It’s fairly safe to say that all of us, at some point in our lives, have felt lonely. Thankfully, for most of us, this feeling is temporary. But some people have to live with loneliness each and every day. Here are some statistics:
- Three out of four GPs say they see between 1 and 5 people a day who have come in mainly because they are lonely
- Loneliness can be as harmful to health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day
- The UK is the loneliest country in Europe (UK Gov Survey 2017)
- Around 200,000 older people have not had a conversation with a friend or relative in more than a month
- Up to 85% of young disabled adults – 18-34 year olds – feel lonely
Loneliness is a perfectly normal feeling. We have evolved to be social creatures, to be part of the tribe rather than isolated and vulnerable. We get a nice boost of happy chemicals in our brain when we interact positively with others. The opposite is true when we’re lonely. We feel flat, anxious, miserable.
Here are some tips for overcoming loneliness.
Realise that you’re not alone in feeling lonely
As the stats above show, chronic loneliness is common in today’s society. This knowledge might not make the feeling go away, but it can be a comfort to know that your feelings are common and you’re not unusual.
Connect with others
Use loneliness as a spur to reinforce existing relationships or even find new one. This will get your happy chemicals flowing.
Identify your loneliness thoughts and challenge them
Loneliness is a feeling, not a fact.
Write down some of the negative thoughts that you have when you are lonely and try to come up with rational responses to those thoughts. For instance, do you have to feel sad because you are alone?
Use Alone Time Wisely
If you find yourself alone, you can choose to dwell in your loneliness or attempt to use your alone time to do a solo activity that you enjoy and become good at it. Maybe it’s reading, cooking, baking, golfing, fishing.Then use your new skill as a way to connect with others. Find a group with similar interests or use it as a conversation starter when you meet new people.
Get off line
The internet can make us feel lonely because we attempt to substitute real relationships with online relationships. Lonely people can exert so much energy to feel connected on-line that they don’t put effort into building off-line, fulfilling relationships.
Fight the emotional habit of loneliness
Realise you are dealing with an emotional habit and be willing to do the hard work of combating it. Invite someone out or initiate a conversation. It will be worth it. The emotion of loneliness can pass, depending on what you’re thinking and what you’re doing.
Focus on others
Shifting your focus from how bad you’ve got it to how you can bless others will go a long way in combating loneliness.