Loneliness in America has been rising since the 1980s and has reached epidemic proportions. A major 2018 survey found that most US residents are considered lonely as measured by a prominent benchmark, the UCLA Loneliness Scale.
I once heard a wise man from the East say, "One sure-fire way to be miserable is to think only about yourself." It's a great way to be lonely, too.
I’m not here to tell you what you've heard a thousand times and that I fully agree with: being unselfish and helping others makes you happier and more fulfilled.
I’m here to tell you that if you want to stop feeling lonely right away, think about others, period. Take yourself completely out of the equation.
Here's how it works: Choose someone you care about, and set aside anything you might want to do to help them. Don't think about that person in relation to you. That still qualifies as thinking about yourself! 😊
Envision the person going about their life, day or night. You don't have to know where they are or what they’re doing. Accuracy isn’t the point.
Envision what they're seeing out of their eyes, how they’re processing the situation, and how they’re doing what they can. Be them, not you.
It could be your child, niece or nephew looking at a chalkboard in class. Or a friend in an important business meeting. Or your spouse, partner or significant other at the gym or yoga class. No matter who it is, just go there – straight to where they are and what they’re doing.
And don’t stop with one thing. Stay awhile. Envision doing many with the same person.
Can't think of anyone? Or you don't want to think about anyone you know? (We've all had those days, right?) In that case, try it by looking at anyone. I can spot a complete stranger on the street or out the window and go there -- see the world through their eyes. Sometimes it works just as well as envisioning people I love.
You may find that when you look at the world through someone else’s eyes, you actually see it more clearly. It becomes vivid and alive. Why? Because the voice in your head is switched off. You’re not filtering it through, “How can this hurt me?” or “What do I get out of this?”
Believe me, I know what it’s like to be alone. Building this website and the MeaningOfLife.com Tame Your Mind, Love Your Life Workshop was mostly a solitary task at a computer. It took well over a year and didn’t leave much time for a social life. This technique was pure gold in staving off loneliness.
It may spark empathy or compassion, which is great. But that's a byproduct; it's not the goal. Don't have to try to get deep into the emotions of whomever you’re envisioning. Just focus on what they're doing in the present moment.
Ironically, this is a remedy for loneliness that requires you to be alone – the ultimate practical alternative to just about every other remedy for loneliness!
Again, just envision being them: Seeing from their eyes, processing what they see, and doing what they can.
It’s an unlikely form of togetherness. But in moderation, it’s more than enough.