About a week ago, I found myself in a full-blown half-hour conversation with my dog. Usually, I wouldn’t be rattled by this; we typically have an easy back-and-forth. I offer a sentence or two, and she turns her head in response. This time was different. It was an outpouring of isolation; I felt like I had no one else to talk to.
We’re a year into a pandemic that swept us away from the presence of others, and I continue to ride near-constant waves of loneliness. These waves can arrive as soft, manageable ripples (enter monologues to the dog). Other times, however, when the sea of isolation crests, we can feel wholly caught in an undertow of lethargy, hopelessness, & disconnection.
Even without another human being, we can use these five mindful practices to stay afloat when we feel most alone.
1. Send a Letter.
Placing pen to paper brings us back into a rhythm of dialogue. Letters enable us to express our emotions and enact change in the world. You can send letters of love and care or even use them as a release valve to ventilate anger (writing to your elected officials can be a productive avenue to air frustrations).
The beauty in letter writing is we don’t even need an intimate connection with the reader to reap benefits. Try leaving a card for your next grocery delivery or recycling pickup, and notice how the anticipation of this human connection can texture your entire day.
2. Share Your Air (with plants).
The oxygen-to-carbon dioxide give and take of houseplants refreshes our sense of interconnectedness. When feelings of loneliness seep in, it can be hard to ask for help; we can trip on the notion that we are a burden. I’m often halted mid-call or text by an internal dialogue warning me not to ‘bother’ anyone. Our porous relationship with plants reminds us that we’re never living this life alone; take a deep breath (of plant-filtered oxygen!) and let that be enough, or let it inspire you to send that text.
3. Eat a Meal.
Each bite connects us to an incredibly long list of humans who brought our food to be. From farmers to grocery store clerks, we can feel exceptionally cared for and grateful considering those whose work went into bringing about the flavors on our plate. Savor and feel nourished.
4. Notice the Motion.
Loneliness can feel heavy and stuck in our bodies. Take a moment to look out your window. Regardless of your landscape, tap into the fluidity of the outdoors- gusts of wind shifting trees, migrating birds, the comings and goings of humans – all reminders that we are part of a moving world.
Our experience is ever-evolving, and this includes the heaviness of loneliness. Like the sun in the sky, our feelings will shift; they will move.
5. Read a Book.
Invite the characters to share space with you. Books stretch our minds beyond our immediate experience to keep us in a continued practice of empathy. Staying involved in the motivations and complexities of a diverse set of characters through longer-form storytelling links us with humanity.
And feel free to tell your dog about these practices. She will answer you back- in her own way.
About the Author: Sofia Lawrence is the Director of Engagement at Growga, a certified training and community for kids yoga and mindfulness professionals.