We have all felt lonely at some point in life. At our core, we are social creatures and missing out on positive interactions can leave us feeling empty or alone. Young adults are more likely to feel lonely than older generations, according to a study by the Office for National Statistics.
The research found that almost 10 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds said they “always or often” feel lonely. The figure was more than three times higher than among over 65s.
We may not know this because talking about loneliness carries a stigma. This tendency can come from low self-esteem, social isolation or even FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) from not attending certain social events. Lonely people have a higher risk of developing problems such as addiction, depression and psychosis, and this issue is not solved just by going out every single weekend. While expanding your social network and listening to podcasts are tips that can help you remain active and distracted, loneliness is an issue with deeper roots than that.
Verbalize your loneliness
One of the biggest perpetrators of loneliness is the stigma that prevents us from reaching out. Having an honest conversation about it with friends and family can help you find the support you need. We need to create a domino effect to encourage to start talking about it too. Talk to someone you are close to about signing up to a fitness class together or taking up a new hobby. Strike up a conversation when there with strangers, even just a friendly greeting to start tackling your loneliness.
You are a product of your decisions, not circumstance
Sometimes we feel that putting ourselves out there, is harder than simply staying home but it’s really not. Force yourself to fight the dread; once you decide to stand up, you start to walk on your own. Make time for relationships, nobody is on their deathbed wishing they had worked more. Social networks can be fun but it is a lot more effective if you have a face-to-face meet up or phone call.
Don’t wait for an invitation
By taking a risk and having the initiative to propose something instead of waiting for somebody else to take the first step, you become an active member of a group. This alone can make you feel more involved, heard and appreciated. Don’t be afraid to try it and don’t let your fears make you miss out on things you want to do. Izzi Seccombe, chair of the Local Government Association’s committee on well-being, says: “The harm loneliness can cause, both physically and mentally, is a serious public health concern which studies suggest can be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”
Recognise the importance of solitude
Being alone is not the same as being lonely. Loneliness brings pain, while solitude brings joy and empowerment. Solitude is about disconnecting from the loudness of society and reconnecting with yourself and your humanity. Learning how to be by yourself leads to a state of introspection and strength.
Loneliness is not just about having few social interactions; it is about self value, world perception and mental health. A strong support system, be that friends, family or therapy, is just a stepping stone towards self care. Value and validity come from no one but yourself.