There's a tremendous difference between alone and lonely. You could be lonely in a group of people. I like being alone. I like eating by myself. I go home at night and just watch a movie or hang out with my dog. I have to exert myself and really say, oh God, I've got to see my friends 'cause I'm too content being by myself.
Often times, the phrases "being lonely" and "being alone" are misused and misinterpreted. Even though they lie on completely opposite sides of each other, they are treated the same. Failure to see the differences between loneliness and being alone creates unnecessary confusion.
Being alone is not something that is bad for people. In fact, when we are alone, we can process our thoughts and feelings better than we can when we are in the company of many people. We can also treat ourselves by engaging in activities we wouldn't otherwise do on our own. By interacting with oneself, our creativity can actually flourish and some of our best ideas can be formed.
Meanwhile, when we are lonely, we feel like there is no one that can understand us. We feel like we have no shoulder to cry on even if we are surrounded by hundreds of friends. When we are lonely, we see ourselves as being cut off from the world, making us feel empty. Many times, loneliness can lead to melancholy thoughts and is a symptom of depression.
Being alone is often confused with loneliness because we believe that having people around us is the key to happiness. While this is partly true, having time just for ourselves is essential for our well-being. If you are an introvert, having time for yourself is essential to recharge from a long and busy day. If you live in a city like New York, taking a walk by yourself in the park allows you to take a break from your hectic life.
You can choose to be alone but you can't choose to be lonely. Loneliness is more of a feeling than a physical state. You can feel lonely even if there is someone sitting next to you at this very moment. In contrast, someone who chooses to be alone is content being by themselves with no one to disturb them. Knowing the difference between the two is important to end the misunderstandings and confusion that exists surrounding the issue of loneliness.