Dr Naina Athalye
GENDER & CHILD RIGHTS
COUNSELLING & THERAPY
Counselling through Poetry & REBT
Mental wellbeing when we feel lonely: a yogic perspective
Solitude is defined as a sense of being alone and to be able to feel comfortable in one’s own company whereas loneliness is the need to connect with another human being or feeling disconnected with the world around us. The feeling of loneliness can lead to irrational demands, anxiety and depression. People who feel lonely experience a sense of rejection which can lead to feelings of sadness, anxiety depression and self doubt.
People with an avoidant personality move away from social contact fearing being judged or rejected which leads to more loneliness .
The month of May was the month for mental well being and although it is popularly believed that the elderly experience loneliness, it was found, in a study in the United Kingdom, that it was those in the age group of 18 to 24 who experienced more loneliness. This surprising finding may explain why there have been more suicides among the young across the globe, especially, during the pandemic.
Loneliness can occur, particularly, due to a break up, divorce, relocation and illness. The pandemic has made us realize that we can feel lonely even when we are in the midst of our loved ones . Severe loneliness can drive people to suicide, alcoholism and substance abuse.
One also notices that among married people or those in a relationship, couples go seeking meaning and solace outside the relationship when they cannot communicate their sense of loneliness to their partner . This non communication can lead to further heartache, isolation and break up, affecting themselves and their children adversely.
Yoga prescribes that one should seek solitude so that we enjoy the beauty of our own being to the extent that we do not crave for outside connections constantly. This deeper connection with the inner self sets us free from unrealistic expectations.
Solitude has the quality of calmness and centeredness which can lengthen the moments of peace and joy which we experience by being in our own company. To be able to feel the depths of our being can help us overcome the devastating effects of loneliness.
Within Yoga are 3 main aspects which help in ending loneliness.
- Kaivalya: Understanding the inner oneness instead of seeking connections with others and the outside world for a sense of meaning and connectedness.
Patanjali’s yoga sutras 2:17- 2:25 brings to our attention how the mind wanders to the material or outer world. The sage discusses the need to understand and accept the reality of the material world where materialism gives us a sense of duality and separation from others and the universe which leads to feelings of loneliness. According to the great sage, bringing back the mind to conscious awareness of oneness, (Kaivalya) within our inner being is the antidote to loneliness.
Kaivalya is considered as the ultimate level of consciousness in Raj Yoga where there is an experience of solitude, centeredness and liberation. There is, in this sense of solitude or isolation, an expansion of consciousness which results in the feeling of onenesss with all sentient and non sentient beings and with the universe.
- Practise of Pratyahara:
Withdrawal of the senses for atleast some amount of time during the day can liberate us from the craving for sensory pleasures and looking outside our selves for validation and
meaning. Pratyahara in daily life can be practiced by observing silence, fasting periodically,
avoiding gossiping and small talk and practicing celibacy.
The awareness of cravings of the senses and to be able to manage and control them can be achieved through the following practices and asanas ( among others):
- Yoga Nidra
- Aspects of Nada Yoga.
- Specific Pranayamas- alternate nostril breathing, for example, calms the mind and
connects us with our inner silence brings calmness.
- Fellowhip with people who will help you out of your feelings of loneliness by guiding you towards yourself:
The third aspect within yoga to ending loneliness is fellowship or Satsanga.
Meeting friends and family physically can be a wonderful way to overcome loneliness
however choosing to be with those who are caring and non judgmental is critical to our mental and spiritual wellbeing. As mentioned earlier, (in pratyahara), it is advised to be in the company of those who will not gossip, avoid indulging in small talk and with those having a rational and positive approach to life and its challenges.
When physical meetings are not possible, in todays world, social media offers opportunities to be part of communities across the globe.
Although there are mixed reports about social media and loneliness, many online communities can be an antidote to loneliness.
Being part of online communities can allow you the time to reach out to
People with whom you can connect and also allows you the freedom of space and time
meaningthat you can choose to be remote but connected and choose the time you want to physically meet people from the communities should they be accessible.
Choosing communities that practice yoga, meditation, hobby related communities, story tellers and other art related groups are excellent for ending loneliness.
Choosing to be with and engaging with people who value your presence and contributions is an important step toward breaking free from loneliness.
To sum up, it is best to be among people who care and will not judge.
A rational approach to living states that loneliness can be the result of an irrational belief system where you believe that loneliness is frustrating and that you can’t stand it anymore.
There is however no scientific proof to say that one cant stand it anymore so a Socratic questioning (WHERE IS THE PROOF FOR MY FEELING?) to such irrational beliefs would weaken such an irrational demandingness of life or people.
Rational thinking would lead to fewer demands of people and one would feel less stress in the face of life events such as job, death, marriage, divorce etc. Through rational thinking we gain clarity about our needs and what is realistically available for the fulfillment of our needs. When demandingness ceases we can optimize our mental wellbeing.
Zen advises us to stay in feelings of loneliness, experience its depths and then let go of them because they are temporary and transient. Instead Zen urges us to seeksilence and the vastness of it which gives us a glimpse of an everlasting peace within. Even when they are only Satori moments, these short pauses in our consciousness can lead to greater moments of oneness with the universal energy which weakens the grip of loneliness over our being and leaves us liberated from unwanted and irrational cravings for constant connection .
When supporting those who experience loneliness we may want to:
- Listen to them:
Non judgemental listening can help people overcome loneliness. They feel heard and understood.
- Support groups:
Establishing support groups in the neighbourhood or office.
Helping people become part of support groups can help them come together with others who are experiencing similar feelings of loneliness. The support group will make lonely people establish friendships within these groups thus reducing the feeling of being disconnected.
What can you do for yourself if you feel lonely
Single people, caregivers, the elderly and people in new cities and away from home
may experience loneliness overwhelmingly which is why it is important that we:
- Take stock of your support system and your strengths.
- Do things that are enjoyable everyday( music , sportsand other creative activities).
- Seek friends who are nurturing and non judgmental.
- Seek out family members( aunts, cousins and others)
- Join a small group of storytellers or poetry lovers or an IMROV group
- Getting home a pet
- Take a break from dating or relationships that are toxic.
- Travelling to a new place for a vacation and making new friends.
- Repeating the affirmation atleast 3 times in the day:
“The World is my home and I am happy and feel connected with all beings.”
- Ph D in Psychology from the University of Pune (Savitribai Phule University) Pune, India
- Diploma in Corporate Social Responsibility Management, University of Pune (Karve Institute) Pune, India.
- Resource therapy: Germany/ Australia
- REBT: Hoffstra University, USA | Albert Ellis School.
- Certificates in Child and Gender Rights from the University of Moncton, Canada and University of Geneva, Switzerland.
- International and National Certificates in Project Management, Import Export Management, ISO Certification,Digital Marketing and Social Media Management, Feature Writing, Journalism Sociocracy, Non Violent Communication, NLP, Mindfulness and Yoga
References, publication, award and other information will be furnished upon request.
TEACHING | RESEARCH:
- Working at Family Court at Pune, India as Couple and Family Therapist.
- 8 years teaching in Social Psychology, Organizational Behavior, Counseling , Child & Gender Rights at University & Graduate level in Colleges and Universities and Management Schools.
- 15 years Research in the area of Organizational Behavior, Mental Health, Environmental Analysis & Media Research.
- Independent Researcher in Media and Child Rights, Ecological Rights of children, Gender Violence, Youth and Children Participation in Governance.
DEVELOPMENT SECTOR | HUMANITARIAN ASSISTANCE | NON-GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATION:
Roles: Top & Middle Level Managerial Positions at
- Kindernothilfe, Germany
- Holistic Child Development India
- Center for Youth Development and Advocacy
- Sophia Center for Women’s Studies & Development
- Aga Khan Education Services
Work involved managing large and medium size projects (rural & urban) fund raising, training , promoting the SDGs, sustainable business strategy, advocacy of rights based issues and research.
Consultant for Child Rights (Participation of Children | Children Parliament), Child Safeguarding / Protection, Gender Rights, Human Trafficking, Sociocracy, Psychosocial Care, M&E, Gender Budgeting and Research.