How to deal with loneliness
How to deal with loneliness
If you are feeling lonely, you are not alone.
YouGov research in October 2019 revealed 88% of people in the UK aged from 18 to 24 say they experience loneliness to some degree, with a quarter (24%) suffering often and 7% saying they are lonely all the time.
Human beings are social creatures by nature. Interacting with other human beings is a crucial need that most of us have to meet to maintain good mental health and wellbeing.
The amount of social interaction we each need can vary from individual to individual but, in general, a lack of social contact with other people can impact on our mental health.
Strategies for coping with loneliness
Being lonely may affect your confidence and self-belief. You might also feel that this situation will go on forever and you’ll never meet anyone, either friends or a romantic partner.
1. Practice self-compassion
It is important to be especially kind to yourself and not lose heart
2. Attend to the Five ways to wellbeing
- Connect with others – even if it is only saying hello to a neighbour
- Keep learning – maybe join a class. You’ll learn something and be with other people
- Stay active – this helps mental and physical health. If you join a sports club or exercise class you may meet others
- Give to others – volunteering is a great way of meeting other people and giving something back
- Notice – noticing the world around you and staying in the present moment can help you appreciate things in a new way.
Each of these activities may help you start to overcome your loneliness
These activities may help you start to overcome your loneliness
- Reconnect with old friends from home that you knew before college or university.
- Think of creative ways of staying in touch with friends or partners who are moving away, for example:
- Video calls
- Writing letters
- Regular reunions - meet up for a weekend every so often, to explore a new part of the country together
- Whatever works for you
- Join a sports club, team, theatre group, choir or class - whatever interests you
- Having something to do is vital for keeping a sense of purpose
- It also helps you to stop ruminating on negative thoughts and to keep depression at bay
- Dating apps are a good way of meeting people, especially if you have moved to a new area
Being lonely can also increase your likelihood of becoming depressed.
Being depressed can increase loneliness by making you isolate yourself and think negatively.
If you feel you are becoming depressed, it is important to get help.
The impact of loneliness on your mental health
Being lonely can have a profound impact on our mental and physical health.
Professor John Cacioppo, former director of the University of Chicago's Centre for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience, wrote of the health impacts of loneliness in his 2008 book, ‘Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection’1. In this book, he established five possible implications of loneliness on our health and general quality of life:
Reduction in will-power
- Lack of distraction, motivation or gratification from others
- More likely to engage in self-destructive behaviours when lonely
- Drug & alcohol abuse, bulimia, over-eating, lack of exercise
Exposure to stress
- Lonely people report greater exposure to stress
- Possibly due to lack of people to offload on or confide in
- Lack of perspective on or distraction from personal problems
- The longer you remain isolated, the harder it is to re-integrate
- Lonely people are more likely to avoid engaging with others, perpetuating isolation further
- Tests have found links between loneliness and impaired immune and cardiac function
- Possibly due to biological roles of oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine - these are stimulated by social interaction
- Tests show people are more likely to have difficulty sleeping when lonely
- Metabolic, cognitive and hormonal implications
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