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Managing and understanding loneliness

Why we become lonely

Personal Circumstances:

  • Experiencing the break down of a relationship.

  • Comparing yourself to the apparently ‘happy’ lives of others - seeing only their positives and ignoring the negatives.

  • Not having as much social contact.
  • Losing someone close to you.

Internal Loneliness: 

  • You may find it difficult to like yourself or feel others do not like you.

  • Experiencing low self-confidence.

Mental Health Conditions:

  • Experiencing a mental health condition can contribute to feelings of loneliness.

  • Social contact may be difficult and create high levels of anxiety.

  • You may find yourself unconsciously or consciously avoiding meeting people.

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Managing and understanding loneliness

Managing and understanding loneliness

https://www.counselling-directory.org.uk/counsellor-articles/managing-understanding-loneliness

counselling-directory.org.uk

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Key Ideas

Loneliness

Being lonely can mean not feeling part of the world despite having a great deal of social contact with others, or being in a relationship.

Loneliness can have a significant impact on your mental health and your emotional and physical well-being. It can be a contributing factor in anxiety, depression and can lead to prolonged isolation.

Why we become lonely

Personal Circumstances:

  • Experiencing the break down of a relationship.

  • Comparing yourself to the apparently ‘happy’ lives of others - seeing only their positives and ignoring the negatives.

  • Not having as much social contact.
  • Losing someone close to you.

Internal Loneliness: 

  • You may find it difficult to like yourself or feel others do not like you.

  • Experiencing low self-confidence.

Mental Health Conditions:

  • Experiencing a mental health condition can contribute to feelings of loneliness.

  • Social contact may be difficult and create high levels of anxiety.

  • You may find yourself unconsciously or consciously avoiding meeting people.

Practical ways of managing loneliness

  • Reconnect with the world around you - Making the most out of social contact
  • Spend meaningful time alone - this will develop your ability to manage time spent on your own.
  • Do regular physical activity.
  • Join a club, group or voluntary organization.

Moving forward from loneliness

We will all at some point face loneliness, isolation and a deep sense of sadness. To move forward from these feelings, we must first look directly at our lonely thoughts and understand what they mean and where they come from. 

Realize that you are not alone in your loneliness. We all experience these feelings at some point. Over time, you will feel less lonely and will manage and cope, and find the light at the end of the tunnel.

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However, levels of in-person interactions, physical and mental wellness and life balance are more likely to predict loneliness than social media usage.

Young and lonely

Generation Z (ages 18-22) had the highest loneliness scores, followed by the millennials (ages 23-37). The Greatest Generation (adults ages 72 and older) were the least lonely. 

Lonely people are less able to pick up on positive social stimuli, like others’ attention and commitment signals, so they withdraw prematurely – in many cases before they’re actually socially isolated.

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1. You Spend Significant Time Together

Outside of normal working hours and with all the things you could be doing in a day, there usually isn’t much time left over to spare.

The fact that you and your significant other ...

2. You Include Each Other In Your Regular Purchases

Such acts of thoughtfulness may go from small and seemingly insignificant to as extravagant as buying matching jewelry. Keeping each other in mind to the point where you’re considering them in your regular purchases, you’re probably in a committed relationship.

3. You Get a Key

It’s a big demonstration of trust if one or both of you have keys to the other’s house.

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6. You Vacation Together

We don’t usually choose to spend several uninterrupted days or weeks of a vacation with people we don’t like a lot. You’re also making memories that last for a lifetime.

7. You Talk About Bodily Functions

Those conversations are usually reserved for medical appointments and the occasional funny story.

If you can speak with your lover about intimate bodily functions, you’re probably more than casual friends; especially if you find that typically private and personal conversations become commonplace between the two of you.

8. You Plan For The Future Together

In a committed relationship, however, it matters what the other person wants to do and where they see themselves in the future. So if you and your partner are making plans together, there’s a good likelihood that your relationship is in for the long haul.

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Loneliness is a perception issue
Loneliness is a perception issue

Loneliness has more to do with our perceptions than how much company we have: it is just as possible to feel very lonely surrounded by people as it is to be content with little social contact.

Olivia Laing
Olivia Laing

“Loneliness, longing, does not mean one has failed but simply that one is alive.”

Dealing with loneliness through creativity

One way people have always dealt with loneliness is through creativity. By metamorphosing their reality into art, lonely people throughout history have managed to interchange the sense of community relationships could foster with their creative outputs.

The artist Edward Hopper (1882–1967) is known for his paintings of American cityscapes inhabited by closed-off figures who seem to embody a vision of modern loneliness.

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Detecting Loneliness
Detecting Loneliness
  • Scientific literature has linked loneliness to depression, anxiety, alcoholism, and drug abuse.
  • Loneliness makes you more likely to fall ill by suppressing healthy immune function....
Loneliness is subjective

It's possible to be completely isolated and feel invigorated.

It is also possible to be surrounded by a crowd or be accompanied by close friends and feel lonely.

Research on loneliness findings
  • Research showed that after social isolation, subjects' brain scans showed more activity in the midbrain when shown pictures of social cues.
  • When subjects were hungry but had not been socially isolated, they showed a similar reaction to food cues, but not social ones. This shows that the drive for social contact and for things like food seems to be represented in a similar way.

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Post-Breakup Loneliness

The process of breaking up can sometimes be compared to the death of a loved one.

Transitional Loneliness

Major changes can create a sense of loneliness, even if they're positive. You might be leaving a job or starting a new job, ending a relationship or embarking on a new relationship, getting married, getting divorced, [or] starting a family.

When struggling with the adjustment period, it can help to acknowledge the feeling and also acknowledge that it's likely temporary.

Caregiver Loneliness

There's very specific loneliness that can creep in when you're responsible for the care of another person — be it an elderly parent, a sick sibling, a disabled partner, etc.

So even though it's a big job, it's important to not forget about yourself. Find a supportive friend to talk to without judgment, or attend a support group.

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Causes
  • Loneliness is strongly connected to genetics. 
  • Situational variables, such as physical isolation, moving to a new location, divorce and the death of someone significant in a person's life can also lead to feelings of loneliness. 
  • Loneliness can be a symptom of a psychological disorder such as depression.
  • Loneliness can also be attributed to internal factors such as low self-esteem.
Health Risks Associated With Loneliness

Loneliness has a wide range of negative effects on both physical and mental health, including:

  • Depression and suicide
  • Cardiovascular disease and stroke
  • Increased stress levels
  • Decreased memory and learning
  • Antisocial behavior
  • Poor decision-making
  • Alcoholism and drug abuse
  • The progression of Alzheimer's disease
  • Altered brain function

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The evolutionary theory of loneliness

Primates need to belong to an intimate social group in order to survive; this is especially true for humans.
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Willingness to understand

If someone, for instance, has received a new medical diagnosis, you can say, "It sounds like you're worried about the side effects of the treatment. Is that right?"

You can also express kindness by saying, “You’re in such a tough situation.” A facial expression is also a powerful way to show support.

Offering support

Not every person feels comforted in the same way. Acknowledge that by asking "How can I support you?"

It expresses a desire to assist without jumping in to problem-solve.

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