Are you alone or lonely?

A woman who looks sad
A woman who looks sad

Paula Quinsee, relationship expert and author of Embracing Conflict, explains that it’s not just singles that are lonely – many people in relationships feel lonely, too, especially when there is very little or no connection in the relationship.

So what’s the difference between being alone and feeling lonely, and how do you know which one you’re experiencing?

 “Simply put, being alone is a doing thing, it’s a choice that we make. You can be alone without feeling lonely. For example, you’re home alone, reading a book and completely comfortable with your own company. You don’t need to depend on someone else for happiness,” she says.

Feeling lonely, on the other hand, is emotional. It’s when you have a sense of emotional abandon or disconnect, and being isolated from others. “When you’re feeling lonely, you often look for distractions to help you escape from what you’re feeling,” Quinsee adds.

So how do you deal with being lonely?

The first thing is to understand what’s causing your loneliness. Have you recently been through a breakup? Have you been so focused on one area of your life – e.g. building your career – that you’ve lost touch with others?

It’s great if you like to be alone, but what happens if you don’t?

READ MORE: Four signs you’re dating the wrong guy

Quinsee provides some options to consider:

·      Discover and reconnect with yourself again - identify some of the things that used to bring you joy, or things that you’ve wanted to always try but haven’t been able to do.

·      Start something new - try a new interest, hobby or something you enjoy that occupies your time. By putting yourself out there, you open yourself up to opportunities to meet like-minded people and widen your network.

·      Exercise - taking a walk, going to gym, meditating, running, swimming or cycling can have great benefits.

·      Connect with people - family or friends are our support structures and provide us with a sense of belonging, being loved and valued.

The important thing to remember is that being alone and lonely is a choice, and that you’re only as alone or lonely as you let yourself be.

Let people into your world, don’t shut them out – it’s okay to be alone for short periods of time, but when it becomes an every day thing, it’s not good for your mental and emotional well-being, Quinsee concludes.