I consider myself an ambivert — a mélange of an intro- and extro- person. I can burn the candle at both ends or I can contentedly sit alone in a quiet candle-lit room. Recently, though, I’ve been spending more time alone than normal. One major factor is that I’m trying not to spend as much money every week — in New York, a quick, casual lunch date with a friend can set you back over $50. But, I also like being on my own. I am someone who prefers to go to the movies alone and I have no problem eating a full 3-course meal solo at a restaurant.
As I wrote a few weeks ago, I’m a guy who lives (and has always done so) in his head — at times to the detriment of productivity, as I confessed in Tick Tock, Are You on the Clock?. But most of the time, solitude is an excellent way to find clarity and peace of mind. I can easily sit quietly and just let my thoughts wander. The upside of this recent alone time has been the proliferation of ideas for this blog!
This is where the connection to the subject matter and I collide. Several weeks ago, during this period of self-isolation, I had a momentary, yet overwhelming, feeling of loneliness. It’s not as if that was inconceivable — I’ve felt lonely before — but it came on with such force, that it made me take notice. Yes, I was spending more time on my own, but I wasn’t a hermit. I had plenty of social engagements and activities. But it was a strong feeling, nonetheless.
Of course, being alone and being lonely are not the same thing. Solitude that is intentional can be enlightening, restorative, and peaceful. Loneliness, on the other hand, can be debilitating, overwhelming, and destructive.
“Indeed, the world has plenty of lonely people. About 20% to 50% of people feel lonely at least some of the time, and 5% to 10% feel lonely frequently,” says John Cacioppo, Director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, citing findings from studies across the globe.
“Denying you feel lonely makes no more sense than denying you feel hunger,” writes Professor Cacioppo. Yet society can turn a blind eye to loneliness, just as it does with other uncomfortable and “weakness-implied” conditions. Yes, loneliness is a state of mind, a powerful feeling, but it is changeable. First, you need to be aware of your feelings of loneliness and acknowledge them — my motto: (FEE) Face it, Embrace it, and Erase it.
So what are some techniques to activate FEE, you might ask? In my research, (as with time management), I found that there is an inordinate amount of information on the subject, so instead of creating another long list, I will, once again, cherry-pick (and edit) a few of my favorites.
(At the end of the post, I included four honorable mentions that made me smile.)
1) Know the Difference between Loneliness and Isolation
Loneliness is an emotion, mostly triggered by your current circumstances or unhappy memories. “Unfortunately the brain loves to over-analyze things, so even momentary loneliness can escalate to longer spells because of thoughts like, ‘Why do I feel so alone?’ and ‘Am I a loser no one loves?’ When this happens, just acknowledge the feeling, don’t overreact, and move on.”
2) Seek Out Like-Minded People
It’s often easier to establish a relationship with those who have things in common with you, wrote Cacioppo. Finding subjects you can align on will “increase the likelihood that you’ll find someone who you can relate to in a positive fashion.” Meetups are a great format to meet people with common interests.
3) Be Aware of Your Thinking
Another tip from Cacioppo: “When you feel isolated, you feel as if there is no one whom you can trust,” he wrote. In your pursuit of new relationships, do some introspective thinking to see if “you are simply being overly protective and overly focused on yourself,” instead of being open to a new connection. Try to be positive and “expect the best” from each new encounter.
Volunteering is a great way to meet people who support a shared worthy cause. Not only will it make you feel like you're contributing positively to your community in an impactful way, it’ll make you feel good! I’ve volunteered for years and I’m still friends with people I met along the way.
5) Watch/Listen to Ted Talks or Lectures
Ted Talks, in particular, are inspiring, informative, and short. I always learn something new and feel positive afterward. But there are many inspirational speakers that are accessible online and through podcasts who can have the same effect. Search around and find your own “guru.”
6) Join a Physical Activity Class
There are a multitude of “physical activity” classes available to every level of ability and interest (notice I didn’t write “exercise” classes). For example, classes can range from fast walking, tai chi, running clubs, or swing dancing to the more adventurous like aqua cycling, air yoga, or kangoo jumping. The particular activity can be anything, the point is to get moving, activate some endorphins, and meet new people.
In my particular case, the overwhelming feeling of loneliness I wrote about earlier was temporary. I realized that in my effort to cut back on spending and stay home more, I fell into a mundane routine that began to feel like a trap rather than a choice. I had short-term tunnel vision concerning my present circumstances — and as I often say — I was “slipping into a lifestyle of default rather than design.” It made me realize how easy it is to do. The descent is as stealthy as it is insidious. Fortunately, I have a powerful toolbox of strategies, techniques, and beliefs at the ready, so that I was able to stop the descent dead in its tracks.
And just like Persephone rising from hell, I too came back up to the light.
Humorous Honorable Mentions
Take a Bath/Shower
The idea is that baths are relaxing and so many good ideas come to you in the shower, right? True, perhaps, but this one made the list because of a study I wrote about last year concerning a key indicator of loneliness, which was: how long someone likes to take showers! Hmmm…A Yale study found that people who take long showers or baths may do so subconsciously to ward off feelings of loneliness or social isolation.
Turn FOMO into JOMO
This one made the list because I like the concept of “JOMO” and it’s from Mark Zuckerberg’s sister, Randi. Zuckerberg encourages people to stop feeding into FOMO (less Facebook browsing, perhaps?) and instead focus on JOMO — the joy of missing out — and the idea that “there is nowhere I'd rather be than exactly where I am.” Our dog, Buddy, has a serious case of FOMO — not sure this will work for him, though.
Make Your Bed
I am a compulsive bed maker — right, Michelle Tarr? — so, this one is for me. Making your bed in the morning will help you feel positive and in control of your life. According to Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, her research revealed that bed-making is one of the keystone habits of happy people.
Really, Friends? That might have the opposite effect, especially since two not-so great episodes were highlighted. This one was garnered from a list of 25, so I sympathize with the author who just might have run out of steam. Although, on second thought, if she chose, Seinfeld, (Serenity Now!) maybe I wouldn’t be so critical? I guess we all have our “go-to shows.”
Time to Dine: Cooking for Joan
Last week, I had a crazy craving for mango, which is unusual for me. Don’t get me wrong, I like mangoes but I’ve never really had a craving for them. I also had some chicken thighs in the fridge that were “on their last leg,” so to speak. So, I bought some mangoes, found a delicious spicy/sweet Asian recipe and enjoyed a wonderful dinner. Although the recipe only called for one mango, I bought two. I figured the craving might last longer than a meal.
A few days went by and no, no more craving for mango. But I had a whole cubed mango in the fridge! What should I do? Since I hate wasting food, I decided to find something else to make with it. A tropical drink came to mind but I wasn’t in the mood. Then, I found my answer — a Mango Pound Cake. Now, I’m not much of a baker, but I threw caution to the wind and made the cake. Well, it was a success — moist, flavorful, not too sweet, wonderful spongy texture. Yay, another dessert to add to the repertoire — Give it a try!
Mango Pound Cake
Prep Time: 15 min | Cook Time: 1 hr 5 min | Makes: 7" pound cake | Difficulty: Medium
- 2-3 Mango (or 3/4 cup Kesar Mango pulp. If using fresh mangoes, only use non-fibrous alfanso/kesar mangoes)
- 3/4 Cup Unsalted Butter (at room temperature
- 3/4 Cup Sugar
- 1/4 Cup Heavy Cream
- 2 tbsp Canola Oil
- 1 tsp Vanilla Extract (if can't find, use vanilla extract)
- 1 1/2 Cup All-Purpose Flour
- 2 Egg(s) (large eggs, at room temperature)
- 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
- 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- Mango (fresh, diced)
- Confectioners’ Sugar (for dusting)
Preheat oven to 325 degree F.
Prepare a 7 inch round pan (or square pan) with butter and flour. Rub the interior of pan with butter, then add flour and swirl it around to make a coating. Set aside.
Peel mangoes, and using food processor puree the pulp to yield about 3/4 cup puree. (add a little water if the puree is too thick or lumpy. It should be smooth like pancake batter. Not runny or too thick)
Use a hand mixer or stand mixer and cream together room temperature butter and sugar until pale yellow in color. Batter should be creamy, pale yellow and not gritty (sugar fully dissolved). With mixer running at low add 2 eggs (one at a time), blending well after adding each egg.
Add vanilla extract, heavy cream, oil, and 1/2 cup mango while mixing. Mix on medium for 4 minutes or until mixture has good volume, and is creamy.
Add flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda in a separate bowl and sift together.
Divide flour into 3 batches and add 2 batches of flour to wet mixture, 1/3 at a time, and fold with rubber spatula after every addition.
Add remaining 1/4 cup mango puree, and the last batch of flour and fold in.
Don't over mix. Just use gentle strokes until dry flour is moistened.
Transfer batter to baking pan and bake for 60-65 minutes or until cake is golden brown and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
Leave the cake on kitchen counter for 5 minutes.
Loosen the edges with knife and flip the cake on cooling rack. Cool the cake completely
Dust with confectioners’ sugar and add diced mango on top and serve.
Image courtesy of Jianpu