It’s fascinating how Valentine’s Day has taken on such a commercial nature over the past decade. For some it’s become an exciting day where they are able to connect and show/receive love from their partner, and for others who do not have a significant other, it brings sadness and a sense of lack and what is missing.
I recently wrote an article for the Hawai’i Herald about the five key relationships that are necessary to live an authentic and purposeful life. I also delved into the history of Valentine’s Day and the multiple versions of what Valentine’s Day came to be. This brought up the realization that you have the power to choose how you want to experience this day – by being sad or being glad.
Your perception is what makes you unique and different from others, even from your loved one. The reason being, that your perceptions are molded and formed by your life experiences. The more you can own your perceptions and fortify your intuition, the more it will serve as your guide through the ups and downs of life.
One thing that you can really work towards is to understand and recognize the difference between be-ing alone and loneliness. Each person deals with being alone differently, but loneliness is a whole different animal. Eglantine Julie-Daniere defines being alone as “the physical state of not being with another individual, might it be human or animal,” while loneliness is a “psychological state characterized by a distressing experience occurring when one’s social relationships are (self-)perceived to be less in quantity and quality.”
This past year many of us got a crash course in being alone physically to prevent the supposed spread of COVID-19, and some had an extremely difficult time separating being alone and feeling lonely.
I would hear many stories of families not getting together for their long-standing Sunday dinners, or grandchildren not allowed to connect with their grandparents/kupuna. The signature Hawaiian gesture of aloha, “the hug,” has been shelved, shifting to a more sterile fist bump or air five.
The most heart wrenching stories were about loved ones who were in care facilities or nursing homes, isolated from the very loved ones who visited them consistently for years. It is no surprise that there was a steep rise in mental illnesses, such as depression and anxiety, that resulted from the lock downs and mandated social disconnecting. With the continued pressure to still maintain the six feet distancing, and use of face masks, even after being vaccinated by the experimental COVID-19 vaccine, is a little disconcerting.
So, what can you do to address the feeling of loneliness when you feel the need to keep others safe by physically isolating?
First, is learn how to be okay with being in solitude by reframing your mental thoughts. When you are alone, focus on yourself, your needs, and identify what brings you joy. The precious alone time you spend redefining what is important to you – your family, friends, loved ones, job – and what brings your life purpose, is crucial in creating an amazing 2021. Challenges and unexpected changes will be the new norm as we embark in a vastly unpredictable world due to the emergence of COVID-19.
Second, is that the more you can establish a solid relationship with yourself (aka your best friend), and your body, the easier you can navigate your life. Be pro-active in choosing how you want to live your life in lieu of the restrictions and mandates.
Start taking time to pause every so often to check in on how your body feels. Does it feel tense when you have some deadline looming or when you read the newspaper or watch the news? Recognize what brings your body into a state of ease and allows you to breathe deeply and calmly. The more time you spend connecting and learning the subtle nuances of your body’s response to stress, as well as things that make you feel happy, the more confident you will be in dealing with whatever challenges come your way.
Third, is to start paying attention to when you read or hear something and it causes a strong emotional response such as anger, sadness, anxiousness, or fear. It usually indicates a subliminal trigger hidden in the message.
I have recently observed that whenever I read or hear something on social media, the radio, or newspaper, and I find myself agitated or angered, and that is my red flag to pause. I use this opportunity to take a closer look at what the media is prompting me to feel, and then I can make a clearer choice of how I want to act and be. By keeping neutral in your emotional state you will be able to make choices guided by your intuition versus a gut instinct.
Remember that you have the power to think critically and make a choice. Either you can knee-jerk react, or you can feel, and then act consciously. You cannot control the external environment, but you can control your internal environment. Use being alone to establish a solid relationship with yourself, and from that position you can create better relationships with a partner, family, friends, and then the greater community. We are all in this together so regardless of your Valentine’s status, choose connection versus social isolation.
Know yourself so that you can bless yourself.