I have been listening to ‘Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine’ by Gail Honeyman and it has really caused me to think about loneliness. Loneliness is a state which people often brush over or forget about but it can be incredibly difficult to deal with.
I moved to Manchester in September and hadn’t quite reckoned how difficult it would be to start up my business again in a city where I didn’t know anyone. Whilst I am very familiar with Manchester as a city (I completed my undergraduate degree here), it is very isolating when you work unsocial hours, have very little money and all your time and energy is going in to keeping you afloat! I definitely started to experience, sometimes overwhelming, feelings of loneliness. It is easy to then shut yourself off and start down a spiral of self-pity. Social media doesn’t really help the situation, seeing the snapshots and highlights of other people’s lives, as they head off on holiday with friends, or get drunk on a night out looking incredibly glamorous, can really exacerbate your own symptoms of being lonely.
I have read several articles recently which state that loneliness is on the rise not only in the elderly but also in 20 – 30 year olds. This doesn’t really surprise me. Long working hours, technology and lack of money definitely don’t help in this day and age – to name but a few! A common misconception is that to be lonely you have to have no, or very little, friends or family. This is definitely not the case. I, for one, am lucky to have a brilliant group of friends, a supportive family, and a loving boyfriend, all of whom would help me out in a moments notice, should I ask. However, as you get older, life does get in the way. People move to new cities (like me); you may work evening shifts or weekends (prime time to see majority of your friends and family); or you may not earn enough to do the things you would like to, with the people you would like to do them with. There are a plethora of reasons which can result in a person feeling cut off and isolated.
So, what can we do to help ourselves?
I have started taking small steps to avoid feeling so lonely in the future. We are, in general, social beings and so we should make time for friends and family. Whilst I am very comfortable in my own company (perhaps too comfortable), I do also love being surrounded by people! Chatting, laughing, sharing stories, is so important. Interacting with others keeps us stimulated and growing, and also really helps us to remain positive and cheerful.
Loneliness reducing steps:
- I have started reducing my screen time. Subconsciously comparing my life to other’s on Instagram and Facebook does me no favours. So by getting out of that virtual realm and absorbing myself in reality does wonders for my mood!
- Calling people rather than texting. If you can’t see people in the flesh, use the next best thing! Call / Skype / FaceTime your friends or family and have a proper conversation, it perks me up no end!
- Make Plans! Whilst I have accepted I cannot see my friends from home every weekend, booking in some dates to see them in the future gives me something to look forward to and means I don’t end up shutting myself off when I am feeling particularly low.
- Reducing my Work Hours. I completely understand that not everyone has the luxury to do this but if you can – DO! It is very easy when you are self-emplyed to say yes to everything and as a yoga teacher I work very unsocial hours, so week nights are a no go and I often work on weekends. However, I am trying to free up my weekends so I have more time to rest and also more time to do things!
- Join a Sports Team or Club! Although this may seem a daunting prospect, pushing yourself out of our comfort zone will only help you in the future. I am thinking of joining a hockey team as I used to love playing when I was younger and being part of a team mentality and meeting new people in a friendly atmosphere will definitely reduce feelings of isolation and may even result in some new friends!
- Talk to Someone! Let people know you are feeling lonely! If people don’t know, they can’t help you. Your friends may think you are having an absolute blast and don’t need them no more! But if you vocalise to someone that you are feeling isolated, chances are they will head over and see you or get something fun organised!
All the above pointers are what people who are feeling lonely can do for themselves but how can we help others? Take the time to reach out to people. If you realise your friend hasn’t been out in a while, double check they are ok. If someone has moved to a new city or started a new job, take the time to find out how it is all going. Feeling lonely is a rubbish feeling and sharing a smile or a small conversation with somebody is so easy but it can literally make that person’s day.