As humans, whether we are more extroverted or introverted, we all have a need for meaningful connections with others for our happiness and wellbeing. Loneliness is a natural feeling that highlights to us when this need is not being met as well as we would like. It can be felt emotionally in our sadness, but also anger or frustration, physically in our bodies, maybe losing our appetite or having aches and pains, and in our behaviour, like tearfulness or struggling to leave our homes. Loneliness can also be tangled up in other difficulties, such as experiences of anxiety or low self-esteem. An important step to tackling loneliness is first to notice it and name it as such.
Our experience of loneliness is so personal, it can be felt for many different reasons. We can be lonely because we don’t feel that we have the relationships with family members, friends or a romantic partner that we would like, or we miss someone that has died or whom we no longer have contact with. Maybe we are surrounded by people but do not feel heard or understood, or have lots of connections through social media, but don’t feel that anyone sees the more vulnerable, unfiltered parts of us.
Do you know what might be contributing to your loneliness? Do you feel disconnected from colleagues if you are working from home and only interacting online, or do you feel that you do not have as much in common with the people you spend time with? Perhaps you have moved to a new place or have long-term friends but feel you are in need of a new burst of social energy. Once you have a sense of what is missing, this can shed light on what might help. If you would like to meet new people there are lots of options like volunteering, joining a class, community group or attending a place of worship. But if your loneliness feels more connected to being unseen and misunderstood, actions might involve seeing friends in a different way – perhaps one to one rather than in a group, or in a cafe rather than a pub if alcohol clouds your connection. If you feel disconnected from your partner, can you talk about this? Perhaps they are feeling the same way, and might have ideas about ways to get back on track. Remember, loneliness is a normal emotional experience, and it is something that we can act to change. Talking about it can really help.