Loneliness

Choosing to be alone and being lonely, are very different. If it is our choice to have little contact with others, we can live happy fulfilled lives without ever feeling the intense loneliness that others, cut off from family or friends, can experience. We can also be surrounded by people but if we feel misunderstood or disliked we can feel alone.

People describe thoughts and feelings of loneliness with words like anxiety, fear, friendlessness, isolation, and helplessness.

According to a study by Campaign to End Loneliness there are as many as 9 million people in the UK who say they that they are often or always lonely with almost a quarter of UK adults saying that Coronavirus has made it worse. The loss of connection with the outside world, unable to hug those we love or mourn with others those that we have lost has left many of us feeling lonely.

A client was telling me recently how she had lost a brother and a sister to the pandemic and a sister to cancer during it. She had family around her but the special bond she had with her siblings, the memories only they shared, had left her with feelings of loneliness. Despite restrictions lifting and the world returning to normal, those broken bonds still remained, and for her things felt as though they would never return to normal.

So why do people experience loneliness? There can be many reasons:

  • Bereavement not just the loss of a person but also a pet
  • A relationship break-up
  • Moving house
  • Homelessness
  • Retirement
  • Changing jobs and feeling isolated from your co-workers
  • Going to university

Feeling lonely can have a negative impact on our mental health, especially if these feelings have lasted a long time. Some research suggests that loneliness is associated with an increased risk of certain mental health problems, including:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Low self esteem
  • Problems with sleep
  • Increased stress

Feeling lonely can be all consuming, and it can make us feel like it is going to last forever but it doesn’t have to, we just need to be a bit more proactive.  It can feel all a bit pointless, but loneliness is only ever going to end if we help it to.

So how can we combat loneliness?

  • An act of kindness – The Mental Health Foundation has researched the effect that doing good for others has on us. They found that helping others might promote physiological changes in the brain linked with happiness and can improve our support networks, which can improve our self-esteem.
  • Heading out into nature – some people like walking and talking instead of face to face. Walking in the same area regularly can help strike up conversations with those doing the same.
  • Share your experiences on social media – nowadays many of us spend longer than ever stuck behind screens but if we share how we are feeling we may discover that others we know are feeling the same.
  • Volunteering – many organisations welcome the help volunteers can offer from charity shops and fundraisers to gardening and befriending.
  • Shop local – not only is it a great way to support your local economy but it’s also a great way to meet your community. Strike up a conversation next time you’re in the news agents, you might be surprised what you discover!
  • Smile and say hello to a passer-by – the smallest conversations can change lives. I’ll be exploring this a little more in next month’s blog on suicide prevention but for now, pass on a smile.
  • Talk to a counsellor – if you are struggling in other areas of your life, which you think are contributing to your feelings of loneliness there is always someone there to listen. At Flourish I have several clients who came to me with feelings of loneliness as a result of the pandemic.

There is no shame in feeling lonely and no one is immune from loneliness, remember there are 9 million other people feeling the same. It’s not wrong or abnormal, these are normal human feelings so the more we talk about it the more we can normalise it. Just like the millions of conversations we now have around destigmatising mental health, together we can do the same for loneliness.

If you are struggling with loneliness; I’d love to hear about your experiences trying one of the tips above or alternatively, if you’d like to talk, please reach out and contact me.

Are you ready to flourish?

or contact me

By email: hello@flourishthroughtalk.co.uk
By phone: 07956 054 029

Loneliness

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