Loneliness is the oldest human condition. It seems almost ironic that in a world made up of over 7.3 billion people we feel alone. But the truth is, the more virtually connected our planet becomes, the human connection gets more and more rare and hard to find. Loneliness is a gnawing emotion we all feel when we are yearning for a connection we are unable to find. And this feeling is inescapable for everyone no matter what his or her age, gender, occupation or location. The sense of loneliness doesn’t arise from alone; you can feel disconnected from people even while being physically surrounded by them. If you’re feeling lonely, chances are that you’re feeling isolated and uninvolved in your peer group and surroundings and vice versa. If you are up at 4am, have a conversation with our friendly AI bot for free!
But why are you feeling lonely? Where does this feeling stem from? Let’s try to understand this solitary emotion before we jump to understanding how can we overcome loneliness and deal with loneliness by making changes in our everyday life.
What is Loneliness?
Loneliness can be described as the lack of a much-needed human connection. As a species, we crave a sense of belonging that binds us to our friends, family and the peer-group. When this bond weakens or waivers – the intensity of loneliness increases. Loneliness is very different from being alone. The latter is rather necessary for introspection and growth; many people enjoy varying amounts of alone time to unwind and recharge. On the other hand, individuals tend to feel lonely when they are isolated and distant from companionship.
Generally, new circumstances can lead to an environment of forced solitude. For children it might be joining a new school, for adults, it might be getting used to a new job or city. Being married into a new family away from the familiar support group can also lefad to a sense of loneliness. A bitter break-up can also contribute to a sense of void, which was earlier filled with the presence of a loved one. Forging new relationships is hard and we all struggle to establish a deep connection with someone in a short period of time. Most of us test the waters for a long time and keep our deepest emotions restricted to a known set of people. We all struggle to open up and build a meaningful relationship with someone who is relatively new in our circles. And thus we struggle to deal with loneliness in the short run.
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Worldwide Loneliness Statistics
A recent Cigna survey revealed that nearly half of Americans always or sometimes feel alone (46%) or left out (47%). Fully 54% said they always or sometimes feel that no one knows them well. Loneliness isn’t just a U.S. phenomenon. In a nationwide survey released in October from the BBC, a third of Britons said that they often or very often feel lonely. Nearly half of Britons over 65 consider the television or a pet their main source of company. In Japan, there are more than half a million people under 40 who haven’t left their house or interacted with anyone for at least six months. In Canada, the share of solo households is now 28%. Across the European Union, it’s 34%. It’s important to unlearn our current lifestyle and learn how to deal with loneliness to avoid further deterioration of our physical, mental, and emotional health and wellbeing
Symptoms of Loneliness
If you’re lonely, you will most likely experience an underlying feeling of emptiness or ‘void in your stomach’. A yearning for friendship and connection amplifies these feelings. There are also other physical symptoms of loneliness that differ in severity from person to person.
Common symptoms associated with loneliness are:
- Drained energy
- Lack of focus
- Disrupted sleep and insomnia
- Loss of appetite
- Feelings of emptiness or void
- Depleted immunity
- Frequent body aches
- Substance abuse
- Lack of interest in outdoor activities
Loneliness and Depression
Not all people who suffer from loneliness grapple with depression. However, studies on the subject do suggest that chronic loneliness can develop into depression at a later stage. Having said that, loneliness is a normal human response and can be dealt with successfully in a number of ways.
Tips on overcoming loneliness
The best way to cure loneliness is to seek company. If your loneliness stems from being new in a job or a new city, take active efforts to be friendly to new people and gain familiarity. Try to take the initiative in striking a conversation about a shared interest, be it music, movies or sports and politics to engage your peers. Show interest in new experiences and dialogue in a way that people might get to know you better. This is the best way to come out of your isolation.
Another way to overcome loneliness is to break the pattern. You can try to learn a new skill or visit a new place which can lead to opportunities for social connections. If you’re more comfortable socializing in the digital realm initially, you can try writing a blog or tweeting about topics of interest to initiate new conversations.
Reach out to existing friends and family
We all seek solace in people who know us best. If you’re trying to get over loneliness, try to be in regular contact with your existing network of friends and family. Tell them about your state of mind, address your feelings and voice your concern. Sometimes, sharing details about your situation with your loved ones can lighten your mood and make you feel better instantly.
Exercise and/or play a sport
Playing an outdoor sport or exercising regularly can release endorphins in your bloodstream which are hormones responsible for making you feel happy and joyful.
Making a habit of outdoor sports will also help you socialize with people and form genuine bonds with those around you. The stronger the social connection, the better you will deal with loneliness.
Volunteer for a cause
Sometimes, the best way to fight loneliness is to join hands with people in the community and work towards the collective good. Doing something selfless can change not only alter your overall mood, but it can also help you feel more connected to those around you. Volunteering for a cause may help you find more meaning in life and help gain a wider perspective on the world at large.
Get a pet
Getting a pet can be one of the greatest joys in life. Domesticated animals, especially dogs and cats, are scientifically proven to help decrease loneliness and increase the pet owner’s lifespan. Pets love us unconditionally and provide lasting companionship even when we are at our lowest; they are a great cure for loneliness and help us to deal with loneliness easily.
Loneliness is the lack of a much-needed human connection. We’re lonely when we lack meaningful relationships and feel isolated from the people around us.
Temporary or prolonged isolation from genuine connections and social interaction.
What does loneliness feel like?
Loneliness is an unfulfilled yearning for affection and companionship. While it can feel like different things to different people, most lonely folks feel recurring feelings of emptiness and void.
No, it’s not a disease. However, loneliness prevailing over a long time can lead to various mental health complications.
Loneliness is a precursor to depression. Chronic loneliness can develop into depression at a later stage.
No, you cannot die from loneliness.
There is nothing more isolating than experiencing loneliness in a marriage. This can arise from a variety of reasons ranging from a lack of compatibility, missed expectations or sporadic communication. In order to overcome loneliness in a marriage, you and your spouse need to deal with issues more openly and tell each other what’s on your mind without letting ego get in the way. Both spouses also need to accept that marriage is a team challenge and no partner goes the distance alone. Accepting each other and being there for each other is the best way to dealing with loneliness in a marriage.
Yes, if loneliness persists, its isolation can lead to depression, anxiety and a sense of permanent disconnect with people and the society we live in. Moreover, long-term solitude is linked to a wide variety of mental health problems that can impact your well-being.