A study conducted by the University of California, with 340 people, concluded that 76% of the participants suffered from moderate to severe loneliness. Based on another study, researchers and experts proclaimed that as a health risk, loneliness stood right beside obesity and smoking. Loneliness can also lead to depression and suicidal ideation.
Is loneliness the same as being a loner?
Not quite; one can feel lonely even amongst a whole bunch of people. Loners aren’t necessarily lonely, they simply prefer being alone or keeping to themselves. These individuals prefer their own company and are perfectly happy being by themselves. It is a choice that could stem from something deeper, but a personal choice, nonetheless.
Lonely people, on the other hand, don’t want to be alone. They yearn for company or companionship and are miserable when alone. William James, known as the father of American Psychology, advocated that man is not just social animal who likes being noticed but also experiences pain when left alone and unnoticed. Hence, social interaction is very important for good mental health. And people, who feel lonely, perhaps feel this pain even more, especially when not in their desired company.
Loneliness could be more of a mental state than a physical one. If we don’t desperately desire or demand company (in our minds), we won’t feel lonely. It’s when that demand remains unfulfilled that loneliness sneaks in.
Combating that lonely feeling
So, we can either change that demand into a preference wherein we prefer not to be alone; but if we are, it’s not going to kill us. Or we can find ways and means to fill that void and proactively seek opportunities of meeting people. Better still, do both.
Socialise more in real time and not virtually
Online socialising actually leads to more loneliness. Establish and grow meaningful relationships by staying in touch with like-minded people. Human contact and interaction offline has proven to be good for emotional health. Come to think of it, earlier generations rarely faced loneliness and isolation issues, simply because they believed in and nurtured relationships in the real world instead of today’s digital landscape.
Participation is key
There are many different means of meeting prospective friends. Be a part of groups that participate in activities of your interests. Block the calendar for exciting events, take up a sport or form of exercise, join clubs, start a hobby (preferably one that involves other like-minded people) or join a cause which you believe in. Participating in something bigger than ourselves adds more meaning to life, apart from providing occasions to meet people.
Make contact and reach out
Try making more friends (particularly those living in your vicinity) and stop hiding behind four walls, that will only make the loneliness worse. The more we isolate ourselves, the more lonely we will we feel. And if we do feel depression creeping in, seek the support of a professional – a counsellor or therapist.
Loneliness isn’t something that can’t be combated with the right strategies and most times, a little help can go a long way. So reach out and #SelfAlign.