Loneliness is fast becoming a pervasive reality of modern living. Although surrounded by people, individuals share experiences of feeling disconnected from them and discontent with the social relations they do have. Finding that space, where people can have conversations which are meaningful, are characterised by authenticity and involve true support for each other, is becoming increasingly challenging.
Continued loneliness results in a mental state where a person can feel greatly isolated and on their own when it comes to building experiences and being able to share things. They find themselves in a situation where everyone they know seems to be greatly preoccupied and busy. This leads to thinking negatively, low moods and anxious states. The resulting unhappiness can make a person question the meaning and purpose of the lives they live, making them wonder about the ways in which they can be qualitatively enhanced.
Here are some factors to consider if you are experiencing loneliness:
· Work towards understanding and building an acceptance of what is happening. In knowing where your loneliness is emerging from, you will be able to make more conscious, concerted efforts to effectively tackle it. In accepting what your feelings are, you enable yourself to build and take a more constructive approach towards taking care of yourself.
· Proactively seek to connect with those around you in the real world. A lot of time gets spent on virtual platforms and spaces which takes away from the valuable time they can have in engaging with people in the real world. Making a conscious choice to disengage from the virtual world, doing a detox and instead emphasising making connections within the real world is important.
· Give as much as you seek to get in your relationships. It is important to assess and evaluate the ways in which you are engaging in your relationships to see whether a shift or change from your side could be beneficial in shaping the overall quality of the relationships around you in the long run. Often people can be unaware of their own ways of engaging, which may be contributing towards continuing the patterns that reinforce feelings of loneliness.
· Carve out time for activities that can be collaboratively done with others and which add greater value to your life. Assessing what you would like to do can help you enhance the quality of your life. Simply chugging along and running towards an elusive goal is unhelpful. It’s important to reflect and allow yourself to slow down to be able to stay connected with the things that really matter.
· Become mindful of the ways in which you are living and immersing yourself in the experiences of day to day life. Enjoy and savour the moments as you indulge in diverse activities. Allow yourself to fully engage with what you are doing at any given moment in time.
Dealing with loneliness requires active efforts from you. Taking proactive measures can ensure that it does not impact you in more severe ways that are to the detriment of the quality of life you are living and your mental and emotional well-being.
Many studies have recorded the impacts of loneliness. According to a study in 2014, “loneliness is caused not by being alone, but by being without some definite needed relationship or set of relationships.” The study went on to suggest that loneliness can lead to many psychiatric disorders and may even contribute to physical health problems. A study in 2015 found how loneliness triggers the release of a gene called CtrA, which, in turn, alters the immune response in a way that makes the body more susceptible to illness. A study in 2018 found that loneliness was linked to a higher risk of dementia, while a 2020 study found it could lead to a higher risk of diabetes. Another study the same year showed how loneliness triggered the brain region associated with hunger. This “hunger” is for human contact and emotional companionship.