Loneliness is a big deterrent to wellness.It is as dangerous as smoking fifteen cigarettes a day. Today, people are lonelier than ever before despite ample opportunities of socialization. We got used to technical connectivity more that led to mental disconnection. Enforced social isolation is even more worrisome as people struggle on how to deal with loneliness.
Social psychologists define loneliness as a gap between social and personal connections that you prefer and those you experience. Bigger the gap lonelier you are. It is a subjective experience and is quite tough to identify. The mere absence of psychological and mental connection contributes to loneliness. A lack of feeling that you are genuinely cared prevails.
Surveys have found lonely people often feel they are reaching out or listening to people more than they are reached out or listened. This feeling of rejection often creates grounds of loneliness. Social connections are crucial for people’s health and happiness. Physical impairment, illness, and personal loss isolate people making them feel lonelier in due course of life.
Being alone and loneliness – finding the distinction
Being alone and being lonely are two distinct terminologies. Being alone does you no harm. In fact, it is important to give yourself that time frame where you sit alone and be only in the company of yourself for a while. Alone time is necessary for you to dwell upon your actions, and think of your future pans. It refreshes your mind and leaves you feeling more energetic than before.
Loneliness, however, is a completely different aspect. This happens when one has nobody to talk to or be with. Such people have absolutely no close friends or family who can look beyond what their face says. Different people react in different ways to loneliness. A handful of people take it upon themselves, and channel all their energy into their work of professional life, and turn all tides in their favour. But a vast majority of people are badly affected by isolation and being lonely.
The elderly alone does not suffer from loneliness
A 2019 US survey by Cigna reported, 61% of those residing in the US feel lonely.
- In a 2018 analysis from the Britain’s Office for National Statistics found 10% of young Brits aged 16-24 felt lonely often or always compared to 3% of those aged 65 or more.
- A 2019 US survey found, nearly 1 in 5 millennials have no friends, a number significantly higher than the Baby boomers or GenXers who are without friends.
Increased social isolation leading to loneliness
Challenging global situations have led to widespread social isolation where more people are feeling lonely. Lack of in-person social interaction, prolonged stay-at-home requirements being away from family and friends are responsible for the growing loneliness affecting both the young and old.
Japan has welcomed the hiring of the first ‘Minister of Loneliness’ to tackle the growing suicides from social and economic isolation with working women and single mothers posing the highest risk. Previously, the US has also taken a similar approach of hiring Loneliness Minister whose effects are yet to be realised.
Such approaches by the government underscores the harmful effects of loneliness on physical and mental health, and its ripple effects in economic decline and mounting healthcare costs.
Harmful effects of loneliness
There are plenty of damaging factors that arise due to loneliness and isolation. But the good news is that you can tackle them all. There are many people out there who are falling prey to various physical and mental illnesses just because they are lonely. Man is a social animal. Man needs other people around him to rely upon when the need arises.
Loneliness is a severe condition, which is often underrated. Lonely people are everywhere to be find hiding behind happy and content masks, fooling people all around them. The harmful effects which come with loneliness are not to be overlooked, since they are as fatal and harmful as any other physical condition.
Objective loneliness that is people living alone and subjective loneliness where people frequently report of loneliness are related with higher morbidity and mortality.
A disturbed mind will eventually lead to disturbed bodily functions. Lack of concentration and considerably low mental retaining capacity are the most common of symptoms. Also, lonely people are more prone to over intake drugs which can then harm their health. The circulation of hormones in the body is highly affected, and so is the blood pressure.
- If you are lonely or socially isolated, you have a 29 percent increased risk of coronary heart disease and 32 percent higher risk of stroke.
- A lonely or socially isolated person is 30 percent more likely to die a premature death. Even limited durations of loneliness can lead to early death.
- The risk of developing clinical dementia is 64 percent higher among lonely elderly patients.
- Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP) reports prolonged self-isolation in youth and children could lead to depression and anxiety years later.
With absolutely nobody to talk to, one starts feeling neglected and isolated. To a lonely person, everyone else seems happy and full of life. They start cursing and doubting their condition to an extent that they no longer wish to live. This is when over usage of drugs starts happening. They lose interest in life, and suicidal tendencies set in.
A stressed out mind cannot easily concentrate and think clearly. Many thoughts keep running through their head all day long. Since they have no one to talk to, these thoughts do not find a way out. There are no conversations taking place, and hence it is the sleeping pattern which gets disrupted. They spend more time lying awake in bed with plenty of thoughts scurrying through their minds.
10 Useful tips to deal with loneliness
Addressing the root problem is more important than addressing the symptoms. There are a few ways by which the condition of loneliness can be dealt with. You need to follow certain measures which will help you overcome the problem of loneliness. Harnessing your mind and thoughts and channelizing them properly is the first step to deal with loneliness.
Be mindful of your connections, less is more
An extensive list of friends and acquaintances on the social media platforms could not spare you from loneliness. Technology often gives you the false impression of keeping you highly connected in the social sphere. Maintain a handful of meaningful relationships with friends, you will feel contented. Else your thoughts get lost in the crowd.
Be in regular touch with them. If in-person meet is not feasible, call them or text messages without going overboard. Share humorous and witty posts in the close circle. The reciprocation that you receive gives a feel-good factor leading you to the way to beat loneliness.
Nurture meaningful relationships
Do whatever it takes to nurture meaningful relationships be it at home, work, or among friends. Do not take relationships for granted. Be honest in relationships and shower your sincerity, love, and care to persons who matter in your life.
Overcome the fear of rejection
You won’t be able to deal with loneliness unless you get past the fear of rejection. Talk to strangers frequently. Set up a conversation, and you will be surprised with the outcome. You will find many in the same boat. In the process, if you happen to help anybody with information or acts, the reward will be delightful. Most of us are eager to extend our acquaintances but few step forward to break the ice. You take the bold step.
Generate attraction in your communication
Create moments for your friends and acquaintances to enjoy your company, and nothing can be great if they are drawn to your communication skills. Add humour and pleasantries to your interaction. Interact on varied subjects instead of ruminating same things. Practice this by communicating with strangers. This will drive you towards more meaningful connections and people will make time to interact with you amid their busy schedule.
Cultivate your intellectual wellness
All of us have different levels of intellectuality. Nurturing your intellectual aspect will stimulate your creativity leading you to meaningful engagements. Reading books, attending events of your likings or learning new skills is a great way to deal with loneliness.
Stop ruminating on voidness
Loneliness is a feeling of voidness. If you go on feeding negative thoughts and feelings, loneliness creeps in. Instead of brooding or feeling sad of being alone, shift your focus to what you can contribute to. It could be a fund-raising program or offering charity on your birthday. You will get more encouraging persons to get connected with and feel less lonely.
Share moments in real
Whenever you come across any good experience, do not hesitate to share in your social circle – not virtually in social media but in person. You can call or text your friend or visit him/her in person to share those experiences. You can share with your co-workers in workplace as well. Sharing is contagious, if you can build that comfort level in your circle you will get the same in return. Loneliness will be miles away.
Create moments of ‘awe’
Expose yourself to ‘awe’ generating moments. If you are mindful of your surroundings, you can spot many such ‘awesome’ moments like blooming of a flower, a bird building a nest, amazing sunrises, and many such natural events that happen continuously around us. Traveling to new places is one of the best ways to experience awesome moments. Persons with creative mind or those who are extrovert are likely to experience more ‘awe’ moments. It distracts your mind from self and makes you feel a part of a bigger canvas. You cease to feel lonely.
Create new menus of spending time
Gift your self everyday a new day. Brainstorm ideas to spend the day differently. Do not repeat things that you have done the day before. Whether it is a change in your diet menu or whole day activities, try to include some new activities every day. To create new experiences for yourself daily, you may learn to reach out to others for ideas.
Participate in community work
Community work gives mental satisfaction and helps you to beat loneliness. It could be in through online and offline forums, groups, or clubs where you feel happy to contribute. It could be anything from teaching, awareness-building, providing relief, disaster management. Such activities will never make you feel lonely or isolated.
With our unique adaptive capabilities, we may create our own strategies to deal with loneliness. There is no magic formula to overcome loneliness as different persons have different situations.
If loneliness seems to be overbearing, you may have to consider the following options:
Seek professional help
Although underrated, there is therapy for every other physical and emotional disorder. Loneliness is a recognized mental disorder that can lead to more psychological complications. Seek help from professionals who know how to guide other people out of loneliness. By being on proper medications and following their prescribed ways of bringing your life back on track, you can counter loneliness and become the energetic and happy person you originally were.
Talk to trustworthy people
There are plenty of amazing and reliable people out there waiting to help their friends and family members, who might be feeling lonely. You can open up to such people and talk your heart out. Do not let yourself be alone, try being in the company of people who lift you up.
Apart from following the tips to deal with loneliness, never cease to be optimistic about the future. No matter how long it may seem, loneliness is a phase, and will wither away with time. Try to be in company of people be it family, friends, or anybody in the known circle. The future is delightful and hold much more good than you can contemplate.