Welcome to blog 5 of 2022. Each month we focus on a topical theme of counselling therapy, which I hope will help you in your decision to seek therapy and support you on your journey.
Last week (9th to 15th May) was Mental Health Awareness week in the UK and the theme was loneliness. Most of us experience feelings of loneliness from time to time. Humans as a species are social beings and many societies suggest that frequent social contact is healthy and prevents loneliness. However, we are all different: some of us thrive on frequent social contact; some prefer occasional contact and can appreciate our own company. Being alone does not necessarily mean that you will feel lonely.
So what is loneliness?
Loneliness is a feeling of isolation or separateness that leaves you feeling dissatisfied with our experience - life doesn't seem to meet your needs. This can cause low mood which, if lasting for several weeks, may be diagnosed as depression. Continuing or chronic loneliness may be detrimental to our mental and physical health, and there is research that suggests chronic loneliness can impact longevity.
Loneliness is a feeling of isolation or separateness that leaves you feeling dissatisfied with your experience.
Although there can be a direct correlation between feelings of loneliness and limited social contact, there can be other causes. For some, a change in circumstances, such as starting a new job or course of study, getting to know a new place and new people, can generate anxiety and feelings of loneliness. You may feel lonely in a relationship or within a group, or a space you inhabit where you previously felt comfortable. Relationship breakdown, ill health, broken friendship, loss of a loved one, lone parenting or caring for a relative may also lead to feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Currently, due to the change in regulations in response to Covid-19, many of us are adjusting to new ways of working and socialising. You may be feeling isolated if you are working from home. Or perhaps you are returning to on-site working and feeling alone in the process.
You may have had infrequent contact with family, friends and acquaintances, or lost touch altogether, affecting your ability to reconnect.
So what can you do to address loneliness?
Consider what it is you want to change. You may be feeling lonely but becoming part of a busy social scene may not necessarily be the solution.
You may be feeling lonely but becoming part of a busy social scene may not necessarily be the solution.
Do you want more contact with family and friends? Do you wish to be more active and have more interests? Do you want to spend time with like-minded people? Perhaps you would like to be in a relationship or see a change in your existing relationship. Maybe you need a change of routine.
There are practical ways to address all of the above, but this will require some motivation
on your part. Take the initiative and reach out to others. Join a class, group or network. Attend community events. Try dating in a way that's right for you. Set yourself a goal.
If loneliness feels debilitating, speaking with a counsellor can help you to understand your feelings and take steps to move on and enjoy your life.
If you're unable to point to reasons for feelings of loneliness, it may be that stress, anxiety or a lack of motivation is an underlying cause.
Sadly, there is a stigma around loneliness, which may prevent you from reaching out to family, friends, colleagues or neighbours. If loneliness feels debilitating, speaking with a counsellor can help you to understand your feelings and take steps to move on and enjoy your life.
For information on counselling, follow these links to my past blog posts:
For more information on the impact of loneliness, the following links may help: