Beings, we are hard wired to connect and most of us feel the need for rewarding social contact and relationships. Loneliness is the feeling we get when our need for this type of contact is not met. Loneliness of course is not the same as being alone. We may choose to be alone and live very happy lives without much contact with others. Or indeed we may have much social contact, be constantly surrounded by people, and yet feel very lonely. Loneliness can have a significant impact on our mental health and can contribute to mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression. Loneliness can have many different causes and affects people in different ways. Some people feel lonely due to their personal circumstances (e.g moving to a new area, loss or bereavement). For others however, loneliness can be a deeper more constant feeling that comes from within.
Connecting with the World around us can be a great way to combat loneliness. This may be having a small conversation with the cashier when we pay for our groceries or saying hello to someone we meet in the street. Phoning or sending an email to family and friends can be a good reminder that we do have people in our lives.
Our brain can try to make sense of the feeling of loneliness by telling us things such as ‘It is because nobody loves me’ or ‘There is something wrong with me’ These thoughts are not facts – and can make us feel worse. Thus it is important to accept how we are feeling without overreacting. When we feel lonely, the tendency might be to withdraw into ourselves and this can be counterproductive. The healthiest thing to do if we are feeling lonely is to reach out and cultivate friendships. Reaching out can be difficult and at times we will resist it. However, think of it in the way you might approach exercising – whilst we may feel tired or lazy it is a beneficial thing to do.
We need to tackle loneliness one step at a time. It may involve finding a new hobby or joining a club or exercise class. Another skillful way to combat feelings of loneliness is to volunteer as it’s a great way to meet new people and also to learn new skills.
Loneliness is a profoundly human emotion and a signal that our need for connection is going unmet. Next week we will discuss loneliness in Older Adults and explore ways we can tackle this.
SouthWest Counselling Centre Killarney provides affordable professional counselling to children, adolescents adults and couples – both at its Killarney Centre (Lewis Road) and at Kenmare Family Centre. firstname.lastname@example.org. Kerry LifeLine provides FREE counselling and support to anyone feeling suicidal or bereaved through suicide. email@example.com To make an appointment call 064 6636416.
SouthWest Counselling Centre is a not-for-profit organization. All funds raised through fundraising go directly to service provision.