Loneliness is the reaction to physical isolation, or perceived isolation and alienation in the presence of other people. It can cause a variety of unpleasant emotional responses, and can increase the risk of a number of health problems.
Research has shown that loneliness is prevalent throughout society, including people in marriages, relationships, families, veterans, and those with successful careers.
According to a 2018 survey from The Economist and the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), more than two in ten adults in the United States (22%) and the United Kingdom (23%) say they always or often feel lonely, lack companionship, or feel left out or isolated.
Loneliness is generally caused by a lack of friendships, and relationships during childhood and adolescence, or a lack of physical presence of meaningful people. It can also be a symptom of certain problems such as chronic depression, or represent a dysfunction of communication with others. Loneliness is also studied as a social phenomenon that is capable of spreading like a disease throughout a population.
Loneliness has a wide range of negative effects on both physical and mental health, including:
- Depression and suicide
- Cardiovascular disease and stroke
- Increased stress levels
- Decreased memory and learning
- Antisocial behaviour
- Poor decision-making
- Alcoholism and drug abuse
- The progression of Alzheimer’s disease
- Altered brain function
Tips to reduce loneliness
Mindfulness is a psychological process, which involves bringing one’s attention to what you are experiencing in the present moment, which can be developed through the practice of meditation.
1) Prioritise intimacy – A sense of loneliness doesn’t just come from not being around people physically, but from a lack of true connection and intimacy.
2) Embrace authenticity – Perhaps you feel lonely because you have become a stranger to yourself by denying your true authenticity. Risk being more real with yourself and to others.
3) Real conversations – Talk more about things that are real, important, and meaningful to you, rather than shallow and generic small talk.
4) Choose friends carefully – Minimise interactions with fake, shallow, or toxic people, and spend more time with supportive, loving, and real people.
5) Humbleness and modesty – Sometimes our ego is what prevents us from truly connecting with others, so by embracing humbleness and modesty we can improve our connections to others.
6) Spirituality – Pay attention to and grow your spiritual side, which can help to feel more connected to the world around us.
7) Altruism/Volunteering – Contributing to the world through altruism or volunteering is a great way to meet others and feel like you are making a difference.
8) Embrace solitude – Use time alone to work on yourself, appreciate peace and quiet, and practice self-care if required.
9) Hobbies – It is always good to have a hobby or two, which can bring enjoyment and allow you to make new friends and connections.
10) Evening classes – Considering taking up a course or evening class. You can meet like minded people whilst you expanding your repertoire of skills or knowledge.
11) Travelling – Perhaps a change of location is what is needed. So take a vacation someone new or consider going travelling.
12) Common compassion – Realise you are not alone in your loneliness, because it is currently an epidemic, and many other people are suffering too.
13) Optimism – Embracing a more optimistic mindset and trying to see the positives more will open up the world to you more, than if you expect failure and rejection.
14) Learn something new – Challenge yourself to learn something new, or study a different subject. Learning more about the world or history may help you to feel more connected to it.
15) Keep a journal – Try to establish patterns of when you feel the most and least lonely. Is it certain people? Certain places? When you behave a certain way? Then set some goals to try to solve this problem.
16) Talk to someone or a helpline – Try and find someone you can trust and talk to, if you don’t feel you can trust anyone then give a helpline a call. By talking to someone you will be letting out how you feel which will make you feel a lot better.
17) Take it easy – Being lonely can feel bad, and coping with it can be difficult. Don’t expect to fully solve it straight away, rather, focus on coping with loneliness one step at a time.
“Risk being seen in all your glory.” ~ Jim Carrey
“To find real peace you have to let the armour go. Your need for acceptance can make you invisible in this world.” ~ Jim Carrey
“Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.” ~ Paul Tillich
“I used to think the worst thing in life is to end up all alone. It’s not. The worst thing in life is to end up with people who make you feel all alone.” ~ Robin Williams
“Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible.” ~ Carl Gustav Jung