Loneliness is defined as “sadness because one has no friends or company.” If you are a person who doesn’t spend much time with others but in your heart you are genuinely happy then you are not lonely. To be lonely you need to have both a lack of company and sadness because of it.
Before I go on to outline the ways to combat loneliness I think it is important to first identify why it should be avoided. For adults loneliness;
- Is a trigger for the abuse of alcohol and drug abuse
- Is a cause of depression
- Increases the effects of stress
- Raises levels of circulating stress
- Raises levels of circulating stress hormones and levels of blood pressure
- Destroys the quality and efficiency of sleep
- Can reduce life expectancy
Get involved with social activities at work, take part in classes at your local gym or leisure centre, make the effort to attend gatherings with friends or family members. If that's not for you, simply smiling and saying a friendly “hello” to your neighbours and people you come across day to day is powerful enough to fight off the effects of loneliness.
Loneliness can be triggered by a memory when you are actually alone and isolated from the others. Loneliness is one of the agonising feelings that the brain associates with pain and danger and then it tries to relate the feeling to a reason. Why am I lonely? Is it because nobody loves me? Is it because I am a loser? Therefore, it is important to accept the feeling instead of over reacting to it. You may feel lonely in that moment but think about your friends, family members, and work colleuagues who you get on with on a regular basis.
It's better to reach out to friends and family rather than withdrawing into yourself. Cultivating a healthy friendship helps in alleviating sadness and loneliness. If you don't want to reach out to loved ones then you should have systems in place at work to support you if you're feeling lonely. In addition to this there are numeous groups and organisations you can connect with online who can support you with feelings of loneliness and help you to overcome this. For instance, Campaign to End Loneliness and MInd do a lot of work to help support anyone who is feeling lonely.
Shifting your focus to the feelings and needs of other people and trying to help them in some way or the other can help you in forgetting about your lonely thoughts. If you're helping others regularly then you can never truly be lonely.
These days, it is not difficult to find people who share your hobbies and interests. One way to do this is through social media. If used correctly social media is a fantastic tool to connect with other like minded people. Take the initiative and join groups that are in line with your hobbies, interests, and passions. Follow the activity online and contribute to conversations. Feeling part of a larger group or cause will help to reduce feelings of loneliness.