ARE YOU LONELY ?

“We can all fight against loneliness by engaging in random acts of kindness”.

Gail Honeyman

Loneliness is a complex and usually unpleasant emotional response to isolation. Loneliness includes anxious feelings about a lack of connection with other beings, both in the present and extending into the future. As such, loneliness can be felt even when surrounded by other people. The causes of loneliness are varied and include social, mental, emotional, and physical factors.

Research has shown that loneliness is prevalent throughout society, including people in marriages, relationships, families, and those with successful careers. Loneliness has also been described as social pain, a psychological mechanism meant to motivate an individual to seek social connections. Loneliness is often defined in terms of one’s connectedness to others, or more specifically as “the unpleasant experience that occurs when a person’s network of social relations is deficient in some way”.

Other contributing factors include situational variables, such as physical isolation, moving to a new location, and divorce. The death of someone significant in a person’s life can also lead to feelings of loneliness. This can lead to isolation and chronic loneliness. So now let’s read about different types of loneliness:

Types of Loneliness:

1. You’ve moved to a new city where you don’t know anyone, or you’ve started a new job, or you’ve started at a school full of unfamiliar faces. You’re lonely.

2. You’re in a place that’s not unfamiliar, but you feel different from other people in an important way that makes you feel isolated. Maybe your faith is really important to you, and the people around you don’t share that or vice versa. Maybe everyone loves doing outdoor activities, but you don’t or vice versa. It feels hard to connect with others about the things you find important. Or maybe you’re just hit with the loneliness that hits all of us, sometimes the loneliness that’s part of the human condition.

3. Even if you have lots of family and friends, you feel lonely because you don’t have the intimate attachment of a romantic partner. Or maybe you have a partner, but you don’t feel a deep connection to that person.

4. Sometimes you’re surrounded by people who seem friendly enough, but they don’t want to make the jump from friendly to friends. Maybe they’re too busy with their own lives, or they have lots of friends already, so while you’d like a deeper connection, they don’t seem interested. Or maybe your existing friends have entered a new phase that means they no longer have time for the things you all used to do , everyone has started working very long hours, or has started a family, so that your social scene has changed.

5. Sometimes, you get in a situation where you begin to doubt whether your friends are truly well-intentioned, kind, and helpful. You’re “friends” with people but don’t quite trust them. An important element of friendship is the ability to confide and trust, so if that’s missing, you may feel lonely, even if you have fun with your friends.

6. Sometimes, you may feel lonely because you miss having someone else’s quiet presence. You may have an active social circle at work, or have plenty of friends and family, but you miss having someone to hang out with at home ,whether that would mean living with a roommate, a family member, or a partner.

To be happy, we need intimate bonds; we need to be able to confide, we need to feel like we belong, we need to be able to get and give support. In fact, strong relationships are key to a happy life.

Of course, being alone and being lonely aren’t the same. Loneliness feels draining, distracting, and upsetting; desired solitude feels peaceful, creative, restorative. It seems to me that there are several types of loneliness we read above. Of course, not everyone experiences loneliness in the situations described for instance, not everyone wants a romantic partner. But for some people, the lack of certain kinds of relationships brings loneliness.

Effects of loneliness

MENTAL HEALTH

Loneliness has been linked with depression, and is thus a risk factor for suicide. In adults, loneliness is a major precipitant of depression and alcoholism. People who are socially isolated may report poor sleep quality, and thus have diminished restorative processes. In children, a lack of social connections is directly linked to several forms of antisocial and self destructive behavior, most notably hostile and delinquent behavior. In both children and adults, loneliness often has a negative impact on learning and memory.

PHYSICAL HEALTH

Chronic loneliness can be a serious, life-threatening health condition. It has been found to be associated with an increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease. Loneliness shows an increased incidence of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity.

Loneliness is shown to increase the concentration of cortisol levels in the body. Prolonged, high cortisol levels can cause anxiety, depression, digestive problems, heart disease, sleep problems, and weight gain.

Steps to follow to overcome loneliness-

1. Start small

The best way out of a loneliness is to start small with some simple social interactions. Try making small talk with the neighbors or sending a text to a friend. These small interactions can help you feel less alone and isolated.

2. Hang out with like-minded people

What are you into: video games, music, books? Joining a club is an awesome way to meet and connect with like-minded people. Your school or your local community center might run different clubs, so you can always find out if there’s something there that’s right for you. Another option is meeting up. It brings together people who enjoy similar things or activities, whether that is fitness, photography, or a hobby class like music, dance etc.

3. Get active

Exercise is great for keeping you less stressed and well, but have you thought about it as a way to meet new people?

The good thing about sport is that it’s regular ,so it might take a while but you can build up relationships over time and there’s not as much pressure. You could join an exercise class, take up a competitive sport or head to your local gym. Or, if you have a friend that’s interested, consider asking them to meet up for a walk or run.

4. Get online

Talking to people online is a great way to battle loneliness, as it allows you to stay in a comfortable, safe space (such as your own room) and still makes contact with the outside world. A little searching should uncover an online haven filled with your kind of people.

5. Schedule in something social

Sometimes when you’re in a loneliness spiral, you might start turning down opportunities to socialize, without even realizing it. Try to challenge yourself to get out and socialize at least once a week. At least one regular weekly social activity is must as people these days prefer sitting online which is not bad but if you can really go out and meet your old buddies it can be of great help for you to deal with loneliness.

6. Take yourself out on a date

If you do not feel comfortable asking someone out for a hang? That’s absolutely fine. Grab a good book, the morning crossword, a sports magazine and head to a local market. You don’t have to get too creative, just find somewhere you’re comfortable chilling out for an hour. It might be a local cafe, a gallery or the nearest market. The first few times flying solo can feel a little awkward. You might even worry that people are judging you ,but i promise they’re not. A regular hang spot can also help you to meet new people. If you hit up the same place often enough, you’ll start to notice some familiar faces, and might even make a few mates.

7. Write it down

Writing is a great way to battle loneliness, as it helps you to clarify your thoughts, process your emotions and get to know yourself better. Your journal can become like a best friend: it’s a ‘safe place’ for letting everything out, and it’s always going to be there for you.

But you don’t just have to stick to journal writing ,writing a poem, a short story or even some song lyrics can also be a great way to deal with feelings of isolation.

8. Hang out with some non-humans

Animals are great at making us feel connected and cared for. ‘Dogs in particular can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression and ease loneliness.

You can keep a pet or you can ask your neighbors and friends: they might have a dog you could take for a walk occasionally, or a cat you could come over to visit and pet or you can take care of any stray animal around you-it will give you a sense of connection.

9. Put on your volunteer hat

When you’re feeling isolated, volunteering helps to get you out into the world, connects you with the community and, by keeping you busy, helps take your mind off your own problems. There are stacks of charities in your local area that will be looking for volunteers. Try local nursing homes, childcare centres, old age homes, some ngo’s, orphanages. You will feel really good while helping people who are in need.

10. Get some help

If you’ve tried a couple of these steps and are still feeling disconnected, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. If you need it, you can go for counseling or to a psychologist. Don’t be afraid to get the support you need.As we all know that physical as well as mental health both are equally important.

Don’t forget, stacks of people have times where they feel a sense of loneliness, so you’ll never be alone in feeling lonely. Taking even just a few of the steps above can help reduce your isolation and should help you start to feel better.

So these are the various steps one should follow if he/she thinks he/she is lonely. We can easily overcome loneliness. Don’t think too much and always stay positive no matter what the situation is. Always remember-

“Live life to the fullest, and focus on the positive”.

Matt Cameron

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