Our 21st Century lives mean that more and more of us are struggling with loneliness. Sometimes this is a transient phase but often it is chronic. It’s been said that loneliness can lie at the root of most mental illness.
There is a difference between loneliness and solitude. The Campaign to end loneliness claims that “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 worse for us than well-known risk factors such as obesity and physical inactivity.” It is staggering isn’t it. Comparable to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
I once sat in a Mental Health Awareness training session with a Trainer who was very experienced in community mental health. He said it would be helpful for many people to find a loving and supportive relationship – but we can’t prescribe a boyfriend and just pull one out of the cupboard.
Our humanness is often something we as a society have pushed away – it’s pretty inconvenient in this fast-paced world at times. But that’s exactly what we are, human.
Hope is a good antidote to loneliness. Keeping my mind occupied and stimulated can relieve me of the negative effects when I feel lonely and I know some people that can take great joy from art. If I am feeling lonely I have to really make an effort to look after myself and, of course, to reach out to others. We can take small steps such as phoning an acquaintance for a coffee or joining some kind of group or social activity. Sometimes it requires being brave. I haven’t read Feel the Fear and do it anyway but someone has recently recommended this to me.
Voluntary work is a good idea, even if you are working as there are one-off events too. I recently volunteered at an 80’s festival and I also built a path. Do it Org is a great website where you can find voluntary positions all over the country.
The digital world is abound with options and there are online groups such as meetup which offer everything from walking groups to cinema outings. It’s true ,though, that we can still feel lonely with people around. Perhaps that’s because when socialising with people one doesn’t know so well it feels safer to wear a mask at times, at least it does for me. Perhaps another little step is to lower this mask?
If anyone would like to share their thoughts on the topic of loneliness please do so, either in the comments on the blog, Facebook or Twitter.