The effects of loneliness
Do you feel socially and/or emotionally disconnected? Loneliness is a subjective experience. We can be surrounded by people yet feel completely isolated. In fact, loneliness is increasing worldwide. Most of us are in the habit of putting on our ‘everything’s fine face’ even when life is awful. We withdraw and isolate ourselves because we feel alone in what we are going through. We compare ourselves to others and because they are pretending everything is always fine, we pretend too. This just adds to loneliness and the cycle in reinforced.
Loneliness distorts our thinking as we end up feeling that no one cares about us when in fact they do. We wallow in our negative thinking which makes it even less likely that we will reach out for support when in fact this is probably the best thing we could do for ourselves.
Everyone feels lonely at times, it’s part of being human. Instead of seeing it in a negative way, accept that it is just a normal human experience that everyone has. In fact, I’ll bet if you had to ask people around you or that you come into contact with on a random basis, whether they have ever felt lonely, I would be surprised if you found many that said they had never felt lonely.
Feeling lonely allows our insecurities to surface and can lead to rumination. A process whereby we go over and over the same ground in our minds. It is non productive worry that is biased – it is often negative in its content. A case of comparing our ‘behind the scenes footage’ with other people’s ‘highlight reel’. A false and unequal comparison!
What to do:
Harness your fear of getting out there and start with small baby steps. Greet a neighbour, ask a stranger for the time – make and effort to talk to others even if briefly at first. Then step it up, call an old friend, join an online forum…join a Meetup group. There are many ways to emerge from isolation slowly.
Connecting with others releases oxytocin, a feel-good hormone that also helps us counteract stress. We are social beings and we need others.
Don’t compare yourself to others – remember you are only seeing you what they wish to reveal, a very limited portion of their real life. As a counsellor, I get to see more of people’s lives than most and everyone has something they are hiding. I wish we could all be more open about life and feel less ashamed. It would be quite a free feeling for many of us.
Learn to dismiss your negative thoughts and not believe them. Thoughts aren’t facts. Accept that when you feel lonely, you may be thinking less rationally.
There is nothing wrong with you if you feel lonely, it isn’t that you are doing something wrong. Accept your ‘humanness’ and be kind to yourself. At least you can tick off the ‘loneliness chapter’ in the book of life. Been there, done that…we all have to read that chapter at least once!
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