Coping with loneliness

It’s winter. It’s cold. It’s dark.

Let’s face it the lack of Vitamin D does nothing for anyones mood, and with my current routine being bogged under with revision for January exams, this post seemed very relevant to write about.

People don’t like to admit their lonely; it sounds needy, desperate and maybe even weak I guess?

But severe bouts of loneliness can lead to depression, anxiety,  increase alcohol dependence and lower self-esteem.

It is not a shameful thing to admit you are feeling alone, we are social beings, designed for relationships and interactions.

Being around the right people can help raise self esteem, make us feel supported and loved, give purpose, motivate and inspire us. We experience amazing amounts of growth when we spend time with those who reciprocate our friendship.


Lets get psychological about relationships….

Maslow’s renowned hierarchy of needs specifies its importance in his stage of “belonging”. For those not familiar with Maslow’s theory of self actualization, he believed that each stage in the hierarchy needs to be met in order for a person to reach, what is termed, ‘self actualization’. It is then that we are able to reach our full potential, learn and develop ourselves into well established, grounded, individuals.

MaslowHierarchy.png

I would argue that relationships also are important for other areas of his hierarchy, such as  “safety” and “esteem”, because it’s through developing good relationships, and spending time with people who make you feel good, that you feel safe, supported and are given positive reinforcement. This in tern builds identity and purpose.

However loneliness can be split into two categories:  circumstantial loneliness, the type that can be given context and is often easily resolvable, such as living alone, working alone, dealing with bereavement, losing touch with social contacts or from the experience of discrimination.

But the other loneliness is more pathological and has links with depression. This is the type of loneliness experienced when you are surrounded by loved ones but still feel nothing but emptiness.

It is ongoing, pervasive and intrusive to all areas of your life and levels of functioning, including higher levels of fatigue or insomnia.


What should we watch out for?

With both types of loneliness you may suffer from many cognitive [thinking] errors, such as:thoughtsemotions

  • Catastrophic thinking
  • Overgeneralizing 
  • Black and white thinking
  • Disqualifying the positives
  • Personalisation
  • Mind-reading

 


So, what are the key things to do when feeling a little lonely, or bogged down with the January blues what can be done to lift your spirits?

Learning to spend time alone with yourself is crucial to self-love! It’s OK to be alone. Trust me I’d rather be made to learn algebra in Russian whilst suspended from the Eiffel Tower by a pair of dungarees than be with myself for too long (OK maybe that’s a tad extreme…but you get the point). But here are some tips and tricks to beat the loneliness blues:

  1. Even if you feel down make an effort to meet with friends and make contact with people: Now this may seem obvious – you feel lonely go and see someone – but for fishfriendthose suffering with depression as well this is hard because although you want to see people you also want to be alone, making plans can feel like a lot of effort and you may even put it off completely because you jump to the conclusion that because you feel alone no one likes you.

I will tell you now, you are wrong to think that. So it’s important to make as much social contact as you can, even if it’s ringing a friend/relative for a quick chat, going for a coffee or lunch break, or speaking to someone on social media. Don’t knock what a good conversation can do for you!

  1. Join a new club and make new connections: Whatever your hobbies are use them to get up and out. Meet new people, make new friends and don’t be afraid to try something new. Be proactive and productive to instigate change.
  2. Ask for a hug: cuddles are amazing. And if you have a partner snuggling up for a cosy cuddle and cheeky kiss will bring a smile to your face I’m sure! But for those singletons out there [I feel ya’] ask for a hug from a friend, and when people ask if you’re ok it’s ok to say you’ve been missing seeing people later and need a coffee and chat. Honesty is the best policy!

Reflections…

For me, learning to be happy with being alone was a major step to loving myself more! Spending time doing stuff I enjoy for myself, such as art, music, cooking, cycle rides or writing more. You’ll find you become genuinely happy and at peace with your loneliness… In fact, I even look forward to those days and evenings spent alone!

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