What is loneliness?
As social beings, most of us feel the need for rewarding social contact and relationships. One common definition of loneliness is that it is the feeling we get when our need for this type of contact is not met.
However, loneliness is not the same as being alone. You might choose to be alone and live happily without much contact with other people. Or you may have lots of social contact, or be in a relationship or part of a family and still feel lonely.
Certain lifestyles and the stresses of daily life can make some people socially isolated and vulnerable to loneliness. There are many situations that might make you feel isolated or lonely.
For example, if you:
- lose a partner or someone close to you
- go through a relationship break-up
- are a single parent or caring for someone else – you may find it hard to maintain a social life
- retire and lose the social contact you had at work
- are older and find it difficult to go out alone
- move to a new area without family, friends or community networks
According to the charity Age UK, almost one million people over 75 do not know their nearest neighbours; the same number haven’t spoken to anyone for a month. Forty per cent of older people say that the TV is their main source of company. Speaking in July 2015, the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, decried Britain’s “national shame” in its treatment of the elderly – the first time the government has directly addressed what is becoming known as the “crisis of loneliness” among the old. “There is a problem of loneliness that in our busy lives we have utterly failed to confront as a society,” he said.
But it’s not only the elderly that are lonely. The internet generation, the “Facebook masses” who live their lives vicariously “online”, do they really have 1000+ friends? Will these virtual friends be there, in person, in times of need or just to say hello face to face?
There was a time when there were communities who looked out for one another. Families had grand parents, aunts and uncles and close neighbours who cared and who would visit, even just to chat or have a cup of tea.
The impact of loneliness on your health
Loneliness is a bigger problem than simply an emotional experience. Research shows that loneliness and social isolation are harmful to our health: lacking social connections is a comparable risk factor for early death as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and is as bad for us than well-known risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity.
Loneliness can have a significant impact on your mental health. It can contribute to mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression.
Having a mental health problem can also make you feel lonely. For example, your condition may mean that you find social contact difficult or that you find it hard to maintain friendships, or you may feel isolated because of stigma and discrimination.
Loneliness isolates you from daily human interaction and strips you of your confidence and self worth so much so that it becomes very difficult to even consider social interaction. This can lead to not eating properly or not even exercising as it becomes too much of a strain to bother about everyday things.
How to cope and combat Loneliness
“If you learn to really sit with loneliness and embrace it for the gift that it is…an opportunity to get to know YOU, to learn how strong you really are, to depend on no one but YOU for your happiness…you will realize that a little loneliness goes a LONG way in creating a richer, deeper, more vibrant and colourful YOU.”
― Mandy Hale, The Single Woman: Life, Love, and a Dash of Sass
- 6 things to do to banish the Lonely Blues
1 – Do some Volunteering. Find a local volunteer group and get out and about. It will bring you into contact with other like minded people.
2 – Say hello to a neighbour or a shop assistant. Be around other people in the street it can help kick start the social interactions.
3 – Call, text or email a friend. Keep in touch next time you are feeling lonely.
4 – Consider getting a pet. If that’s possible. A dog or cat can provide company, and walking a dog will bring you in contact with other possible dog walkers.
5 – Occupy yourself by doing something that interests you. Immerse yourself in those good feelings as you occupy your mind.
6 – Empower your mind to bring about positive changes. Hypnotherapy can help you change your mindset into a positive way of thinking and bring about long lasting benefits, not just to help combat loneliness.
My name is Derek Fraser Crosson and I am a Clinical Hypnotherapist in Stratford-On-Avon, Warwickshire. I specialise in empowering people to change their life and live their dreams! I am contactable on 07534 930265 or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or visit my website www.derekcrosson.com.