In our third blog for Mental Health Awareness Week we are covering the issue of loneliness.
Loneliness may seem to be more of an emotional issue than a mental health condition. However, there is a big difference between being on your own, enjoying your own company and having a certain amount of solitude, and the painful, pervasive feeling of loneliness. You can be alone, but not lonely. Conversely you can be surrounded by people, yet still suffer from loneliness.
Loneliness and isolation go hand in hand. Being isolated stems from a feeling of separation from the people or the things that surround us. Loneliness can be totally overwhelming and impact negatively on our mental health.
People who struggle with loneliness often feel like giving up — further cutting themselves off from other people and thereby worsening their isolation. This results in feelings of desperation — an individual may feel discarded, unwanted and unloved and may also experience a lack of connection or communication with others.
There are pros to having quiet time. Being alone, spending quality time with your own thoughts, can be liberating. However, we are focussing on the feelings of emptiness and isolation that many people experience. Loneliness is a universal phenomenon and affects any culture, class, age, race etc.
There are many positive things you can do to combat loneliness as follows:
- First, take baby steps. Start with simple social interactions such as greeting a neighbour or talking to staff in shops or at the supermarket.
- Try to associate with like-minded people who share your interests. You can join a sport or running club, an art class or a book club at your local library.
- You could become a volunteer in various parts of your local community. By giving your time and energy as a volunteer you will experience positive interactions with other people which will help improve your mental health.
- Joining an online group is also a positive step. If you feel daunted by the prospect of meeting people in social situations, you can improve your social skills and gain valuable experience by chatting with people online.
- It helps to write things down. Express your emotions in a journal — write down your feelings when you are lonely and make plans to overcome your situation. Make a note of your accomplishments, however minor, and record the times when you achieve social goals.
These are all positive steps you can take to help overcome loneliness. Focus on positive thoughts and attitudes and make a conscious effort to make changes that will enable you to impact others around you in a positive way.