Human beings are naturally social creatures. We need other people to interact with, to live with, to work with, to share lives with. When we don't get that interaction, we become lonely. And loneliness is one of the worst forms of mental illness there can be.
In the UK it is a huge issue. According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, 45% of adults feel occasionally, sometimes or often lonely in England, equating to twenty five million people.
Loneliness affects all ages, and all social groups. Many of us felt some form of loneliness during the recent pandemic. Imagine that ongoing.
There are many reasons for loneliness. Bereavement, relationship breakdown, being ostracised, working away, poor health, disability and long-term illness being just a few.
Being lonely is not a failure. Feeling lonely is a natural reaction. There are ways of overcoming it.
Several years ago after a failed relationship, I felt extremely lonely and sad. This, coupled with working away, staying in hotels all the time, took its toll. It led to depression and anxiety. I eventually relocated back to my childhood home.
There, I joined a social Meet-Up group, who organised many events from pub quizzes, to walks to cinema and theatre trips. There was no compulsion to attend any, but the more I did, the more I felt my mental anxiety was lessening. The group is made up of many people, including (but not exclusively) those who live alone, or have suffered from loneliness, and has been brilliant for making new friends, socialising, and reducing loneliness, not just for me, but some others in the group.
It certainly improved my self-esteem dramatically. It was hard for me to join in the first place - meeting people I didn't know in a social setting is difficult when you are depressed. But if you can, it can be the best thing you can do. There are many such groups across the country, and I recommend just trying it and seeing. Good luck if you do.
There are other things you can do to ease loneliness. Go for a local walk, or to a shop and say hello to all those you meet. Do this regularly and it's amazing how it can help.
Reconnect with old friends you may have lost contact with. Even if only online.
Speak to your GP, or a friend you can trust. There is nothing shameful in admitting you are lonely. I reiterate, it is not a failure to be lonely.
Learn new hobbies, plan your week out so that you have a variety of things to do. If you feel you cannot meet others, do them alone. Nature is an excellent therapy. Do some gardening (it's more than mowing the lawn and weeding). Go for a walk. Listen to the birds sing, or find a local viewpoint. Staying active is great for self-esteem.
Employers can help their employees overcome their loneliness too. Often, the only people people suffering with loneliness have any meaningful interaction with are their workmates.
The Government has produced a useful guide for employers which is well worth a read. It gives lots of tips and examples that employers can use to help reduce loneliness amongst its employees.
Loneliness is a crisis in the UK, but it is one that can be overcome. If you are lonely you are the best person to overcome it. It will be hard. It was for me. But you can do it. Good luck, and be strong.
KSH Safety Services has a number of short online training courses relating to mental health issues. Find out more by clicking here.
Use code 10KSHOFFER at checkout for 10% off any of the courses.
If you need support, there are many organisations who can help. Some of them are shown below. or find out more by clicking here.