Loneliness isn’t the same as being alone. We all need alone time to recharge and spending time alone can give us the opportunity to organize our thoughts, goals, and life. Some people may choose to live alone happily without much social contact, whilst others may struggle and find it a lonely experience. Feelings of loneliness can differ from person to person. Loneliness isn’t just restricted to situations of no social contact either, some people may be surrounded by many relationships but still, feel disconnected and lonely. When we feel that the existing relationships in our lives lack intimacy, intensity, or authenticity we can often feel lonely and discontented.
“I’m both an introvert and extrovert. I love people but I need to be alone. I’ll go out to meet people, but it has an expiration because I have to recharge. If I don’t find the valuable alone time I need to recharge, I cannot be my highest self.”
- Denzel Washington
In 2016, AgeUk reported that half a million older people go 5 to 6 days a week without seeing or speaking anyone at all. There also has been an increase of loneliness for millennials due to the rise of social media as 1/3 of young people report that they ‘always’ or ‘often’ feel lonely, and ¼ of this generation could not even name a single real friend, according to a YouGov poll in 2019.
Loneliness can be connected with an increased risk of mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, self-esteem issues, and sleep problems. Feelings of loneliness can come and go throughout different life situations, but for some individuals, loneliness can be long-term. Certain life events can cause feelings of loneliness and can differ from person to person. Relationship breakups, retirement, bereavement, moving jobs/house and even Christmas can all cause and contribute to feelings of loneliness. But it has also been reported that some individuals that live under specific circumstances or belong in specific groups of people can have increased feelings of loneliness such as individuals who:
- Do not have friends or family
- Single parents
- Have mental or physical disabilities
- People from minority groups
- Feel discriminated due to gender, sexual orientation, age, race or background
- Experienced physical or sexual abuse which can make it difficult to form relationships
When we experience feelings of loneliness, we need to know that there are many other people in this world that are feeling the same, especially during the current circumstances. We are never truly alone as loneliness is only a feeling and not a fact. However loneliness features in your life, there are things you can do that can make you feel less lonely:
- Join a class or group - It may seem daunting at first, but joining a local class or group can introduce you to new people nearby.
- Volunteering - By helping others and volunteering your time to a positive cause can significantly improve your mental health in many ways and also introduce you to new people.
- Talk - If you have family and friends, talking to them. They may not realize how you feel and could try and help you.
- Go to a café – If you struggle with social situations, you can go to a café and sit in the same room as other people and not be expected to talk. This could help your feelings of loneliness until you feel confident enough to talk to others. Try smiling at a stranger or saying hello.
- Animals – Some people may find it beneficial to be around animals to help conquer their loneliness. You can visit a farm or even go to your local adoption center and adopt a dog, cat, rabbit, or guinea –pig.
Alternatively, there are support groups and charities that are able to help those who are experiencing loneliness to get support, talk, and arrange meetings in your local area: