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Combatting Loneliness

There is not one single cause of loneliness and separation, but it is true that humanity is becoming more and more separated and there has been a marked loss of intimacy within our interpersonal relationships.

Recent data collected in the U.S.A states that when people are socially disconnected, their risk of anxiety and depression increases. So does their risk of heart disease, dementia and stroke. This would be akin to the negative health affects of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness affects us emotionally, mentally and physically.

Loneliness can be attributed to life changes, death and financial difficulty. However, it can be existential loneliness, which is when there seems to be no apparent reason only a deep feeling. This is the most common amongst people and it is most commonly reported in people aged 16-24 years of age. This time of life can be called the 'era of belonging' in a human and is the foundation of our personal growth into a social being who belongs to a group and is a time when we have a deep need for a feeling of loving connection and acceptance.

Our elderly are another cohort who report feeling lonely often. This feeling is connected to what they are alone with. For example, carrying a heavy burden of regret, betrayal and rejection.

Socially isolated people are less able to deal with stressful situations, they are more prone to feeling depressed, and may have problems processing information. This can lead to difficulties with decision-making, memory storage and recall. Herein, Loneliness is far more than just a bad feeling, it harms both individual and societal health.

So, what can we do about it?

- Get off social media and out of the house. Start small, get your body moving and get sunshine. Movement and light positively affect your mood and you get out of your head and into your body.

Don't exchange relationships on social media for in-person ones, there is no substitute.

- Service. Volunteer your time and energy. Get involved in your community. Search for things you can do to help others/ the environment/ animals. Strengthen your social infrastructure.

- One of the best ways to be Lonely is your need to be Right. If you are always right, then everybody else is.......? ......WRONG. Nobody wants to be near someone who constantly tells them they are wrong. Open up, develop some compassion and be interested in the perspective of others. They have their reasons for thinking the way they do. Lower your barriers because you'll never have connection when you're thieving all of the energy. Being self-righteous is a shortcut to getting everything you want...being an island.

- Join a group. There are many free groups doing things just to be together. Meet-ups, groups on social media and many more are available for people who were probably sick of doing things alone. Reach out, tell them you're nervous and give it a go.

- Invite people into your world. Go on...the worst they can say is no and then you're still in the same situation, not worse. Fancy a walk around the block or come in for a cup of tea?

- Forgive. Resentment is a poison that you give yourself to drink. Seek help if you can't get peace. Psychologists, counsellors, friends and healers are there to help you work through it. Life is full of things we don't like and resentment blinds us to so much beauty. Work on freeing yourself and moving forward so that existing relationships can evolve and you are open to making new ones too.

- Say yes to new things. Your neighbour is a different culture? You've never been hiking? You've always dreamt of travelling somewhere? You don't have friends your age? Reach out and find ways to speak to people. Just smiling and saying Hi can make someone's day. Join a facebook group that has interest in what you'd like to know about. Be interested in people from other walks of life, they aren't wrong, just doing the same things differently.

- Get rid of time-wasters and faux friends. Some people will restrict you and put you in situations where you aren't growing. Time is precious, let real love and friendship into your life, find people who feel safe and stable and who want to know You for You. Loneliness is about the quality of your connections.

- If you feel no-one is contacting you, contact them. Stop sitting around feeling resentful. Chances are you've made less of an effort than you think you have. Step up and take responsibility for the condition of your relationships. Giving a crumb is likely to get you less than a crumb. Be honest with yourself about how present and giving you've been and if it is one sided cut it, but if you genuinely haven't been cultivating that relationship try being more present in person.

- Feel worthy. Everyone needs connection. Get clear with yourself about what you'd like your life to look like and how you'd like to feel. If you need to be admired, right, feel powerful and better than others - chances are you'll be a candidate for loneliness. However, if you'd like to be happy, have fun, learn new things, share, you're open to new, then you're less likely to be lonely and be more open to true authentic connection with others.

- Like yourself. People who genuinely like themselves have an easy time spending time alone and also with others. People who like themselves have fun alone and with others and can form authentic relationships with healthy people. If you find being alone for small periods creates anxiety, depression, extreme loneliness and as if you cant be alone - please seek help to learn self-intimacy.

- Don't believe your thoughts - Loneliness and isolation can warp our perceptions and lead us to think that we have nothing to offer or in some people, it can cause anger and hate. There is a whole world out there, provided you are healthy enough to physically engage with people, its a YOU job. The world is full of beauty, kindness, fun, connection and understanding. It may take a bit of effort but eventually you'll find it. Cultivate your side of the street and aim for 50/50 in your interactions.

Combatting loneliness requires us to admit that we are feeling lonely. Knowing when to engage and disengage with the online world is a life skill. Practice self care and make sure to reach out to other people when you are feeling lonely.

If you are feeling suicidal please reach seek emergency help.

Make an appointment with your doctor if you are having feelings of despair for several weeks or longer, have no interest in activities you once found pleasurable, are unable to sleep or enjoy daily life.

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