Loneliness is described as a state of solitude or being alone. It is actually a state of mind causing one to feel empty, alone and unwanted.
There are many causes of loneliness. Contributing factors to loneliness include physical isolation, moving to a new location and divorce. The death of a loved one can also lead to feelings of loneliness. The introduction of social media in the mid 2000’s also has become a large contributing factor in the number of people reporting the feeling of loneliness.
Using social media every day, scrolling endlessly can be a way to escape true connection, avoid interaction and develop superficial relationships. Social media may cause comparison of your life to that of others who have been photo shopped and glorified with only the exciting highlights. This can create feelings of unworthiness, being less-than and inadequacy.
As humans we are meant to have relationships and connections to others. Social media is not a good substitute unless you are using it to truly keep in touch with your circle of friends and forge off-line relationships.
Loneliness can impact your well-being, including mental and physical health.
Mental and Physical Health Risk Associated with Loneliness
- Alcohol and drug abuse
- Altered brain function
- Increased progression of Alzheimer’s
- Antisocial behavior
- Cardiovascular disease and stroke
- Decreased memory and learning capacity
- Depression and suicidal tendencies
- Increased production of stress hormones
- Poor decision making
- Food addiction behaviors
How to Cope with Loneliness
- Reduce or eliminate scrolling endlessly on social media. Take the time spent sitting and join a class or club. You decide if it’s an art class, exercise group or book club. Choose something that interests you and you will enjoy doing. Be open to developing connections with others that have something in common.
- Volunteer for a cause you believe in. Helping others produces uplifting hormones that help you feel better. Interacting with others for a common purpose is a good way to develop and deepen true relationships.
- Adopt a pet. Pets offer unconditional love, don’t talk back and are great listeners. Taking care of a pet establishes responsibility for something other than Pets, especially dogs, require exercise and will get you outdoors in the fresh air. You might even find other pet-owners who you can develop friendships with.
- Buy 2 tickets to local events such as concerts, plays, museums, or sporting events. Invite a friend to go with you. This will get you out of the house and doing something you enjoy. Do this at least two times per month. Establishing this habit will give you something to look forward to and the opportunity to meet more people.
- Work with a professional coach. If you continue to struggle with feeling alone, have tried doing things on your own and are still stuck, you might want to work with a coach. They can help you develop additional strategies, are a great sounding board and can help overcome loneliness in a healthy way.
It is common to experience loneliness at some point or another in your life. Working from home, quarantining and social media can increase the risk of it occurring.
It is important to keep in mind that that there are ways to cope with loneliness and the best way to work through it is not to do it alone. Join groups, meet other people or work with a coach to help you overcome prolonged feelings of loneliness.