Recognising and Avoiding Loneliness

Loneliness is a complex and unpleasant emotional response to isolation, the sense of a lack of connection and/or communication with others. It can occur both when physically alone and when with others. It can have an impact on both mental and physical health.

Most of us would describe it as ‘having no one to talk to’ or ‘no-one understands or listens to me’

It is important to understand how it occurs, how to avoid it and how to manage it if it is a position you recognise in yourself.

It does appear easy, once retired, to reduce social contact and to become socially isolated.  It can occur without you even realising – oh, the excitement of not having to go out to work every day.

Yet, it is important to ‘stay in touch’. This could be with established friends, new social activity or chatting ‘over the wall’ with the neighbours. See also a recent post ‘Staying Social’ on following link.

Like many of us I was only on brief nodding terms with neighbours whilst working but now have time to chat – beneficial to both of us as it also promotes the neighbour’s interactions and sharing of news and views.

Studies show that brief interventions, even with strangers in a bus queue, improved the sense of well-being. That making a connection is good for us and reduces a sense of isolation.

Other studies have demonstrated that face-to-face communication increases the production of endorphins- the chemical in the brain that boosts well-being and reduces pain. So, leave the computer and go outside. Talk to a neighbour, ‘What about?’ you may ask. It’s Britain – talk about the weather.

Follow the link for more information and articles.

There is nothing wrong with being on your own and many of us, me included, enjoy our own company. Feeling lonely is something different entirely. It is that sense of not connecting – either you are missing social interaction or feel uncared for and/or disconnected from the people who surround you.

Avoiding social isolation may be easier than you think – it often needs some courage (but then, you have greater inner strength than you realise)

Alongside leaving the house and talking to neighbours there are other steps you can take.

What are your interests? List them and then look locally for groups, evening classes etc. that would ‘fit’. These need not be costly.

Have you skills and experiences that could be shared and utilised by others? You could volunteer at a group/charity nearby. Follow the link below for information ovolunteering.

Appreciate that ‘first time’ nerves can hold you back although, as is often said ‘all journeys start with the first step’.

Attending any group does not commit you for life. If it is not ‘your thing’ then look for something else, although do give everything a fair chance. There is no rush, enjoy all the interactions you make.

Remember that loneliness can also impact on your physical health and perspectives on situations. An article from The Independent identifies some of the impacts lack of social interactions can have.

Studies show that people with a sense of loneliness do not cope as well with illness as people with healthy social interactions. Those with a sense of loneliness are shown to exaggerate severity of illnesses and often require changes of treatment as ‘nothing works’. There is also evidence that indicates the socially isolated consult their family doctor for minor illnesses more than those with social support groups and – loneliness can lead to depression.

The links below has some useful information and articles on ‘self-help’  

An organisation started by Dame Esther Rantzen, The Silver Line, is funded by donations and manned by volunteers to offer support and company for those recognising their loneliness. Feel Lonely – follow the link, give them a call. Would like to offer support – follow the link, give them a call.

Loneliness is a disease of our time and there is even a Minister for Loneliness (at time of writing this is Tina Couch) yet there are some simple steps that you can take to avoid this and steer yourself towards maintaining health and well-being.

As stated throughout the post – engage in simple small talk with those nearby – neighbours, shop assistants, dog walkers etc.

Enjoy your own company, plan your day so it has focus. Treat yourself to ‘outings’ such as the theatre, cinema or Coach trips.

Go somewhere on a regular basis, by doing this you become ‘familiar’ to others and more likely to feel comfortable engaging in conversation.

Make a connection with others yourself – join a local club where you have an interest (a shared interest is a conversation already started)

Understand why you feel lonely. Making connections may not remove this sense of loneliness unless you understand why it’s there. Is it new? Is it embodied over time? Once you acknowledge the reason you can work towards a solution.

Acknowledge you may need help to do this. Embrace who you are.

Photo Acknowledgements:

Photo by Cristina Gottardi on Unsplash – talking with neighbours Photo 1

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash – Featured Image

Photo by Todd Quackenbush on Unsplash – volunteer Photo 2

Photo by pina messina on Unsplash – Photo 3 Visit Dr

Photo by David Clarke on Unsplash – Photo 4 Silver

Photo by Lydia Torrey on Unsplash End Photo

Author: Terri Larcombe

Terri is recently retired and commenced this site to share her experience of retirement, both as an information resource and a Lifestyle Blog

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