We're living in a world where we're constantly connected, yet we feel lonelier than ever before. And you don't have to be alone to feel isolated: even if you have a partner and a group of good friends, you can still feel lonely. Even when you're in a crowded room, it can feel as if you aren't able to connect with others on a deeper level - and this can fuel negative thoughts and low self-esteem.
Loneliness can affect people in different ways, which is why psychologists identify four types of loneliness: situational, emotional, social and chronic.
Situational loneliness arises from circumstances where making friends is difficult. Examples include moving abroad to work, perhaps somewhere where you don't speak the language very well, being a stay-at-home parent of young children, or having a disability that makes getting out and about a challenge.
If you struggle with situational loneliness, getting out and meeting people is the best tactic. While the internet isn't the same as meeting up with friends in real life, finding an online group connected with a hobby or interest can help you get in touch with like-minded people, boost social skills and overcome loneliness.
If you experience problems in social situations because of anxiety, shyness, or low self-esteem, you may suffer from social loneliness. It may be because you worry that people will find you awkward and not entertaining enough. If you are suffering from poor self-esteem, Bach Flower Mix 44 helps to improve self-confidence and believe in yourself more.
Some people are lonely for so long that it becomes a way of life. It is similar to situational loneliness as it is often the result of circumstances. Still, it can be hard to break the cycle as the sense of self-isolation is so entrenched.
Chronic loneliness may be seen in elderly individuals whose friends and acquaintances have died or moved into residential care and whose family lives far away. Those who are prevented from socialising by controlling partners may also suffer chronic loneliness.
But it is essential to remember that everyone deserves friends and a social life, and there is no shame in asking for help.
Emotional loneliness does not arise from circumstances but comes from within yourself. So it can be difficult to change without addressing the root of the problem. The individual in question may need help to understand how their background and experiences may have triggered behaviours that make loneliness worse.
Talking therapy or CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) will help you to cope with emotional loneliness. You will learn to replace negative thoughts that hold you back with a positive outlook on your relationships.
Sometimes just knowing that other people are around may help with some kinds of loneliness. These tips may also help:
If you've been lonely for a long time, it can be very daunting to think about meeting lots of new people. But there's no need to rush into anything.
Take things slowly by choosing an online class where others attend, but there is no interaction between you - for example, a yoga class or art class. Or, if you join a real-life class, ask if you can watch first before joining in.
Try meeting more or different people, perhaps by joining a group or class based on your hobbies and interests. Volunteering is another excellent way of increasing social contact - and helping others also makes you feel more confident and better about yourself.
Maybe you have a wide social circle but don't feel close to any of them, or perhaps they don't offer the support and care you need. In this case, opening up to family and friends about your feelings may be very helpful.
If you don't want to talk to people you know, try consulting a therapist or joining a support group.
It's human nature to compare ourselves to others, but remember that things are not always what they appear to be from the outside. People tend to share only positive things about their lives on social media, and you can't know how they are feeling in reality.
If you lack confidence in your life when you compare yourself to what others are doing, this might make you feel lonely and isolated from other people.
Feeling lonely is stressful and may impact your physical and mental wellbeing. In turn, this may make it more challenging to make positive changes. So the first step is to look after yourself by considering the following factors:
When you get too little or too much sleep, it can significantly affect how you feel. Try to develop good sleep hygiene habits, so you awake feeling refreshed and energised.
Eat regular meals. Keeping your blood sugar steady can lift your energy levels and mood.
Exercise has a positive impact on our physical and mental health. Improving fitness gives a sense of achievement and can boost self-confidence.
While you might believe that alcohol and drugs help you to cope with loneliness, they can mask underlying issues and will only make you feel worse over time.
Spending time in nature can calm you and boost your well-being, and many people find they feel less lonely when they are outdoors.
Spending time with pets or other animals can help with loneliness. Owning a dog is an excellent way to meet like-minded people who will stop for a chat when you're walking your pet. If you love animals but can't keep a pet where you live, consider volunteering at a city farm or animal Rescue centre.
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