It’s Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK from 9th to 15th May. Every year, the Mental Health Foundation focusses on a theme linked to mental health and 2022's theme is loneliness.
Loneliness can mean different things to different people.
I feel lonely when I realise there is no one who I can share my true feelings with, without being judged.
One can generally feel lonely when the social needs of connection and relationships are not met. But remember that loneliness is not the same as being alone. You can be alone by choice and still lead a happy and fulfilling life. And other times, we may be surrounded by friends and family and yet feel unheard, misunderstood or not loved.
Whatever may cause the feeling of loneliness, know that it is okay to feel lonely at times; it helps us become more self care, understand our likes and dislikes and know ourselves better. But when it starts to affect our mental health, makes us doubt our own actions and starts adding to our anxiety levels, its time to take action!
Loneliness can generate some of these feelings.
- "I feel like I’m not important to anyone.”
- “I feel like nobody needs me.”
- “I feel alone within myself.”
- “It feels safer to be alone – then I can’t get rejected.”
- “I feel numb when I feel lonely.”
- “I feel like I don’t have any meaningful relationships.”
- “I feel like I don’t have anyone to tell my good news to.”
- “I feel alone when I’m surrounded by people
Have you felt any of these? If you have gone through these thoughts, remember that they are not permanent and you are not alone in experiencing them. One in four adults experience the feeling of loneliness. We can take small incremental steps to reduce these feelings and enjoy life to the fullest.
It is important to start taking appropriate measures as soon as we realise feeling loneliness has started affect our mental health significantly.
Here are some of our recommendations to reduce feelings of loneliness which can be incorporated in our daily lives:
Journal to express yourself: When you find it difficult to express or share your feelings with someone, journaling can be of great help. You can use a Guided Journal with prompts or a blank one where you can write down your thoughts and feelings. Let your feelings out in the form of words and this act in itself will help you feel lighter and improve your outlook towards life.
Join a hobby class: Choose a hobby you enjoy and join an activity class for it. You don't need to socialise and yet you are able to share your passion and experiences with like minded people who enjoy the same hobby as you. This will help break the initial barrier of social connection and help you become more accustomed to social situations.
Volunteer: Volunteer for a cause you believe in and support the community. Giving back to the community is known to make us feel good about ourselves as we feel we are contributing to the greater good and it helps bring purpose and happiness in our lives.
Exercise: Exercise can be any form of body movement. It can help increase your endorphin levels that elevate your mood and help you feel optimistic about life. Go for a run or a walk outdoors or even a yoga class at home would be great.
Plan ahead and keep yourself busy: Empty minds can make us feel fuzzy and depressed, with no direction. When we plan our days, we look forward to participating in those activities and feel motivated to keep going and looking forward to new horizons ahead.
Declutter your social media: Select and follow accounts that help you feel inspired, grow and motivated. When you feel that some of the accounts are giving you a feeling of overwhelm or underachievement, unfollow them for a while until you start to feel optimistic and productive again. Give yourself a digital detox at regular intervals. Social Media can be perceived to connect people together but it can also lead to isolation, a feeling of not being good enough and can thus increase feelings of low self-esteem and anxiety. Reduce the information overload so that your mind can gain more clarity.
Take care of yourself : Go for a walk outside, take a long relaxing bath, eat healthy, spend time pampering yourself or take an afternoon nap. Do things that make you feel good! It can help uplift your mood and keep you focussed on the positive aspects of life.
We can support ourselves as well as those around us who may be experiencing the feelings of loneliness in simple ways. Don't judge, make feeling lonely appear as a common feeling that anyone can go through and be open to simply listen to the person without expressing your own opinions.
We hope you find this article helpful. Let us support each other in tackling loneliness; after all, most of us have been there at some point in our lives.
Disclaimer: This article contains personal views and recommendations of the author and does not impose specific actions on the audience. There have been references from articles from The Mental Health Foundation and Mind Charity websites