“sadness because one has no friends or company”
In this blog I am going to discuss loneliness, not such a new phenomenon. Loneliness has often presented itself in my therapy room. In my younger years loneliness was a feeling that I would do anything to avoid or find ways to numb it away. I probably should write this blog with a trigger warning. For many people who face social isolation, anxiety, depression, drugs or alcohol issues, the sense of loneliness is something at the core of where these issues stem. I would even go on to say that loneliness is each of these presenting needs closest allies. Loneliness can be a feeling of emptiness in the pit of your stomach or it can be there when you gasp your breath to find that next word. I recall one of my first ever counselling clients was a successful city banker, who would walk out of work and describe this dark cloud of loneliness descending on him. The role he carried out nine to five gave him purpose and status, but once he left work he described a sense of loneliness that had been there since he was a child.
- Loneliness is worse for you than obesity. (Holt-Lunstad, 2010)
- Loneliness is as bad for you as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. (Holt-Lunstad, 2010)
- Lonely people are more likely to suffer from dementia, heart disease and depression. (Valtorta et al, 2016) (James et al, 2011) (Cacioppo et al, 2006)
- Loneliness is likely to increase your risk of death by 29% (Holt-Lunstad, 2015)
So, I hear you say what can we do to deal with our sense of loneliness?
Do something different!
That sounds like such a simple suggestion.
Did you once have a hobby or something you enjoyed?
Perhaps give that more attention and there are groups and forums for everything. You will be surprised. Go out and look for it. If you are feeling shy, take a close friend or family member you trust with you.
If that does not work for you, then here are some other suggestions. Remember when you try something to give it at least three tries and by the third try you will know if it is right for you:
- Reach out and talk to those you trust and love about your sense of loneliness.
- Identify what triggers your sense of loneliness.
- What times of day do you tend to feel lonely?
- Try using Meet Up or other forums to test out and try something different.
- Go to college and do an evening or weekend course to try and break that sense of isolation and you can develop a new skill at the same time.
- Volunteer for an event of interest or a charity. This is a great way of building your support network whilst developing a new skill and giving something back to the community.
- If you are from a faith background perhaps speak to the faith leader in your community. They are there to provide pastoral support and if they are too busy they will find someone within the community to provide you support.
- If you have a sense that if this feeling of loneliness has been there for some time and you want to explore it further Perhaps one to one or group therapy can help as it provides you a place to test out ideas to put into action in your world.
- Do something that gets you in contact with your body, when we can embody where in our body we feel the sense of loneliness we can get a better sense of where the work on our personal development needs to begin.
As we move into autumn and winter is only around the corner, when it starts to get darker earlier, it is a good time to find ways to break the sense of loneliness. Remember there are support networks out there to help you break your sense of isolation and loneliness.