Mental Health Week – Loneliness

It was Mental Health Awareness Week in May 2022 and this year’s theme is loneliness. Loneliness is frightening. Human beings were not created to be alone always. Yes, there are times that a person needs to be alone but when it becomes a regular occurrence then it is a worry. I am sure you can think of times that you felt lonely, if you were like me, the experience was unpleasant, uncomfortable, and petrifying.

Sometimes we feel lonely without a reason. Loneliness can, unfortunately, lead to mental health challenges. This is often where a person constantly feels lonely. Research shows that some people have a higher chance of being lonely than others. It is commonly believed that if a person has family and friends, they are unlikely to be lonely. This belief is wrong. Some people that are surrounded by friends and family still feel lonely for various reasons such as unhappiness, anxiety, financial concerns, unemployment, fear of rejection, emotional neglect,  domestic violence, ill-treatment, abuse, and ill-health.
Other lonely episodes arise from stressful living such as
the death of a loved one, loss of a job, illness, relationship spiralling downward, violence, and sexual abuse. In these circumstances, mood disorder develops and the individual can start to self-isolate.
Recovery can be short-lived and the individual bounces back to normal. However, it becomes a problem when the mood disorder becomes chronic and brings changes to the brain that can be long-lasting.
What can be done to tackle loneliness and the possible mental health associated with it? Can there be a transformation of loneliness to happiness or fulfilment? I say, yes. I am optimistic and believe that no matter how difficult things may be, there are ways to tackle the so-called challenges.
Here are some suggestions.
Work on finding joy in your day-to-day activities and routine. Engage in activities that would bring a smile to your face.
Happiness is free so take steps to create happy times and memories with yourself and/ or people around you. It is important to note that your happiness is not dependent on anyone. You must not rely on anyone to make you happy, if you do, you may be disappointed as nothing in life except death is guaranteed. Human beings sadly are known to cause disappointment.
Keep busy and active. When you are busy, you are unlikely to feel lonely and worry about things. An idle mind we are told is a devil’s workshop. When you engage in activities that you enjoy, you will feel happy, positive, and energetic.
I find physical activity helpful when I am feeling low or emotionally drained. I also enjoy listening to music and dancing. Why not try it? You can walk, run, go to the gym, exercise at home, ride a bike, swim, and so on.
Journaling is an excellent way to tackle loneliness and low mood. When you write things down, particularly the things you are worried or anxious about, it helps relieve stress and negative thoughts.
Connect with people. I am aware that sometimes, people deliberately choose to be alone. However, if you do not wish to be alone and concerned about loneliness then it is helpful to try and connect with friends and family.
Some jobs and circumstances require accomplishment in solitude, eg reading, tasks requiring mental activity, and maximum concentration.  In such cases, the isolation is deliberate and can be reversed as soon as the task is done.
No one is an island; humans are creatures created to be with others. Connecting and engaging with people will help you overcome loneliness. The connection and engagement should not be a one-off. The more you make the effort to engage with others the easier it will become to overcome loneliness.
Say hello to a neighbour, when you go for a walk or you are out and about, smile at people, and share pleasantries with people you meet. This is something I do often. I am a social butterfly and enjoy meeting people.
In my book, “The Parent, The Carer, The Educator” which is a guide to supporting the emotional wellbeing of children and young people, I talked about an Octogenarian, whom I met during lockdown whilst on my daily walks and who is also of the same opinion that regular exercise like walking is important as it boosts mental health and helps to reduce stress and anxiety.
Find a listening ear. Someone you trust and feel comfortable with. Someone that you can talk to and share your worries, laugh, and smile with. It will help to lift your spirit and ease the tension associated with loneliness.
You can practise mindfulness which is said to help with loneliness.
Social media can also be helpful. It is important to have a balance as social media can be addictive, feel lonely, and can affect one’s emotional and mental health. It is advisable to use it sensibly and visit sites that are informative, funny, and of interest to you. If you find yourself on a platform or page that is toxic, negative or makes you uncomfortable, you should leave immediately and never return. If possible, use the block button to avoid any future interactions.
Social media can increase the feeling of isolation due to photos, videos, and media coverage of joyful people, perfect families, and scenarios. Someone may find themselves comparing their life to what they are seeing online.  This is particularly worrying for young people who may not understand that social media is not ‘picture-perfect as it portrays. Comparison is a thief of joy. It can cause loneliness and exacerbate the challenges associated with loneliness.
Seek professional help. This is important when a person is unable to manage the challenges associated with loneliness despite having tried different strategies. It is also necessary to seek help even if the person has not tried any strategies to combat loneliness but it is glaring that they are struggling. Please note that identifying that you need or wish to seek a professional and proceeding to seek help is a sign of strength and not weakness.
Finally, if you are lonely or know someone that feels lonely, it’s good to find a need to fill. Get up and muster the courage to help others. You can volunteer, you can decide to put a smile on someone’s face, go out and be a blessing to others or send a positive message to someone.
Everyone welcomes an act of kindness. Pour and sow into the lives of others and it will make a world of difference to you and others.
You can do it! I am solidly behind you and cheering you on!


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