Think of painters, writers, innovators, coders, composers or researchers, and many other careers or pursuits that really require functioning ALONE. Being by yourself is mandated, by definition, to provide that state of mind that allows to create, to focus and to work towards a defined goal. The human mind needs that quiet time, that sense of being in flow with the process of being immersed in a self-introspective state. So why do we complain of being lonely, of having more anxiety and depressive thoughts as a result? You may have read or heard all of the recent emphasis on how there is about 33% of the population having mental health issues due to the isolation from the coronavirus quarantine. Yes, being alone and lonely are not the same. The difference may lie in whether one sees being by one’s self as a positive choice or a state imposed on one to tolerate.
Whoever thought of making lemonade if all you have are lemons must have been an optimist. What we know from positive psychology is that a pessimistic worldview may be realistic, but for our mental health, being on the positive side promotes health in all respects. Wikipedia defines positive psychology as:” … the study of the “good life”, or the positive aspects of the human experience that make life worth living.” So how can we take these unusual circumstances currently in our lives and make even the loneliness from isolation work for us? I don’t mean to disregard the issue of choice in preferring limited social contact as opposed to having to be quarantined or living in involuntary isolation (as in incarceration or due to illness).
How do we survive this unimaginable period in our lives by making the best of it? I have heard from many who have started a new hobby, discovered aspects of self or traits of a partner heretofore unnoticed, learned to pay more attention to what one eats, or can do when time is available. How one approaches the unexpected circumstances center on our beliefs, attitudes and mindset. If I see myself as a victim, any situation can be reinforcing that perception. If I look to find some meaning, or purpose to what is happening to me, I will be better able to counter the effects, negative as they might possibly be. The losses we may have suffered mean grief is in our heart and we need the time to deal with it and cherish the memories.
So I want to encourage us all to seek connections, to look up old friends, to volunteer for some cause that is important, and most of all, to be kind and compassionate to each other. Wear a mask, say hello or wave, keep the distance, and most importantly, do those things that bring joy to you and to those you care about.
As a psychologist in private practice since 1979, Janan Broadbent, Ph. D. offers individual, couples, group and family therapy, in addition to conducting workshops on topics such as stress management, communication skills and assertiveness. She writes about current issues relevant to relationship building and conflict resolution in LGBTQ and minority populations, with emphasis on health, fitness and education.
Born in Turkey, Dr. Broadbent earned her undergraduate degree in psychology in 1965. At that time, first as a Fulbright Scholar, then as a CENTO Fellow, she received her master's and doctorate degrees in psychology and education from the University of California at Los Angeles. She has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in psychology at St.Mary's College of Maryland, Mt. Vernon College in Washington, D. C., Johns Hopkins University and the College of Notre Dame in Baltimore. From 1981 to 1988, she was also the Director of Counseling at Notre Dame College.
While in graduate school, Dr. Broadbent worked for the Voice of America radio program, writing and recording materials on the cross-cultural college experience. She has been interviewed on various news programs on TV and has received media training.
Dr. Broadbent is a member of the American Psychological Association and has served as the chair for the Public Affairs Board and as a member of the Executive Council of the Maryland Psychological Association.
Dr. Broadbent's office is located at:
Village of Cross Keys, 120 West Quadrangle, 2 Hamill Road, Baltimore, Maryland 21210-1847 phone: 410-825-5577