Being alone and being lonely aren’t synonymous; they’re not the same thing. Many people, including me, enjoy being alone; we’re content and comfortable being by ourselves.
Loneliness is a feeling that intimacy, understanding, friendship, and acceptance are missing from one’s life. It’s a feeling of isolation or separation from others, of being unhappy with the emotional and social relationships that we don’t have, or even with the ones that we do have.
“Approximately 20 percent of Americans feel lonely and isolated during their free time. Socially isolated people are more susceptible to illness and have a death rate two to three times higher than those who are not socially isolated.” —National Wellness Institute, Inc.
A person can be surrounded by people and still feel lonely. Loneliness can be about the number of friends or people in a person’s life, but it can also be about whether or not we feel connected to people.
Caitlin, a successful real estate agent, shared, “One December I gave a huge party for all of the people—buyers and sellers—I’d closed transactions with during the year. I was surrounded by at least one hundred people, all smiling and laughing, yet I experienced a profound sense of loneliness.”
At some point on our life path, many of us have found, or will find, another person to whom we’re attracted and want to establish a relationship. Yet partnering in any form—intimate or platonic—isn’t easy. It requires that we understand and work toward satisfying our partner’s needs, and in that process, our own needs must also be met.
“Remember that the best relationship is one in which your love for each other exceeds your need for each other.” —His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Because these two separate yet intertwined processes are taking place simultaneously, building and maintaining relationships of any type is difficult, but the rewards can be well worth the effort.
Many of us skip essential steps in creating the love relationship that we long for by forgetting the fundamental rule: in order to experience authentic, mature love with another person, we must first love ourselves.
A world-renowned expert on the mind-body connection, Joan Borysenko, said, “We can only love others to the degree to which we have opened our hearts to ourselves.”
SELF-LOVE: A KEY TO HEALING
Self-love is one of the most important keys to healing body, mind, and spirit. “When I accept myself without criticism or blame, I allow myself to heal.” This is one of the powerful affirmations that Belleruth Naparstek expresses on her A Meditation to Help with Anger & Forgiveness guided-imagery CD.
Equally powerful are Eckhart Tolle’s words, “You are here to enable the divine purpose of the Universe to unfold. That is how important you are.”
Self-love doesn’t come about until after we enter the sacred heart space of self-acceptance.
Our heart is the seat of our emotions, what we feel. True love is healthy, respectful, and nurturing, whether for ourselves or another person. It’s positive, uplifting, constructive, and healing to those in our sphere of influence, including the person we look at in the mirror every morning—ourselves.
Every person is vital. Each of us has tremendous value and purpose. We are, in fact, sacred. That should be enough right there to boost our self-acceptance and enhance our self-love.
“It took me a long time not to judge myself through someone else’s eyes.” —Sally Field
When self-love is intact, we experience joy. Unlike happiness, which fluctuates based on external circumstances—joy is inexplicable peace that comes from within.
A joy-filled life is a life in which one’s roots in self-love run deep. It’s a life that incorporates a variety of activities and healthful practices that support a person’s overall well-being. These practices aren’t viewed as inconvenient or something to tick off a to-do list. Instead, it’s a way of living—a lifestyle—complimented by healthy choices that foster our highest and best good in every area.
UNDERSTANDING THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HAPPINESS AND JOY
Many people use the words “joy” and “happiness” interchangeably, when in fact they’re different. Let’s establish the difference.
Happiness if a feeling. It goes up and down—fluctuates—based on external circumstances. It’s temporary, fleeting at best.
For instance, we check the mailbox and find a notice from the IRS that states we owe a considerable sum in back taxes. Most people’s happiness level would plunge at this news. On the flip side, if we check the mailbox and find an unexpected refund check from the IRS—in any amount—our happiness level soars.
Happiness can also be a result of manufactured merriment, such as going to the circus, watching a funny movie, or attending a birthday party.
When our perspective is governed from the inside out, the external pressures fall away and we experience joy.
Joy is a state of being. It’s inexplicable peace. Joy is internal, and when nurtured and encouraged, it becomes resident—abiding—regardless of external circumstances. Cultivating and maintaining joy eases the struggle that exists along life’s path.
“A woman recently asked me, ‘What are the blocks to my happiness?’ I said, ‘The belief that you have blocks.’” —Wayne Dyer
Viktor Frankl is a perfect example of someone who attained inexplicable peace. As a Vienna Jew, he was interned by the Germans for more than three years, but being confined within the narrow boundaries of a concentration camp didn’t rob him of his joy. In nine separate passages throughout his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, he wrote of joy.
Some people suffer tremendous personal devastation yet retain a state of joy—inexplicable peace that defies explanation. Do you function from a place of happiness or joy?