Want to get started on your journey to overcome loneliness? Let's take a giant step forward right now. All you have to do is to let nature be your guide.
If you are struggling to overcome loneliness, like millions of people, you may think there is no hope. But there is. No matter where you are, if you will take one simple, easy step, you’ll feel less lonely and more connected right now.
You can decrease your depression and fear of the future, by applying the steps presented in this brief article on how to overcome loneliness.
While there are many ways to stop being lonely, one of the most effective is to increase the amount of time you spend in nature, observing and paying attention to wildlife. Yes, a pet pig, dog or cat will make you feel less lonely, too, but I’m talking about finding and observing wild animals – animals you may be too busy to notice. It's all about learning to seek and find the beautiful and intriguing ways of nature that are hiding right under your nose.
How It Works
When you stop to notice the birds playing in the cherry bush in the yard, or the rabbits hopping about at the park, something wonderful happens in your brain. For one thing, endorphins are released to lift your mood and fill you with a sense of wonder. But don't just glance and look away! Watch and concentrate. Animals are fascinating to observe. Often comical and always interesting, they can bring smiles and laughs to our faces, and tears to our eyes, which helps us to overcome loneliness.
And . . . just taking the time to go outside and walk among the flowers and trees, to be around water or mountains, to breathe in the fresh air can be uplifting and stimulating. Nature is a powerful anecdote to loneliness and depression.
Spending more time out-of-doors in the natural light can be good for your brain and make you feel better. When you spend time interacting with nature, you feel less lonely and more connected to everyone and everything.
Just take a look at some of the benefits of observing animals:
1. Decreases stress
2. Opens the pathways to the heart
3. Connects you to the larger natural family
4. Puts you in touch with your spiritual center
5. Gets you more involved with nature
6. Creates opportunities for conservation and stewardship with nature
How to start? Get a notebook, field journal or diary, and head outdoors. If you can’t go outside, sit at a window and watch. Take a walk in your neighborhood, trying to spot as many animals as you can. Write them down in your journal. Sketch a few. Try to watch for as long as possible, as squirrels gather nuts and bury them, or chipmunks play on a woodland path.
Follow These Simple Guidelines
Go to the park, arboretum or wildlife area, and prepare to stay awhile. Put your phone away and any other electronic gear you may have, and focus on the animals. They will teach you how to overcome loneliness and mild depression. Many of my psychotherapy clients have decreased their stress, renewed their commitment to the natural world and found a new and enjoyable hobby pursuing nature’s possibilities.
Just feeding backyard birds has helped many people in nursing homes and hospitals to connect with nature, overcome loneliness and find new joy in their sedentary lives. Now if you can get out and do a little walking, you’ll get some exercise, too! You simply can’t lose.
By the way, you’ll increase your exposure to sunlight, which will improve your mood and make you feel less anxious and depressed.
Nature provides us with a golden opportunity to develop a powerful feeling of connection with our surroundings, the flora and fauna, various animal, amphibian and insect groups -- our fellow creatures of earth -- and engages us in activities and pursuits with the natural world, all of which increases our sense of well being and happiness exponentially.
A feeling of connection with those around us, and our special places, is one of the Cornerstones of Happiness.
The research in positive psychology has shown three Cornerstones of Happiness:
Spending time in nature always gives me a deep sense of gratitude, as well, which cultivates happiness and belonging. I'm always supremely grateful for time spent in nature, and I always feel closer to my Higher Power. My gratitude kicks in and suddenly I begin to feel even better.
By cultivating a powerful sense of gratitude, you can literally change your life and overcome loneliness. Focus not upon what you do not have, but upon what you are fortunate to have. People will be drawn to you because of your healthy attitude and want to spend more time with you, decreasing your lonely feelings. Read a good book on gratitude or mindfulness, take a class or do your own mindfulness meditations, and practice a greater awareness in your daily life.
Those who are grateful for the good in their lives and mindful and fully present of their thoughts, feelings and experiences nonjudgementally have been shown to have:
Thick Nhat Hanh said, "The present moment is full of joy and happiness; if you're attentive, you'll see it."
That's the key . . . taking time to look for reasons to be happy when you could easily give in to feelings of gloom and doom, or allow yourself to be swallowed up by a toxic cloud of self-pity or negative thinking. This is what we do in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: find ways to think more optimistically, and to find the good in the dark clouds, no matter how scary they are.
Whatever we focus on increases. So, if we focus upon the relationships we don't have, the sense of longing and loss increases, eventually overtaking us. But, if we focus on that one good relationship, or the few good ones, then we feel better, more fortunate and grateful.
Taking these steps makes it easier to overcome loneliness than many people think it has to be.
A True Story
I started walking twice a day two years ago, with the twin goals of getting more exercise out of doors, and of finding and watching wildlife. I needed to lower my stress. And get more relaxed. So I decided to make a change.
Taking time to see and appreciate wildlife has been the most wonderful and enjoyable change I’ve ever made. I not only feel less lonely, but I feel more a part of things. I feel like I’m a part of the animals’ natural family, and I am participating in life the way it was intended for us to live. It feels so good to become more aware of the natural world, and to bring nature’s lovely and often fuzzy critters into your life. It’s simply a terrific and soul-satisfying way to overcome loneliness.
Did you happen to notice the red-tailed hawk sitting on the fence by the interstate this morning?
I saw her. I pulled over and snapped her portrait. Then I wrote a few notes about it in my wildlife journal. That regal bird was incredibly beautiful and interesting to watch.
An Extra Tip
Take a friend with you on some of your walks. Or someone you’d like to befriend. Just be careful not to talk too loudly – you might scare the animals off! You'll double your pleasure.
Use Your Nature Journal
What's more, I’ll derive great pleasure from writing more fully about the hawk sighting in my journal, this evening. So, get going, and find some animals to watch. And start logging entries into your notebook. The writing and/or sketching will do you some good.
Yes, writing in your field journal will lower your stress and make you more relaxed. And, you guessed it . . . it will enable you to effectively overcome loneliness.
One of the most powerful and effective ways to overcome loneliness is to reacquaint yourself with Mother Nature, and to tap into her incredible power to heal. You can do so by inviting the often unseen animals in your neighborhood into your awareness. And you can start right now.
Learn more about how you can help nature and your precious mountains: