Hey guys! How you doing? What’s new? How’s your week been?
So, I really want to talk about loneliness in this post. It’s been on my mind a lot lately. But before I go on, I want to make an important distinction.
Alone vs Loneliness
I think people often conflate the two, because they are such similar words but mean different things; to be alone is: having no one else present; on one’s own. And to be lonely: sadness because one has no friends or company.
The main difference is, alone is more of a state of being. I’m alone at home if everyone has gone to work. But, being lonely is more of a feeling, a state of mind that even if I had a few family members at home I would still feel as though I had no friends or rather isolated. So, I think being alone can lead to feelings of loneliness, but not necessarily.
I definitely struggle with the latter, and I’m not the only one. In 2014, the Office for National Statistics found Britain to be the loneliness capital of Europe. Back in 2010, the Mental Health Foundation found loneliness to be a greater concern among young people than the elderly. The 18 to 34-year-olds surveyed were more likely to feel lonely often, to worry about feeling alone and to feel depressed because of loneliness than the over-55s.
But why is this the case? As young people shouldn’t we be out living our lives? Or enjoying our crucial years of few responsibilities or stressors? Well, in theory that makes sense, for all my young people reading this, we know that’s not the case.
In fact, this can actually be the opposite. We as young people, now have so much to contend with. If it’s not working our butts off in school/university, it’s trying to find a job within a sea of 20,000 other applicants or just managing our relationships with each other.
Our surroundings/societies have also changed – our communities, villages, towns and cities are different. We move away from our support networks – for work, for training, for college, for university. Leading to negative effects such as mental health issues and the physical effects of isolation are twice as bad for our health as obesity – weakening the body’s ability to fight viruses, pushing blood pressure into the danger zone for heart attacks or strokes and increasing the risk of early death.
Even social media can us feel lonely. A study conducted in 2017 found that, people who reported spending the most time on social media — more than two hours a day — had twice the odds of perceived social isolation than those who said they spent a half hour per day or less on those sites.
So, basically, it’s a lot.
Loneliness for me has been so real. I’ve always felt like I don’t belong in any group. And I’ve always felt like no one quite understands me and I can’t truly find someone who does. I’ve spent many years trying to figure out how to be comfortable alone without it spurring on the feelings of loneliness. Don’t get me wrong, I have a great circle of friends and family who do their best to support me. But, if you often find yourself feeling lonely, it’s really important as a young person, or even anyone of any age, you learn to combat this.
There are so many ways which I could list, honestly I love me a good list, but I kind of wanted it to be more personal than that. So, I’ve summarised it into one main point:
– Find yourself.
Okay, so what does that mean and how would that help? Well, for me, when I focus on figuring out who I am and what I need from life, friends and family, it helps me to stop feeling lonely. That is, I really look at what my loneliness is reflecting: is it that I feel like I lack purpose – as my friends are doing well, or that I want to be in love – as my friends are in relationships etc…
What are my feelings of loneliness a manifestation of, and how can I change this.
It could be different for others, but going to the root of the problem and doing something about it can stop the pain of isolation making a way into your life. It may seem like ‘finding yourself’ is such a cop out answer, but honestly hear me out. Reflecting deeply about what loneliness means for you is really important as it is so different from person to person, no matter what studies say.
Plus it’s quite practical too. For me, finding myself meant finding out what I enjoy, hence this blog, and going to loads of different events. I would do my best to rope in friends to come with me or go and have fun alone like:
And feeling lonely, I think, is actually quite normal and healthy especially if it spurs you to change. To become more connected to things you love or want (in a good way of course). You gradually become the person you want to be, moving away from the person who doesn’t feel understood. So that feeling of being so far removed from what it is you desire fades away as you develop. In a way you kind of embrace your loneliness as something that can help you move forward. Don’t get me wrong it’s hella difficult at first. Like when I first volunteered at the Southbank Centre to learn to reconnect with others, I was so shy. By day two at the festival, I was introducing myself and doing my best to meet new people – it’s all one big learning curve!
I really hope this helps anyone who is feeling lonely right now and doesn’t have anyone to talk to. I understand and feel better in the knowledge that you are not the only one, there are tons of us outchea struggling with it too. Just do your best to make crucial changes – i.e find yourself and it will make a difference.
Be you, all-ways
p.s I would love to hear everyone’s journey on how they dealt with loneliness, did you go out more? Take up a hobby etc etc – comment below if you like!