You can’t help but get in a good mood while laughing your ass off! Since the COVID lockdown I’ve refused to watch anything serious or suspenseful on TV. I’m currently bingeing old sitcoms on Netflix and I look forward to them every evening.
- Cook dinner for yourself. A lot of times single people just throw something quick in the microwave because we can get away with it, but cooking can be very cathartic. Meal prep is time- and thought-consuming and you’ll be practicing self-care at the same time. It’s especially good if you have to chop lots of veggies.
- Clean out your basement. Or your garage or your closet or your cabinets. Whatever needs to be weeded out, cleaned and organized, now is the time to do it. You’ll feel like a million bucks for getting it done and you’ll get to smile every time you pass your neatly organized space.
- Start journaling. We all know we’re “supposed to” journal and a lot of us actually take the idea of starting a journal seriously, but not a lot of us actually do it. If journaling isn’t part of your normal, daily routine then fitting it in will seem tough, but if you’ve got time on your hands in the evenings, that’s the perfect time to do it. Start that journey to self-discovery that you’ve been putting off. It will help you to get your thoughts down on paper and will make you feel better about things, maybe even realize that you need to start doing something about them.
- In tandem to journaling, start planning what you want your life to look like. There’s no better time to do this than when you’re not busy and you’ve got extra time on your hands. Think about all the exciting things you want to accomplish, all the places you want to go, all the experiences you want to have. Get them down on paper and then formulate a plan to get each and every one of them. What could be more encouraging or energizing?
- Take up a new hobby. Dig out that canvas and paint you bought three years ago and never did anything with. Unearth those crochet needles and yard from the bottom of that drawer and get going. If you’ve resisted starting these hobbies because you don’t know how, there are a myriad of resources online to help you. Creating something artful not only engages your hands and mind, but allows you to get lost in the creativity of what you’re doing.
- Call someone who you know will cheer you up. We all have those people in our lives who manage to just make everything better. Call one of these people up, or better yet, FaceTime, Skype or Zoom them. If they’re the kind of person that makes people feel better then they’ll be happy to do this for you, too.
- Get out of the house. Kinda tough to do that right now, but if sitting at home alone in the evening has you down, don’t. Go out for drinks, go to a movie, attend a lecture. Do something that interests you and that you find fun. If you can find someone else to do it with you, all the better.
- Give back. Do some volunteer work in the evenings. Non-profits are always looking for volunteers and what could make you feel better than making someone else feel better? Do you love animals? Kids? The elderly? Chances are you’ll be helping someone else with their loneliness while easing your own. It’s a win-win.
Loneliness is all in your head
Giving your mind something to focus on in the evenings rather than the fact that you’re alone is the key to not feeling lonely. If you can invite your body to the party through movement, that’s even better. An active mind and body are a healthy mind and body. Those pesky lonely thoughts are still going to creep in from time to time, but they’re less likely to happen when you’re having a great time doing something!
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