What is loneliness? My take on loneliness is that it is:
‘A perceived social isolation.’
If you are experiencing loneliness it wouldn’t matter if you were in a room of family or friends, if you do not feel connected to these people you are likely to continue experiencing loneliness.
Many experts feel that to belong is as fundamental to our life as eating, sleeping and breathing, from researching this subject I agree. Thinking about belonging from a survival perspective it makes sense for humans (and other animals) to be close and have a connection to others – it makes survival more likely than if we are out in the world toughing it alone.
Whilst practicing as a counsellor I have met many clients suffering from loneliness, many are sadly ashamed, embarrassed or even feel guilty for voicing that they are lonely. I have heard a number of times clients saying that they have everything; a home, friends and family, money for food and all of life’s necessities. How can I be lonely?
There have been large ongoing Government campaigns about The Elderly and Loneliness. However, loneliness doesn’t distinguish between the old or young. Loneliness has no connection to your age, race, gender or ability. Loneliness is more about your current circumstances and possibly even your personality.
You could wonder with the internet offering us endless ways to connect with others; Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, along with probably thousands of Discussion Boards and Forums, how can people possibly be lonely? John Cacioppo, director of the Centre for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago, used a simple car analogy for social media; “If you use your car to drive to family and friends houses to be with them and enjoy good times it makes you less lonely, but if you use your car to drive around and watch your friends and family enjoy good times this will only add to your loneliness”. In many ways social media adds to our feelings of loneliness, as we sit alone watching others who we believe are happier than ourselves.
You may be forgiven for believing that loneliness is purely an emotional experience, unfortunately this is not the case. Having read research papers from America, England, France & Africa, they show that loneliness and social isolation are in fact harmful to our health. Loneliness can have similar detrimental affects to our health as if we smoked 15 cigarettes a day, and is worse for us than obesity and physical inactivity (Holt-Lunstad, 2010)
It is important to distinguish between being alone and feeling alone. If you enjoy your own company and choose to spend some time alone, this is a choice and is clearly important to you.
A great deal of research shows that one way of combating loneliness is to retrain your thinking in how you perceive other people so that you no longer see them as a potential threat or rival, but rather as a potential friend.
If you recognise you may need support in this area please contact me as this is not how your life has to be.
Please contact me either by:
email: firstname.lastname@example.org, or call me on my dedicated line: 07565 879401.