Whether you find yourself faced with a declining relationship, a demoralising career problem or the sense that your life in general has gone off-track, it can feel virtually impossible to retain a positive mindset or “keep the faith”. Regardless of how resilient we believe ourselves to be, episodic loneliness and the sensation of being adrift in the world can often result in us feeling vulnerable, disorientated, unloved or lost.
It’s therefore important to remember that although you may feel lonely at times — in reality we are not alone in thinking this way!
The following 8 practical steps, if taken, will gradually empower you to initiate profound, meaningful and durable change in your life.
Begin this step by pausing to notice the sensations in your body when you experience a strong negative emotion, such as rejection or emptiness. Allow yourself full permission to feel your response to them.
As you observe these unpleasant sensations, try to identify and name them. For example; ‘I am feeling heaviness in my chest’, or ‘I feel like I want to cry’, or ‘my head feels like it wants to explode’, or ‘my stomach tightens’, or ‘I feel my jaw clenching’. As you permit these sensations to arise in your body you will begin to realise that after a short time, they go on to dissipate of their own accord – yes, they really do!
Whenever I practice this myself, I pay close attention to the thoughts I’m having which give rise to my undesirable feelings. What I’ve learnt is that despite the unpleasant sensations, I still have the ability to shift my focus to a more positive thought which in turn, causes me to feel better.
Under these circumstances I might say to myself something like, ‘I still believe things can unfold well for me, even though I happen to feel helpless in this moment’.
Commit to a mindful practice such as going for a nature walk, yoga or meditation, which helps you remain in contact with this grounded state of being. I also find breathing exercises and yoga nidra guided meditation hugely effective.
Remember: Feeling negative about things doesn’t affect the outcome. Whilst it’s vital to feel these events fully, we lose our power when we let hurt, fear or distress inhibit our ability to act. A helpful way to conceptualise feelings is as messengers trying to tell us that we want things to be different, that we want change. If we listen to our feelings and acknowledge their message, we can use them to direct us, empower us and instigate action.
Be mindful not to carry the weight of the world on your shoulders. If you begin to feel solitary or hopeless, a good technique is to focus on aspects of your situation you can change or work on. Remember: feelings aren’t facts and we’re all in this together!
A practical suggestion would be to ask yourself, ‘can I cope with what is taking place right here, right now, in this moment?’. This is a great skill to cultivate; not to react to the dramatic or catastrophic thoughts you may have, and to focus on the reality of what is happening in the present moment.
Next time you feel inundated or bewildered by life, pause to ask yourself; ‘is my heart beating right now? … yes, perfect!’ or ‘am I breathing right now?….. yes, great!’. By occupying the present moment and drawing attention to the physical sensations involved, rather than succumbing to catastrophic or desolate thought processes, you have successfully mastered the moment!
Repeat this approach each time you feel besieged or despondent to fine-tune on your ability to engage with your actual life, not some negative thoughts or suspicions you may have about your life.
It’s easy to fall into the trap of looking at life in terms of what we ‘should have done’ or ‘ought to be better at’. This mindset is discouraging and minimises the importance of our efforts. One of the most important parts of reflecting is to identify what you did and why it helped, as opposed to formulating pessimistic judgements about yourself or your circumstances. This creates positive mental imprints and releases endorphins in the brain, energising you and increasing your chances of being proactive again in the future.
Keep in mind that no event, fact, situation or relationship has any inherent meaning, we are responsible for the meaning that we assign to them. This is great news; it means that we can choose whether to weave an empowering or disempowering storyline around our lives and what happens to us.
So, if you go through life with the attitude that every problem you go through you grow through, then you are already working to find an empowering lesson in any situation! There will be occasional reminders that progress is not always linear. During these times, remember that adversity does not always denote a lack of progress. Progress takes time. Notice it when you achieve it, and develop faith that you are planting seeds of positive change, which will ultimately blossom into transformation.
You can’t pour much from an empty cup! Allowing our energy reserves to become depleted inhibits our vitality and experience of living, leaving us much more susceptible to melancholic thinking and a pervasive sense of disconnection. Ensure to leave sufficient time for true self-nourishment. Identify any activities that may seem relaxing and conducive to connection but which actually increase your stress level or sense of isolation, such as scrolling through social media or mindlessly watching television, then reduce or even consider eliminating them.
Commit to the practices which keep you grounded and connected to your authentic self —whether they’re spiritual, meditative, a sport, a walk through beautiful surroundings or anything else which speaks to your heart.
A personal favourite of mine; happiness is in helping others! Deciding to focus on ourselves, our own problems and our own worries all the time is completely disempowering! People can revitalise their mood simply by opting to focus on others. As an example of this transformational tool in action, take a moment each day to reflect on a kind or thoughtful deed towards someone else, even something as simple as sending a text of encouragement to a friend, or saying hello to an elderly person sitting on the bench alone. If you can direct energy into strengthening your relationships, you’ll experience a heightened sense of connection to the world and also reap the rewards in self-esteem.
It’s no secret, we can achieve more together! If a significant life challenge or period of isolation arises and the prospect of acting alone doesn’t seem probable, we can still take action and harness the power of community. The combined forces of integration and collaboration with others empowers us, hence the extreme importance of surrounding yourself with people who are both positive and encouraging.
Packing your life with like-minded, enthusiastic people who share your outlook will not fail to make you feel inspired, liberated and driven. Begin by starting a group-based activity, by enrolling on a course which grabs your attention, or by signing up for events in an area which interests you.
I always like saving the best till last! If we feel undesirable or less-than, we’re at risk of making a lot of mistakes. We doubt our instincts, do things we regret, don’t do things we wish we had. We take wrong turns in our relationships, in our career, in everything. And then we beat ourselves up, endlessly.
We are destined to make errors. Some of those will completely shatter us, taking time and self-compassion to heal. They can’t be undone, but they can teach us, embolden us and clarify the paths we are to follow next.
We can’t change what has been done, yet we can change every single step we take forward from there. We can begin each day afresh with a stronger, wiser and more empowered frame of mind.
Practice forgiveness and forgive yourself! It’s not your fault – you are an imperfect human being, just like the rest of us.
You can book a session with Jay by clicking on her bio below.