‘Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty’ Mother Teresa
According to a BBC poll published this October almost half (48%) of all adults in England say they experience feelings of loneliness.
Mervyn Kohler a Specialist adviser to Age UK says; ”Loneliness is on the increase for a variety of reasons, mostly because of the changing nature of society.”
Loneliness is not confined to just one sector of the population. According to the poll, 18 to 24 year olds experience it just as much as those people who are in their sixties or older. The poll discovered that if you are between 30 and 50 you are less likely to be lonely, probably because you have a houseful of children or teenagers and are busy working.
What is loneliness?
Loneliness is not the same as being alone. People do choose to be alone and live perfectly happily without a great deal of contact with others. In contrast you may see lots of people, be in a family and/or a relationship but still feel lonely.
‘Loneliness is not feeling part of the world. You might be surrounded by loads of people but…. You are (still) lonely’ Mind
Loneliness is therefore an emotional state but it can have a big impact on our mental health and our physical health too.
How long does loneliness last?
Loneliness usually is a transient emotional state. It’s something that most people experience at some point in their lives. When we have a big change in our lives like moving to a new town for example or suffer a loss such as the end of a relationship or a bereavement then we experience the pain of being cut off from people; we feel lonely. Usually those feelings of isolation and sadness recede as you begin again to participate in the world, building new relationships that relieve the feelings of loneliness.
What happens if these feelings don’t go away?
For some people the loneliness doesn’t go away; they fail to get themselves out of this state of loneliness and gradually become more and more isolated. It can become a downward spiral as the loneliness can lead to self -isolation so that the person appears to others that they do not wish to form connections. This then of course deepens the feelings of loneliness even more.
Can loneliness affect your health?
Your mental health can be significantly affected by feelings of loneliness. Studies have shown that people who are lonely experience more stress and have low self -esteem. Loneliness can contribute to mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. Being physically isolated can also lead to poor eating habits and having less motivation to exercise regularly.
What can you do to overcome loneliness?
The charity Mind give some great suggestions for you to try. They talk first about making contact. Connecting with the world around you can help alleviate feelings of loneliness. Small steps can help with this such as a phone call or email to someone. Having a walk and taking the time to say hello to someone or try to join in a conversation. Mind suggest that no matter how difficult make the most of opportunities for social contact.
Meeting new people and making new friends can help overcome feelings of loneliness. In most areas there are many different groups that meet and most welcome new members. They are usually advertised through local magazines and newspapers. It can be daunting going along to something for the first time and it will usually take a few weeks to feel settled but it’s worth persevering to see what happens.
If you spend a lot of time alone then learning to feel more comfortable about this can really help. This time alone could actually be a time for you to learn a new skill or spend more time on a hobby that you enjoy. Challenge yourself to turn what you see as a negative into a positive. Your time alone is time to yourself to do something just for you.
How can we help?
Here at Manchester Institute for Psychotherapy we have experienced counsellors and therapists who can help. Talking to a therapist can help you to deal with your feelings of loneliness and provide you with strategies that you can work on to overcome it. Our emphasis is on friendliness and providing a safe and warm environment. You can phone the Institute on: 0161-862-9456 to book your initial assessment or contact us via email.