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Loneliness

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Loneliness is part of the human experience and can be felt on a spectrum, from a slight pang to a deep unremitting ache. Most people experience it at some point in their lives, but for some, it’s a recurring reality that strongly colours the day to day experience of their lives.

Despite its common occurrence, it still seems quite a taboo subject; one that seems to attract self judgement and because of this, many people are unaware of how it impacts their lives and what they can do to help.

Connection to those around you

Surprisingly, loneliness doesn’t depend on how many friends or relationships you have, instead it’s the quality of the relationships – whether you feel emotionally and/or socially disconnected from those around you. That is backed up by the statistic that more than 60% of lonely people are married, because when married couples no longer share their deepest feelings, thoughts, and experiences with one another, it can leave them feeling disconnected and alone.

These dynamics come about because people stop believing their partner can offer them the deep connection they crave. This can develop over time or can come about from a particular incident such as a bereavement where a person closes down and stops communicating their feelings and needs.

Loneliness is a block

When loneliness comes about, it can distort your view of how things are and can become a block to reaching out, making you believe that people won’t be interested in you and that you don’t matter to them.

Many people feel ill equipped to support a lonely person, this then results in them being sidelined or pushed away from potential social situations. Like many difficult mental health states, loneliness is a stigma and carries judgement.

Physical health

lonelinessLoneliness can also affect physical health as well. Immune systems can become run down, people can feel the cold much more acutely if they are feeling alone, almost as if the body is expressing a sense of being ‘pushed out into the cold’ and it can be a significant contributing factor to anxiety and depression.

Social contact

Because we are social beings naturally, most of us need to feel a sense of social contact. Loneliness is the feeling that we get when these needs are not met. It is different to ‘being alone’ and is more a feeling of not being part of the world. The national mental health charity, Mind, recommends different ways of increasing social contact as ways to overcome loneliness. Taking these small steps can ripple out and increase opportunities for further contact. Simply sending a text to say hello to someone, an email or making a telephone call can really help you feel more grounded and remind you that there are people in your life.

Feel part of what is going on

In times when you are part of a group, it might feel tempting to stay quiet, but in the long run, if you can take a risk and join in conversation, you are much more likely to feel part of what is going on.

If you are in a relationship that feels lonely, see if you can find a way to communicate without making the other person wrong. It is very common for couples to shut down from each other and by taking a risk and naming what is going on. It gives your partner permission to talk about their side of the experience.

Finally see if you can start to take pleasure in some alone time. Try to ‘befriend yourself’ and spend time doing an activity you enjoy or have wanted to try. Initially it may be wise to spend short time periods alone and this may be all that is possible if you normally have a family around you! Over time, if you get the chance, you can increase the hours that you have to yourself and re-frame loneliness into quality alone time.

 

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About Jenny Smith

About Jenny Smith

Jenny Smith is a freelance writer and facilitator specialising in mental health, well-being and ecotherapy. She writes for National Mind and The Working Parent and facilitates training in the Work that Reconnects and Ecotherapy. She is inspired by nature, gardening, love and non-duality teachings

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