How To Cope With Loneliness On Valentine’s Day or Any Day
by Gina Simmons, Ph.D.
Many people feel particularly vulnerable when Valentine’s Day rolls around with the predictable assault of red hearts, red flowers and red candy box marketing. Lonely people often feel more isolated when confronted with images of shiny, happy couples canoodling everywhere.
At some point in our lives we will all feel the pain of loneliness. Many have told me they feel a sharp loneliness after a cancer diagnosis. You can feel lonely in a sea of loved ones, when what divides you from the pack is a very personal and private survival struggle. Loneliness can strike after a failure, or struggle with depression or anxiety.
Yet all of these feelings connect us to our common humanity. Sadness, loneliness, anger, and fear, can sharpen our awareness of our fragile human existence. We want the love and happiness that we imagine everyone else enjoys. We suffer more, asking, “why me?” Sometimes we fail to show as much caring and compassion for ourselves, as we might give to someone else.
The best way to cope with loneliness is self compassion. Take care of yourself, respect your pain, don’t just fight it or try to “think positive.” In this moment, you feel lonely. You can comfort yourself, you can be your own best friend, you can observe your feelings and not be crushed by them.
Kristen Neff, Ph.D. pioneering self compassion researcher, developed some powerful exercises that can help you cope with loneliness. The following exercise is a modification of an exercise that you can find on her helpful website.
First sit quietly and comfortably. Then acknowledge that you feel lonely. Let yourself feel aware that this hurts.
Next, remind yourself that suffering is a part of human life, and that you share that common humanity with all people. Everyone you know, and everyone you will never know also suffers in a similar way. You are not alone in your suffering.
Now put your hands on your heart, and take a deep breath, and say to yourself:
May I be kind to myself.
May I learn to accept myself as I am.
May I forgive myself.
May I be strong.
May I be patient.
Set your intention to treat yourself with loving kindness.
You can be your own best friend, and comfort yourself through the hard moments of life. You don’t need a lover to enjoy your own heart. Flowers and candy boxes are not required.
Photo courtesy of Klearchos Kapoutsis.