SELF AND SOUL
December 2023 - Issue 26
Loneliness affects people from all walks of life. According to an in-depth study by the Co-op and the British Red Cross, approximately 9 million people in the UK often feel lonely, with many struggling to make lasting social connections with others.
Have you ever been at work surrounded by people but felt completely alone, like there is something missing? Loneliness is not something that’s often spoken about. Perhaps people fear that admitting to feeling lonely will make them seem weak, but that’s not the case. The chances are at least one of your friends or colleagues will have had similar feelings at some point in their life.
There are two different states of loneliness: one is when you’re actually alone and the other is when you’re not alone, but you feel as if you are. This is where you have this unexplained feeling, which is a type of growth, or what some would call a spiritual loneliness. It’s something that you can’t really explain. It’s like holding hands with someone but not feeling the connection. Or putting balm on an insect bite but the sting still remains.
Often when I’ve had this feeling, something positive has come out of it. One day, during a bout of loneliness, I decided to go for a very long walk in the countryside and during that time, I came across a group of strangers. We got chatting, had a laugh and put the world to rights. While talking to these really nice people, I felt that feeling of disconnect disappear. On other occasions, exercise has been my saviour. Not only does it release the feelings of loneliness, I always feel happier and stronger after working out.
Deep longing to belong
The feeling of loneliness is related to our inner journey rather than our outer one, hence why exercise and fresh air helped clear my mind of the negative feelings. If you work on your inner self, you’ll find that in certain situations, you’re not actually feeling lonely, your soul is simply yearning for deeper and more meaningful connections, which can be hard to find.
The power of sport and physical activity to reduce feelings of loneliness has been well acknowledged: in 2018, the remit of the Minister for Sport and Civil Society was increased by the then Prime Minister Theresa May to include loneliness.
A feeling of loneliness can also be an indication that you’re on the wrong path. If you feel like you don’t belong, maybe that is because you don’t. Look around you and see what‘s not working for you – perhaps you need to move on in some way or make a lifestyle change. Take time out to think about what it is you really want to be doing with your life. Once you find the thing you love, you may find yourself feeling happier and fulfilled.
In the short term, there are things you can do to cope with your feelings.
Growing and changing
While we’re growing and changing into who we truly are, this can leave us with feelings of disconnection because of the unknown. During these times, instead of focusing on those feelings, try and find something that truly resonates with you and connect with that instead. You’ll find that those feelings will soon disappear. The disconnection is like a clearing out of the old and bringing in the new, so it’s time to find things or people that are mutually uplifting.
Loneliness can actually be quite a powerful thing, so embrace it. Remember we’re all on a journey – we just need to know at which stop to get off.
How to cope with loneliness
* Join a class based on your hobbies or interests.
* Strengthen existing relationships. Call your parents more often and arrange regular brunch dates with friends.
* Find others like you via an online support group or talk to a therapist.
* Try not to compare yourself to other people, and stay true to yourself when making business and personal decisions.
* Look after yourself. Think about your diet and try to get enough sleep.
* If you’re self-employed or a business owner, look for events that resonate with you. When someone shows genuine interest in wanting to get to know you, follow that up with a coffee or tea invitation and see where the connection leads.
* People come into our lives for a reason and a season. Some stick, some don’t, but there’s always something to be learnt.
Try something new today!
How to make your life more interesting
Research has found that people are more likely to feel happy if the people they’re most connected with are happy.