18 THINGS ABOUT LONELINESS AND HOW TO ALLEVIATE IT
Apparently we now have a “Minister For Loneliness” in the UK Government because life is getting lonelier than ever. Why is that and what can we do about social isolation? It’s now considered to be as bad for your health as smoking or obesity with a 30% greater chance of having a stroke or a heart attack if you’re lonely.
That is really sad.
Almost twice as many 33-45 year olds (25%) feel lonely, compared to the over 65 year olds (13%), so it suggests that social media, dating apps and a disconnect from the real world thanks to our post covid existence might have something to do with it. Over time we’ve lost many of our community spaces and so we need to have a collective rethink about how we can all get together more IRL (in real life).
When my marriage fell apart, loneliness was a massive issue for me. I couldn’t bear the silence in the house when my children were with their father and did everything I could to make sure that I was never alone. It meant I was out too much, spending time with people who didn’t always have my best interests at heart (nor me their’s) and making a number of wrong choices.
Over time (and with the help of some really good friends) it became apparent that I had to learn to sit with my pain and work out how to live a different life – one that required a change of mindset. I watched my mother shrink after my father died, she didn’t have a life of her own without him and struggled to find a way to keep herself happy – her children had to do it for her. I didn’t want to be beholden to just one other person for my happiness like she was, but the roar of the quiet space within my four walls was initially unmanageable for me. Once I’d exhausted the ear of all my friends, been sacked by my therapist and realised that I had to find a way to enjoy my own company, I started to write a list of things I wanted to do. Writing on my blog was a life saver for me at the time – I found new friends all around the world to talk to. That was a long time ago now and blogs are pretty much redundant thanks to Instagram and a million other ways to communicate online – but it still feels like an old friend and I can’t quite let it go.
It’s meant that I’ve managed to deal more effectively with the “Empty Nest Syndrome” that was coming my way. Two of my children have now left home and my youngest is currently in Australia. But thanks to my earlier preparation, I’m OK talking to my cat when I’m home alone.
The key is to find a way to be content in your own company -to find things to do that make you happy, that make you grow. It’s not unusual for people to complain of “being lonely in the marriage”, so we know that loneliness isn’t always to do with a lack of people in your life, but often more to do with a lack of purpose and an inability to enjoy your own company.
So here are my 18 thoughts on what we can do to help alleviate loneliness – both ideas for the individual and for the wider community:-
- If you’re having a bad day, see if you can find a way to help someone else. It will lift your spirit
- Find something just for you to do – something to learn, a walk in the park, a visit to an art gallery, a weekend away
- Dance in the kitchen on your own
- Teach yourself how to enjoy your own company and the peace and quiet that stems from that experience
- Commune with nature
- Think about how we can bring back community spaces like youth clubs and boxing rings (or check out your local church community)
- Support your local pubs
- Start a book group
- Start a film club
- Encourage cafés to offer a Friday morning coffee drop ins
- Find offline groups to join – running clubs, hiking groups, language classes
- Bring back more outdoor exercise areas – like they have on the beaches in Barcelona and Florida
- Take the Ted Lasso approach and start a men’s group to air concerns and generate conversations
- Do voluntary work
- Read lots of books
- Start a journal and write everything down
- Identify your true friends and spend more time with them
- Go to a street party this weekend (even if you’re not into the Coronation – you might meet some nice locals)
It’s up to all of us to be more aware of those around us who seem lonely – sometimes it’s social anxiety or mental health issues, but we can all start looking up and out to help each other (and ourselves) by taking practical steps to alleviate this debilitating problem.
Any other ideas welcome!
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