I’m a 40-year-old single guy who has suffered from depression on and off my whole life.
Maybe if you’ve found this article you can relate in some way (or maybe you’re just smugly looking on from your perfect life.)
But this isn’t going to be one of those ‘woe is me’ sob stories. Not entirely anyway, although I might indulge in just a little.
Because without totally spoiling the big end revelation — I’ve discovered it isn’t quite as bad as it sounds.
If you like Pina Coladas…and sitting home alone in the dark
I admit, I’m pretty lonely and a lot of the time I don’t really like myself or my life.
That’s not my tinder bio in case you were wondering. But it probably should be if I was being totally honest.
I’ve sort of found dating apps difficult. Maybe I should try the lonely hearts column instead. But I’m not sure how that would go either:
“40 and single and depressed man seeking companion.
If you like Pina Coladas and sitting home alone in the dark, enquire for further information today.”
Doubt it would have them queuing up for me.
Can I make a confession?
So convinced that my single (never been married) status at my age made me some sort of oddball that I recently googled ‘What percent of 40-year-olds are single?’
Aka, just how much of a weird, loner loser am I?
Turns out, not anywhere as near as much as I thought. Always nice to start with some good news, aye.
In fact, 21% of never-married singles aged 40 and older say they have never even been in a relationship.
There’s got to be some solace found in the fact that if 27% of men aged between 30 and 49 are single, it hardly makes me the odd one out.
How can a single man overcome loneliness?
Are you ready, because I’m about to get all seriously Yoda kind of wise on you right now?
I thought that my quest for happiness was centered around giving depression the boot and overcoming the loneliness I felt.
I assumed that my single status was significant to that lonely feeling. But I’ve started to realize that being single has probably got far less to do with it than I thought.
I think no matter what, we all experience loneliness. It’s part of being human.
Misery loves company. But finding company and staying miserable isn’t the sort of solution I’m after really.
So that must mean getting a girlfriend, wife or even a live-in carer probably isn’t the real answer.
A fuller, richer life is what I really want. No matter how busy you get, it’s always going to feel a bit empty if it’s not meaningful.
So what is important to me?
Apart from doomscrolling Instagram and contemplating why everyone in the world is more successful and happy that is. (Seriously, such a fun game. I would suggest trying it, but I’m sure you already have.)
Anyway, I digress.
What I really want is:
- To do meaningful work.
- To contribute to the community I live in somehow.
- To feel understood by people in my life.
- To give and receive love.
- To genuinely like myself and be on my own side in life.
If I wanted to feel less lonely, I knew trying to paper over the cracks by going on another Tinder swiping marathon wasn’t going to cut it.
Nope, I had to do some of that personal development stuff everyone seems to go on about these days.
Maybe they’re right. After all, self-love has surely gotta be better than self-loathing.
How can I stop being lonely at 40?
It hit me like a tonne of bricks:
I was pondering this question one day — how can I stop being lonely at 40. And rather than reciting all the usual cheery self-made stories over why I was doomed:
“No one will want me” and “what have I got to offer?” (you know the drill).
It struck me all of a sudden that I may as well have said 400 rather than 40.
I was acting like life was close to the expiration date. As if the last call for happiness was 35 and I’d missed out on it. It seemed kind of laughable. But it felt so real too.
I don’t know where this attitude came from.
Maybe it’s something to do with the competitive nature of society. The race to the top and this BS notion that all the people with their shit together have:
- Good jobs – tick
- Are married – tick
- Have 2.4 children – tick
But I know plenty of people who have all these things and are even more miserable than me. They feel trapped, stuck, and unfulfilled too.
So what that tells me is there clearly isn’t some kind of ideal recipe for happiness that I’ve not been able to create.
So I got to thinking (in true Carrie Bradshaw fashion):
What if I stopped endlessly beating myself up for allllllll my failings?
What if I stopped piling misery upon misery by unfairly comparing myself to others?
What if I acknowledged that the world isn’t entirely made up of Elon Musks’ and Jeff Bezos’, and that’s probably a good thing?
Well, certainly, if you’re a worker who wants to be able to take toilet breaks anyway.
What if I’m not some huge failure?
Because you know what, it turns out a hell of a lot of people aren’t happy with certain aspects of their life too.
Things to do when you’re 40 and single and depressed
So with my newfound wisdom, I’ve decided to get a job on the Oprah show.
Ok, maybe not.
But I have decided to stop wallowing in self-pity. At the end of the day, I don’t want to feel like this.
If you’re feeling like I am, you might find it helpful to try some of the things I’m doing to turn things around too.
Or maybe not. Maybe we could just all sit alone in the dark together.
Got to be worth a try though. And although it’s early days, I’ve got to report it does seem to be working.
1) Stop taking it all so seriously
This is perhaps very personal to me, but I believe that laughter is the best medicine.
I prefer to take the Monty Python approach and always look on the bright side of life, even when everything sort of sucks.
Let me be clear:
I don’t mean ignoring feelings, and definitely not mental health issues. I would totally encourage anyone who is suffering from depression, anxiety, or stress to get help.
Whether that’s just reaching out to a friend, calling a helpline to talk, or getting professional help. Do not suffer in silence. Do not ignore it.
But making fun of myself has always helped me to handle tough times.
And I do think it can be helpful to try to lighten up about all the different emotions we will inevitably face in life. Even when they are pain, sadness, and loneliness.
The less I catastrophize my own life, the better it looks.
2) Change your attitude
I decided I was going to take full responsibility for my own life.
I know that change isn’t easy, but I’ve come to realize it’s always possible if you want it. I’m told that is the difference between a fixed and growth mindset.
The truth is that we’re all scared.
We’re all worried and anxious about some things. It’s not simple, I know., but it does come down to “so what?” in the end.
You either get busy living or get busy dying. That’s it. Them’s the two choices. Them’s the breaks.
I’m not trying to sound uncompassionate.
In fact, being really kind to myself has been incredibly important in beginning to help me out of all this.
But at some point, you also need to be firm with yourself and decide to change your attitude if it’s not doing you any good.
3) Know that you’ll never avoid suffering completely
This has been surprisingly significant for me. I’d thought I might have to “positive think” my way out of the way I feel.
Luckily, this wasn’t the case. In fact, I just have to accept something way more realistic about life:
All life is suffering.
I heard a spiritual teacher called Ram Dass say that. I reckon it should be made into a bumper sticker.
It’s not nearly as depressing as it sounds. In fact, it’s weirdly liberating.
He explained how we suffer when we don’t get what we want, we suffer when we get what we want and realize we no longer want it, and we suffer when we get what we want but have to lose it at some point.
The reality is that all roads lead to suffering. You can’t dodge it, so why try.
To find peace, you don’t need to avoid suffering, you need to accept it’s part of life.
Neither should we try to suppress perfectly normal and natural human emotions. Life is light and shade, and that’s ok.
That means I can be 40, single, and depressed — and still lead a good, no, great life.
4) Figure out what you want and take practical steps to help yourself
I do want love in my life, and I would like a partner.
I’m not totally sure why that hasn’t happened yet, but I had an inkling it’s because I hadn’t been getting to the real root of the issue:
The relationship I have with myself.
You see, most of our shortcomings in love stem from our own complicated inner relationship.
This wasn’t one of my inspired revelations, this wisdom I learned from the world-renowned shaman Rudá Iandê, in his free video on Love and Intimacy.
It really opened my eyes up to the impact my damaged relationship with myself was having on the rest of my life.
If you want to improve the relationships you have with others and solve struggles you’re having with loneliness, I would recommend that you also start with yourself.
You’ll find practical solutions and much more in Rudá’s powerful video, solutions that’ll stay with you for life.
40 and single and depressed man
I’m sorry that this article hasn’t provided all the answers to life. But I do hope it’s made you feel a bit better if only by knowing that you’re not alone.
Behind the image we have of how other people are doing, the reality is that everyone feels a bit lost, sad, and clueless about this roller coaster called life.
The truth is that we all are a bit depressed about our situation, and that’s actually really normal.