Loneliness & Mental Health

What is loneliness?

Loneliness is a “feeling state” that is different to “being alone”, and studies have indicated that there are three broad types: social, emotional and existential.

How is it possible to feel lonely even if we’re around other people?

Understanding the difference between contact and connection helps to explain why we can feel lonely, even if we’re around other people. When we’re in contact with each other, we are usually doing so at a surface level, and as a result we don’t connect with meaning and depth.

What causes loneliness?

It’s important to remember that there are lots of things that can be linked to feeling lonely, and so the exact cause(s) will be different for each individual. Loneliness is not a mental health problem in and of itself, but there is often a link between existing mental health problems increasing feelings of loneliness.

  • Bereavement
  • Moving to a new home / place / job / school / university
  • Retirement
  • Being a carer and / or a single parent
  • Mental and physical illness, disability, chronic pain, life-limiting illness
  • Relationship breakdown / changed dynamics
  • Avoiding others to avoid rejection
  • Feeling misunderstood / like an outsider
  • Accessibility issues, including limited mobility and financial resources
  • Trauma
  • Experiencing stigma and discrimination

Tips for coping with loneliness

It’s worth thinking about what is making you feel lonely, as this can help you to identify small changes you may be able to make to address it. There may not be an “obvious” cause, and it may instead be a deep and constant feeling. If this is the case, it may be worth talking to a therapist, as they will be able to work with you to explore what the loneliness is about.

  • Keep busy with things that interest you and make you feel good
  • Stay active — movement will help to release endorphins and other mood-boosting hormones
  • Notice the little connections — this could be at the checkout while shopping, a smile from a stranger, etc
  • Find your tribe — feeling part of a community gives us a sense of belonging
  • Be mindful of your social media consumption — what we see online isn’t necessarily a reflection of reality
  • Spend time with pets / animals
  • Talk to a therapist about how you feel

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