In my last blog post (March 3, 2011), I wrote about some stressors that could be considered unique to older adults and could impact one’s eating habits and body image. Perhaps the most powerful stressor is the increased potential for isolation and loneliness. Many of us know that isolation, loneliness, and even boredom can be strong triggers for over- or under-eating. After a quick internet search with the phrase, “helping older adults through isolation and loneliness”, I found a great article on Psych Central called, “Coping with Loneliness: Tips for Seniors”. The article mentions several relatively common sense things we can do to cope with or prevent loneliness: make friends, volunteer, find a hobby, adopt a pet, reminisce, or invite others into our home.
This list sounded great to me at first and I thought, “Well, that was easy”. But then I started to wonder why our culture places such a strong emphasis on being with others. Isn’t there value in being alone? Perhaps not all the time, to the point of complete isolation, but perhaps many of us could benefit from learning how to sit still and just “be”…be with ourselves, by ourselves. When I’m alone in my home, I’m almost always doing something…reading, writing, cooking, creating. Rarely do I just sit quietly and intentionally without thinking about who I’m going to see or talk to next and when. I wonder what it would feel like.
Are you someone who’s comfortable being alone? If not, do you find yourself getting “antsy” the longer you are separated from people (or pets)? Do you cope with this antsyness or discomfort by disregarding your body’s nutritional needs? Does your head fill up with thoughts about things you should be doing or people you should be seeing? If so, you’re not alone! (Pun intended!) What would happen if you (we) just sit with that antsy feeling, acknowledge it, respect it for what it is? Is it possible to find joy in our state of aloneness rather than see it as a state that needs to be changed? If you try this experiment, as I plan to, let me know how it goes.
Peace, joy, and health!