Alone does not mean lonely: how to make most of your life after 50
One in three European citizens after 65 lives alone, according to the data provided by the European Commission survey dated 2010. It is peculiar to note that in 1950 only one in ten people had such a lifestyle. No wonder that increased life expectancy, upward mobility, information technologies and the development of consumption infrastructure have made it possible for a modern elderly person to lead an independent life.
Sometimes a solitary lifestyle in retirement is a conscious choice. Yet sometimes it is just the way things are, the reality some people have to put up with after children grow up and leave or a life partner passes away.
The number of people living alone has been on the rise in recent decades, yet, alone does not necessarily mean lonely. The invading feeling of sorrow or seemingly endless sadness that draws a rather dismal picture of our existence does not have anything to do with social isolation. This is not technically a condition, it is rather an inner experience. We can suddenly find ourselves inside this vacuum when we are surrounded by our family or spending time with friends. As the creator of analytical psychology Carl Gustav Jung wrote: “Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.” Indeed, we feel lonely when we are listened to but not heard; when our feelings do not find a response, or when we are not able to share our deep concerns with someone.
There is one more contributing factor: as we grow older we become less tolerant to others’ weaknesses, and it makes it hard to find compromises or get along with people who possess a different set of values, for example.
When faced with such loneliness one loses the sense of integrity, they feel abandoned, they feel detached from the rest of the world where all the action and fun are. If we allow this feeling to take over and predetermine the mood for every new day it will paint the entire life grey, which, eventually, may lead to complete indifference to one’s own life.
How to regain your passion for life?
Foster your internal dialogue
Loneliness can be perceived as helplessness: I would cope if someone was there for me, but alone I just can’t manage. Let’s perform a closer analysis of this feeling: what exactly do you feel helpless about? What underlies your loneliness? Well, if you are honest with yourself, you will see that most often these are fear, anger, and hard feelings. What is really important is understanding that these feelings appeared for a reason. They indicate that there is something you miss and lack, you do not feel complete because not all needs are met. Try to figure out what you lack and act confidently to fill those gaps.
Mix it up
As one retires and settles in their way, the days start looking like other days, routines become predictable, stereotypical and most likely lack fun. The movement that once was driving all of us towards self-improvement and adventure suddenly stagnates: you know what you will do in the morning, in the afternoon, and in the evening. Someone might argue that it brings about the sense of stability and peace. Yet, overdose leads to monotony, boredom, and, often, depression. On the bright side, to introduce a little bit of a variety into life is easier than it may seem. You do not have to necessarily reconstruct your daily routines from scratch. You might try innocuous changes: get out to enjoy some fresh air in the time different from what you are used to, choose a new road to your favorite shop, try cooking exotic dishes, venture to discover new spots in your area, make new acquaintances. It all works perfectly naturally.
Feel like you belong to this Universe
Loneliness is often experienced as a sense of detachment as if the entire world is on one side of the fence, and you are on the other. Reality is different. You are incessantly cooperating with the world because you belong to it. You can picture it best of all if you think of the way nature works. A blow of wind sends the blossom off the branches, exciting the bees with the sweet smells; everything is sent in movement. Our world welcomes the spirit of creation: it builds a complex system where all living organisms coexist and develop. Our world is penetrated by the driving energy of life. It is nature that helps you to feel the one with the world, reinforcing your sense of belonging and involvement in every process. Make sure you venture into a forest or a park more often, focus on what you see, hear and smell, watch life in all its manifestations. This is the world, and you are a beautiful part of it.
How about art and crafts? You can use a little creativity in your life by choosing a new exciting hobby or learning a new skill as long as it brings you pleasure and satisfactory results. What activities made you a happy child a long time ago? What are the things you’ve always wanted to try but never had time for? Find some thrilling activity that ignites genuine interest in you, and before you know, you will launch the power of creation. Regardless whether it is studying a new language, gardening or a puzzle, — you are in the process of creating something for yourself. A phrase in Portuguese you proudly pronounce repeating after a teacher, a trembling young bush you gave a new home, or an impressive puzzle put together from a thousand of tricky parts are all your special produce, your gift to a new you, a contribution you made yourself. Creative effort is known to be a powerful source of joy and satisfaction with who you are, which, in its turn, leads to satisfaction with your life.
As we already mentioned above, loneliness can dwell in certain negative feelings indicating that some needs of yours are ignored or not addressed properly. We desire for people surrounding us to give us something and we feel bitter when we don’t get it. Try to embark on the path of reciprocity, and start giving what you would love to receive.
If you feel misunderstood or ignored by people you love, try to understand them. Listen to what they say. Listen carefully, with a sincere desire to figure out what worries them and how to help them out. Avoid being self-centered, and soon you will see that your sincere care evokes gratitude in people, light in their eyes, and this light will bring warmth into your soul.
If you feel like you are not getting enough attention and care from people around you, initiate reciprocity yourself, show them the best of you. Even such simple things as care of a home plant or a pet will imbue your soul with positive emotions since you are making efforts for someone rather than yourself assuming a role of a source of stability and wellbeing.
If you feel lonely or isolated, reach out to people and try to be useful to someone. Look at yourself: you have fantastic baggage of valuable life experience, practical knowledge and skills that can come in handy and be indispensable for other people’s life situations. Believe in yourself and help those who need it. You will feel how important you are to the community you live in or society as the whole while creating a solid ground for self-respect. It will make you feel proud of who you are and what other people see in you. And remember, you never lose when you give away. You always augment the good in your life when you share it with others.
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