Tips to decrease the feeling of loneliness

"I am Always Alone": Steps to Eliminate Loneliness

Feelings of loneliness can be overwhelming and affect most of us from time to time. Have you ever felt alone in a crowded office, or walked into a party and felt that you didn’t belong? Ironically, you are not alone, as most people have experienced this same altercation in perception. A perception, interestingly enough, is all that loneliness actually is. It is a state of mind of how connected we want to be with others, versus how close we actually are. And yes, this feeling can increase our well-being. We may therefore feel alone, even when we are not all that separated.

What causes this flawed mindset is what psychologist and author of Reinventing Your Life, Jeffrey Young, explains as “life traps,” or negative behavior patterns, which originate from our experiences in childhood and go on to develop the core beliefs that we have about ourselves in adulthood (including the belief that we are always alone). A sense of emptiness underlies this feeling of loneliness, and can have devastating effects on both our mental and physical well-being. We may keep others at a distance as to not be disappointed by them, thus preventing ourselves from ever forming meaningful relationships. Cardiologist and mindfulness teacher, Jonathon Fisher, MD, FACC, informs us that loneliness has the same risk of causing a heart attack or stroke as smoking a pack of cigarettes does. Loneliness, as Fisher explains, may even increase a person’s chance of dying early by 30%.

Despite the damage that feelings of loneliness may cause, there are mental techniques that we can utilize to combat its triggers as we work to better understand our patterns of relating to others. Follow the remedies for loneliness listed below so that you too can begin to develop a healthy mindset, fill feelings of emptiness, and improve your overall well-being.

Build Your Self-Esteem

People who feel lonely often feel unworthy and undeserving of others’ love and attention.  To combat these negative feelings, we can build our self-esteem with self-love. After all, if we want others to love us, we must first love ourselves. Begin by thinking of a situation in your life that once caused you emotional stress or loneliness. Acknowledge the feelings that erupt within you as you visualize this situation. Do you feel sad? Stressed? Explore it. Remind yourself that being human means being imperfect. Then, create a mantra, or phrase, that resonates with you in your situation and that you can say to yourself to show self-compassion: “I am worthy,” “I am loveable,” “I am enough.” Repeat your mantra 5 times, so that it becomes part of your conscious, and your negative self-talk becomes positive. This active change in inner-voice will build your self-esteem, and the confidence to believe that you are always worthy of all that others have to offer you.

Make Gratitude an Attitude

Practicing gratitude magnifies positive emotions and heightens self-worth. It can also be transferred onto different areas of your life, such as loneliness, by using it to recognize all that you have and that it is enough. Close your eyes and remember a time that someone did something kind or compassionate for you, and the gratitude that resonated. Allow yourself to re-experience that gratitude, and envision the words “thank you.” Let the words, “thank you,” repeat in your mind. Picture gratitude as a fire inside you, expanding with each “thank you” that you repeat. Enjoy the feeling. Transfer this fire of gratitude to someone that deserves appreciation in your life. Use your inner voice to thank them, and focus on the pleasurable feelings of here and now that you feel as you thank them. Appreciate your health at this moment, and all those present in your life. As you allow yourself to see, hear, and feel moments of gratitude, gratitude will become an attitude, and any feelings of emptiness that you may have will become filled with all that enriches your life.

Connect with Others

Now that we’ve discussed correcting our inner-narrative and have begun to love ourselves for who we are, let’s discuss the external steps that we can take to form connections with others. It’s easy to become distracted in today’s chaotic world of global pandemics and over-stimulation, so take a moment to look around and ask yourself, “Who is there for me to connect more deeply with?” Make an effort to call that person, or send that person a thank you letter. For more daily practice, limit the time you spend on your smart phone during dinner, or when around family. Reflecting on these times of connection will open your mind to recognizing more opportunities to connect with others, as there often are, in the beautiful moments of everyday life.

Remember that Loneliness is a Feeling, Not a Fact

Awareness is key to combating triggers of loneliness. Recognize the life traps that cause your suffering, and notice the thoughts that come into your mind. Accept the fact that you have these feelings, and remind yourself that loneliness is a feeling, and not always a fact. When you find yourself without plans on a Saturday night, is it true that everyone you know has abandoned you, or do you work in the restaurant industry and therefore most of your friends are just at work? By practicing mindfulness and becoming aware of your triggers, you can develop emotional intelligence, which will improve your mindset with not just loneliness, but all aspects of life.

To Recap:

Loneliness can lead to decreased well-being due to the harmful effects that it may have on our minds and bodies. Its origin can be traced back to our experiences in childhood that have shaped the core beliefs that we have about ourselves as adults, but these beliefs do not have to stay damaged as we look to the future. In addition to the practices listed above, we highly suggest you utilize the exercises in the Mindshine app, such as “Self-Compassion Tripled,” “Feeling Grateful,” or the “Attitude of Gratitude” training plan, to combat triggers of loneliness. Micro-steps help build life changing habits, and soon you’ll find with an improved mindset, comes improved well-being.


3 Essential Tips for Staying Productive and Mindful While Working From Home 

Working from home is inevitable for many companies, especially amidst the global coronavirus pandemic, but by no means does it need to be stressful. Working remotely has its perks, such as being able to customize your work space, personalize your schedule, and save time by avoiding long commutes. Of course, the lure of your cozy couch and roommate buzzing about the latest Netflix series may be daunting, but there are indeed surefire ways to stay productive and mindful in your home office. So, whether working from home is a norm or new adjustment, following the tips below can help keep you working at peak efficiency with a peaceful mind during this unprecedented time. 

1. Achieve Laser Focus

Keeping a clear focus on what’s important isn’t always easy, especially if your home office feels like foreign territory. Laser focus is achievable, though, by setting your intentions for the day. Write down the tasks that you have to complete, whether in a notebook or in an email to yourself, and affirm why it’s important to complete those tasks. Perhaps you don’t like feeling lost in the recent chaos of the world, or finally finishing that project makes achieving your goal seem all the more possible. Either way, studies show that setting your own learning and development goals increases motivation and self-efficacy. After all, where attention goes, energy flows.

2. Keep Distracting Thoughts at Bay

While social media and our playful pets are prime distractions, so too are our thoughts. Recent news has especially been alarming, and we are all undoubtedly concerned for our loved ones. Let’s try to set aside our mental chatter because for many, work still calls. When you find yourself getting distracted, walk away from your desk, and engage in some meditation techniques. Take 5-10 minutes to sit silently in an upright position, and acknowledge your incoming thoughts. Focus then solely on your breathing, as you inhale and exhale slowly. Relaxing your mind will bring it back to the present moment, so then you can dive back into work with a well-intentioned mind. 

3. Tense and Relax

If you still find yourself anxious and unable to concentrate in the wake of transitioning from office to home, try performing progressive muscle relaxation (PMR). PMR is a method used to calm the body and tame stress. It involves focusing on one muscle or muscle group at a time by tensing a muscle for 5 seconds, and then releasing and feeling the muscle relax. Before you begin your work, sit upright with both feet on the floor. Relax your shoulders, and close your eyes. Start with the top of your body by raising your eyebrows for 5 seconds. As the muscle relaxes, focus on the changes that you feel. If you feel your mind wondering as you move on to the next muscle, bring it back to the muscle that you’re currently working on. With physical relaxation, comes mental calmness. Your ability to concentrate will be increased as you soon find yourself enwrapped in pure productive bliss. 

To summarize

change is hard for all of us, especially when it involves our work environment. Our daily routines may be altered, but our mental health doesn’t have to be. Following the tips above can help keep you grounded as you make the transition from corporate office to in-home office, so that you can perform at your ultimate best in the wake of any global pandemic. 


5 Healthy Habits to Add to Your Morning Routine

Not a morning person? Me either, but luckily us night owls and early birds alike can achieve a happy and healthy day just by taking a look at our morning routine. The early hours of our morning set the tone for how energized and productive we’ll be, so chances are that the benefits of starting your day off right will flourish way beyond the caffeinated effects of that venti Blonde Café Americano. In fact, embracing routines can positively impact your mental health, as multiple studies have shown that habits are a key to wellness. Habits require little energy, and with them down pack, our brains can conserve its self-regulatory energy for taking on greater issues and making important decisions (Stoewen, 2017). Getting a jump start and beginning your morning with healthy habits can therefore allow you to move more efficiently throughout your day, as you expend less mental energy. So, if you’re looking to not only feel less groggy during those morning meetings but to also improve your quality of life, then look no further than at how you spend the first few hours of your day. Try these positive habits below so that you too can formulate a morning routine that has you beginning each day afresh and anew.

Rewind Time

Let’s rewind and confess that a successful morning routine actually begins the night before (with a good night’s sleep). The average adult needs 7-8 hours, and for good reason. Sleep strengthens learning, consolidates memory, and enhances emotional regulation. Tonight, we challenge you unplug from your smartphone, head to bed an hour early, and catch the recommended amount of z’s. You can thank us in the morning.

Rehydrate

Replace that early espresso with a tall glass of water, to combat the adverse effects of dehydration that often accompanies 7-8 hours of sleep. Water contributes to the maintenance of essential brain functioning, and without it, our cognitive performances become greatly impaired. Rehydrate yourself with an early glass of water as a simple way to boost cognition, and you’ll feel alert and energized to take on the rest of your day.

Clear Your Mind

Set aside enough time in the morning so that you can take 3-10 minutes for deep breathing exercises. Close your eyes, sit upright, and focus on your breathing, as a way to be present and focus on yourself, before you give yourself to the day. These quiet moments are not only calming but can also decrease any mental clutter that may prevent you from performing at your best throughout the day.

Engage in Exercise

Once your mind is clear, engage in 5-10 reps of a fitness exercise, such as air squats or push-ups. If you’d like to go for a morning run, even better, but by just engaging in short movements, you’ll get your blood circulating and be on your way to improving your mood. Exercise releases endorphins, which can boost happiness and reduce emotional stress. Exercising early in the day can add a sense of clarity to your morning that will help guide your mood well past the early hours.

Get Excited

Everyday is a gift, and as such should be treated like one. Write down one thing that you’re looking forward to that day, whether it be finally starting that cooking class, or the office getting new chairs. Little things can be exciting as well, so enjoy the anticipation. By noticing these special moments, you’re priming your mind to always focus on the positive (which is something to get excited about within itself).

As a recap:

Balancing work, school, a social life, and fitness schedule is by no means easy, but starting your day on a healthy note is a proven way to benefit you for the rest of the day. Try adding the positive habits mentioned above to your morning routine, because by changing your habits for the better, you change your life for the better.


3 easy ways to cultivate gratitude

In a materialistic culture of over-stimulation that is evolving faster than the human race, it’s easy to find ourselves in a whirlwind of negative thoughts, especially considering that research has shown that positive emotions wear off quickly (Sheldon & Lyubomirsky, 2012). Our emotional systems favor novelty, so once the excitement of that new promotion, loft apartment, or reenergizing trip wears off, our negative mindset is cued to creep in. Actively practicing gratitude, however, can replenish our minds by savoring those positive experiences as we continue to extract appreciation for them. So, what is gratitude? 

Gratitude is the feeling of appreciation for what one has. It means taking the time to recognize the value of all things positive whether they be past or present. Positive psychology has started to explore the benefits of implementing practices of gratitude into our daily lives, and the results have been endless. Robert Emmons, the leading scientist on gratitude, explains that practicing gratitude magnifies positive emotions, heightens self-worth, and combats negativity (insert citation*). He explains that gratitude is a celebration of the present moment by affirming that there are good things in the world, and that gratitude encourages us to take a step back and acknowledge where those good things came from. Now, let’s discuss the steps that you can take to promote the development of gratitude in your mind.

 1. Keep a Gratitude Journal:  

Positive emotions are incompatible with negative emotions (Garland et al. 2010). Reflecting on the goodness in your life in a gratitude journal will elicit positive emotions that in turn, lessen the attention that you pay to any potential negative ones. Start with weekly recordings of 3-5 things for which you feel grateful. Once comfortable, advance your journaling to daily. Try to be as specific as possible, and go for depth over breadth. By doing so, you will begin to train your mind to always focus on the assets in your life, and not the burdens. 

 

2. Write a Gratitude Letter:

 When Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman had 411 participants write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone whom they never properly thanked, participants immediately displayed a significant increase in happiness scores (Seligman et al. 2005). Gratitude is a social emotion that brings to our attention how others have affirmed and supported us. Expressing gratitude to those whom you are thankful can strengthen your bond and even helps to build empathy. Make a habit of writing one gratitude letter per month, and encourage yourself to deliver it in person. Once in a while, don’t forget to write one to yourself.

 

3. Use a Gratitude White Board:

Not much time to write? Try hanging a whiteboard on your fridge and simply jot down one thing that you are grateful for each morning. If there’s no space on the fridge, try placing your whiteboard somewhere that you come across daily, that way you’ll be reminded to take a moment and recount your blessings as you prepare the coffee, or before you sit in lotus position. At the end of your busy week, reflect on your previous week’s work, and all that enriches your life. If you live with family members or roommates, ask them to join in too. After all, gratitude is a celebration, and celebrations are always fun with others. 

 

To wrap up: gratitude is the quality of being thankful, and research supports that practicing gratitude is a leading contributor to happiness. We challenge you to start letting the positivity in your life blossom by cultivating gratitude with the activities provided above. Let’s start by asking, what are you grateful for today?