An Article written for Mumbai Mirror. Loneliness is different from being alone. Loneliness is an emotion brought on by negative thinking. It’s also proving to be an emotion that can cause damage to health, property and finances. A UK Minster for loneliness was scoffed by many….but it’s a needed step.
Read on to help yourselves and others around you…
Each day hordes of people migrate to cities like ours with hopes of landing dream jobs and starting a great new life. But the daily grind-grueling schedules and long hours that leave no time for socializing soon has them feeling all alone.
Loneliness-emotional or/and social isolation – can be severely distressing. It has been known to drive people to alcohol or to an indiscriminate participation in sexual activities. In extreme cases, it can drive one to suicide.
According to a recent world health organization report that identified India as the suicide capital of the world, the most affected age group, surprisingly, was not over 60, but rather 15 to 29. Meanwhile, various published studies show that loneliness is among the top three causes of suicide – depression and physical illness being the other two.
According to a report published by the American psychological association (APA), not having friends isn’t simply an inconvenience when you want a movie partner or a ride to the hospital. It’s significant health hazard. In one meta-analysis of 148 studies comprising more than 308,000 people, psychologies found that participants with stronger social relationship were 50 percent more likely to live longer, as compared to those with weaker connections – the way in which loneliness affected health was thus comparable to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day; it was associated with double the risk caused by obesity.
Another study, conducted by the university of Chicago in 2001, found that those who scored the highest on measures of loneliness also had high blood pressure – as much as 30 points higher than non-lonely people. These are just some reasons why loneliness needs urgent addressing.
What you can do.
- Admit you are lonely
This is harder to do than it sounds. Indeed, most people attribute their ‘low mood’ to work stress rather than loneliness.
It’s important to recognize the signs that indicate whether you’re lonely, rather than stressed, like, you may be conscious of a certain void- often feel like something’s missing from your life; you may feel like no one cares about you; you may find it difficult to share your feelings.
Remember that it’s possible to feel lonely, even if you live in a very busy community or work in a crowded office. It’s the absence of an intimate connection that’s bringing you down.
- Limit online socializing
It may sound paradoxical, but connecting with people online rather than in real life, actually causes loneliness, studies have shown. Scientists like Giacomo rizzolatti (and colleagues), pier Francesco Ferrari and Christian keysers have discovered the presence of ‘mirror neurons’ in the human brain –these ‘fire-up’ when a person sees another person, particularly when one’s actions and emotions are mimicked by this person. Interactions on the internet do not produce the same effect.
- Develop meaningful relationships
“I have so many friends, how can I be lonely?” a client of mine once insisted. But one or two meaningful relationships are worth a hundred frivolous ones in terms of the mental equilibrium these contribute to. To escape loneliness, it’s very important to have a healthy support system comprised of people you know you can depend on.
- Make an effort to stay in touch with people
Don’t use work stress as an excuse to disconnect. Sure, some effort is required to maintain relationships, but it’s important to understand that people will respond in kind. If you don’t make an effort, sooner or later, even your most caring friends will drop off the map. So try to remember special occasions (that’s what those apps are for), do attend family gatherings, and old friends.
- Enroll for an exercise class
This is a quick way to form a group to hang out with, and it will help you stay fit too, and keep your mind healthy. You don’t have to get a gym membership; you could form a group to just walk around your building or at a neighborhood park. You’ll be amazed at how easy it is to strike up a conversation with someone who’s walking right next to you.
- Volunteer for a cause
Teach your house help’s child for free over the weekend. Volunteer to teach with an NGO. These are other way to form deep connections with like-minded people.
- Seek professional help
Sometimes loneliness is the result of social anxiety. A few therapy sessions with a trained professional can be useful here.
- Be comfortable with yourself
Most people here spending time alone, therefore the dependence on TV. But think about it, if you cannot spend even two hours alone with yourself, how can you expect others to spend their lifetimes with you. Learn to be comfortable alone, with your inner/thoughts. Meditation helps, as does working on your self-esteem. If one develops a rich inner life, it is impossible to feel lonely.