Isolation: How To Be Truly Alone When Lonely

I’ve had my share of loneliness over the course of my 47 years on Planet Earth. I’ve felt isolated on more than one occasion, but facing isolation without using the old distraction methods is a whole different ballgame.

Often, we feel lonely because we want something other than what is. We yearn for people, connection, and company, yet we can be in the company of others and still feel isolated and lonely. Isolation for too long leads to depression, especially if we don’t feel we have other outlets in our lives to fill that void that feels empty. Depression occurs when we resist facing the part of ourselves that needs our loving attention, not the attention of others.

Sometimes isolation is forced upon us in some way; maybe we suddenly become sick and are unable to do our usual social activities. Sometimes we move home or get divorced, and all our usual avenues for socialising vanish overnight. And sometimes, like me, we lose people we love to death, and the big, empty space is left where they used to be.

I like my own company, but after 9 months of social isolation, I am finding being alone hard to be with. When you’ve gone from sharing a home with someone and talking to them in person every day, where they have your back, support you when you’re down, laugh with them over life, or get physical affection too, it comes as a huge shock to the system to suddenly be in an empty house, where all the walls have memories and the usual life routines have completely changed. And if the loss comes with other losses, like friends who stepped back, unable to cope with the grief you are feeling, you get a double whammy of isolation and loneliness becoming greater every day.

We’re told by spiritual teachers to focus on what we want, not on what we don’t want, but when we are feeling stuck in isolation, the lack of humanity and emotional connection with other people can feel debilitating at times, and all we feel is pain, sorrow, this deep ache, and longing for more.

And deep down, in this place, we know we don’t want others to fill this void. We don’t want to be rescued from this lonely place because if we can truly learn to be alone without being lonely now, not later, when our world fills up with people, we will come from a far stronger place than many people. Many people would also experience loneliness if they were not filling most of their lives with constant ‘doing’, so many people if their lives changed overnight—they lost their job, their income, their family vanished, their friends vanished, their partner died or disappeared, their pets were not there for comfort, their drug of choice had run out—they too would be feeling lonely. We, however, are here facing it in real time, without distractions, fixes, or ways to push past it or pretend it’s not there.

When Michael passed away in 2023, we had been living together for 20 years. It felt like a blessing and a gift to have such loving company, but I also had long periods of feeling lonely even within that friendship. I longed for a life outside of the relationship too—friends I could laugh and joke with, dance with, and talk to. I experienced all of that when I joined a local group and it was a truly satisfying and fulfilling time for me. Once my close friend Paul passed away from advanced cancer, the group felt different to me, and having to work through all the emotions of loss and then caring for Michael, who was also diagnosed with advanced cancer, left little emotional room for managing and maintaining the connections with that group of people. So rather quickly, my life went from super social to very quiet. I wrote more about this in When The Loss Of Loved Ones Impacts Multiple Aspects Of Life

When Michael died, I needed alone time for months. I felt I couldn’t cope with the world outside and needed to retreat within, like a bear in a cave. It allowed me space to grieve and process a lot of emotions and pain. Nine months on, and I long to come out of my grief cave, but life doesn’t seem to be giving me a lot of opportunities to be social again, so what it has done is highlight how truly alone I am. I have two beautiful friends and people I see from time to time, but generally I’m alone 6-7 days a week. I try to focus on my passions, but at times loneliness weighs heavy and makes it hard to keep that focus. When the heart is heavy with grief or loneliness, we yearn for a little sunshine to shine on us so we can feel that deeper connection with the world again, but I feel sometimes life removes all distractions so we may face the pain we may have been avoiding most of our lives.

Before Michael died, I told him my greatest fear in life was him not being here anymore and being totally alone. Life brought that great fear to me on top of other losses; it has pushed me into facing what is, facing reality as it is, not how I would like it to be, but how it actually is. I know now is not the time to get into a relationship with another man. I am not ready for this at this time, but I can see how easily it could be if the heart ached with loneliness to simply step into a relationship with someone to escape the pain of loneliness. We don’t need to fill the void; we need to know what the void’s message has for us.

What message does the Void have for us?

We could run away from this void. We could go out and fill this void with activity, and there’s nothing wrong with this. People do need people; we need connections, friendships, love, and activities. If you feel you have been fully present with the void and it has given you what you needed to know about yourself and your life, go out and greet the world again. And if you are finding this difficult after a long period of isolation, take small steps. Go for coffee with someone or on your own, find a local group to join, and take up yoga. Even little things that are not super social but get you back into the world can be a great beginning.

However, if you feel you want to understand what the void means to you and want to know how to be alone with what comes up, these ideas may help you.

I’ve written a lot about loneliness and being alone in my blog, and this beautiful video and poem is a wonderful reminder of why learning to be with our aloneness is one of the major gifts of this time of isolation. Watch the video below.

So, first, what is loneliness?

Behavioural symptoms of loneliness by Rubenstein and Shaver (1982)

  1. Sad passivity, which includes crying, sleeping, doing nothing, overeating, taking tranquillizers, and excessive drinking and drug use

  2. Active solitude activities, which involve writing, listening to music, exercising, working on a hobby, studying, and working to avoid loneliness

  3. Spending money through excessive shopping or buying unnecessary items

  4. Social contact by reaching out to friends, engaging in social activities, and doing things to avoid being alone

Research has found a greater intensity and frequency of loneliness among bereaved individuals, and it also plays a key role in levels of depression after someone has lost a partner (Vedder et al., 2021).


  • Doom scrolling: searching social media for something to distract from the emotion of loneliness
  • Playing computer games and going into a virtual world
  • Checking our mobile phone (cell phone) more often than necessary, hoping for a response, email, like, or share on our social media posts. Checking for texts, WhatsApp messages, and Facebook Messenger messages all day long
  • Excessive weed smoking and other drug use
  • Excessive sexual activity with random strangers from dating apps
  • Addiction to porn
  • Overeating
  • Drinking excessive alcohol
  • Spiritual tools or techniques used to avoid intimacy or loneliness (perpetual positive thinking and affirmations, meditation used to ‘escape’ rather than feel – for example)

The list goes on…

The Wisdom of Loneliness

  • We’re uneasy and uncomfortable with our own minds and what we are thinking or feeling.

  • We’ve been looking in the wrong places for genuine, heartfelt connection, friendship, or love.

  • We’ve been avoiding ourselves for a period of time.

  • We can’t fight what we don’t fully feel or understand.

  • There is something in us that needs more than we have been giving it. This could be love, attention, greater self-care, therapy, exercise, or nourishing self-comfort.

How to Be Alone Instead of Lonely

First, radically accept the loneliness.

  1. Perhaps you feel you have spent a long time being alone and lonely, so you have accepted the loneliness, but if you feel sad, despairing, frustrated, bored, or depressed by being alone, you’ve more than likely been avoiding accepting the loneliness and being alone. You may have been pushing against it and wanting to get rid of it instead of fully embracing the part of you that feels lonely and scared of being alone.

  2. Often, those of us who are afraid to be alone for long periods of time or feel lonely a lot are also afraid of intimacy. Some people reframe the word intimacy to be INTO-ME-SEE. Intimacy isn’t having a partner and giving and receiving affection or having sexual relations; intimacy is being at one with ourselves, knowing who we are deeply inside, and by doing so, we can then be open to seeing others as they are. When we are able to do this, we are fully present with our whole selves, and the world becomes a part of who we are. Those relationships and friendships we have then become a part of who we are; the significant ‘other’ becomes us, so how they feel and are matters to us more as we matter more to ourselves.

  3. Are you ready to look at why you are feeling lonely? Look at your beliefs about yourself and life, your behaviours and patterns you may be carrying that don’t belong to you but others who programmed you from childhood. It takes time to really be this intimate with yourself.

  4. When you feel you have accepted the loneliness and discovered why you feel lonely, you can then learn to be alone in a more wholesome way, so any activity comes out of a more rooted existence and relationship to yourself instead of an avoidance of looking within.

Activities for a more loving ALONE-TIME

Here are some examples of ways to be alone after you have made peace with loneliness.

  • If you have a lack of people in your life and would like more friends, start doing activities that are powerful reflections of what being a friend would mean to you. If friends would mean spending quality time with someone, being present with that person, being heard, being seen, being hugged, and doing creative or fun things together, start doing these alone. Go on play dates with you. If you were doing something with a friend, what would you like to do? Go for coffee? Go to a cafe. When you meet the barista serving your coffee, be present with them, listen to them, and give them your undivided attention. Appreciate them and ask them how they are doing. You will be amazed at how surprised people are who work in the service industry when people genuinely care about their wellbeing. This way, you are being the friend you want in your life.

  • As the video above shared, go for walks in nature and befriend the world around you. Go to the cinema, take yourself out for lunch, dance at home or with strangers at a club or a class. This is all about becoming the friend you want.

  • Gift yourself when you do something that scares you; celebrate your small achievements.

  • Listen to what your needs are; respect and honour your needs. If you need rest, take a nap. If you need energy, go exercise or clean your home.

  • When sadness or other hard feelings come up, how would you be with a new friend feeling this way? Would you show that person tenderness? Comfort? Do this for you now.

  • Travel out of town. One of my favourite activities is leaving my local area, hopping on a local bus, getting to know a new area, and being a tourist for the day.

  • Make friends with your home. Does your home need some tender, loving care?

  • Be a more mindful and conscious eater. Are you eating to avoid feeling lonely? Can you stop and feel the feelings instead of eating those feelings?

  • Learn a musical instrument, write poetry, find ways to be creative, and express your feelings in your alone time.

These are some simple, every-day things we can all try. I know I will be as I write and feel inspired by this journey into embracing my aloneness and intimacy too. I hope this post has helped you know you are not alone, but we are all here to find a way to be and embrace being alone so that when we meet others, we are fully present human beings.

What works for you in embracing being alone?



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Kelly Martin
Kelly Martin

Kelly Martin, author of ‘When Everyone Shines But You’ is a dedicated writer and blogger who fearlessly explores life’s deepest questions. Faced with a decade of profound anxiety and grief following the loss of her father and her best friend Michael, Kelly embarked on a transformative journey guided by mindfulness, and she hasn’t looked back since. Through her insightful writing, engaging podcasts, and inspiring You Tube channel Kelly empowers others to unearth the hidden treasures within their pain, embracing the profound truth that they are ‘enough’ exactly as they are.

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