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Is loneliness an Epidemic?

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

According to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Tackling loneliness and connected communities, 49.63% of adults in the UK reported feeling lonely occasionally, sometimes, often or always in 2022. That’s nearly 26 million of us!

In a world where we’ve never been more connected and we can communicate instantly with someone on the other side of the planet it seems ironic that so many of us feel lonely.

Our craving for connection with others is completely natural and innate. We’re born into the world helpless and our survival depends on the protection of the people around us.

If our longing for warm healthy relationships is unfulfilled or if we feel socially isolated we’ll feel disconnected and lonely.

We can be surrounded by people but If we’re not in a relationship in which we feel valued, respected, understood and accepted for who we are, we’ll feel lonely.

Social media can be useful to keep in touch with friends but studies show that the more time spent on social media is associated with higher levels of loneliness.

Spending time scrolling because we’re bored or lonely (using it as a substitute for proper connection with others) is likely to increase our sense of Isolation as we’re comparing our moments of low feelings against the curated display of other peoples best experiences.

If we’re naturally shy or introverted or if we lack confidence or self-belief it can feel difficult to build healthy relationships and meet new people.

It can feel embarrassing to admit that we’re lonely but if we ask for help we’re giving someone the opportunity to be kind to us which research shows makes them feel good about themselves too. Perhaps you have a friend or family member who you can reach out to and may offer some support and strengthen your bond.

You might already have friendships and connections that can be strengthened. Rather than waiting for others to contact you, start some chats and If you know a friend has an interest in something, you could send them a link to something that you think they’ll like. Keep in touch.

Making new connections and friendships, like most things, is best done in small steps.

Research shows that connecting with others in small ways in everyday life has an impact on our social well-being. If you don’t already have a daily walk to work, consider going for a daily walk or a daily coffee and smiling and saying good morning to the people you meet and be open to the possibility of starting a conversation - even if it’s just about the weather.

Avoid hiding in your phone. When we’re alone there’s a tendency to take out our phone and look busy but people are unlikely to engage in conversation in that situation. By looking around and smiling you look approachable so others are more likely to strike up a conversation with you.

If you don’t already have a hobby or interest think about things you enjoyed doing when you were younger and could revisit or think about something new you’d like to try.

Having a hobby or interest gives you something to talk about and makes conversations with others easier and more interesting.

It’s much easier to bond with people who share the same hobbies and interests as yourself and it’s easier to join an event where there’s a formal structure. So going along to talks, classes or workshops means that you’ll have something in common with the other participants and conversations will start naturally.

People unconsciously like familiarity, so by showing up to an event regularly will increase positive goodwill towards you.

People unconsciously like people who smile, so even if you don’t yet have the courage to join in a conversation, looking around and smiling a lot means people will be drawn to you.

Ask questions, people like to talk about themselves and they like to think that you’re interested in what they have to say. If you follow up the conversation later about something they’ve previously told you it increases the bond because they feel seen, heard and understood.

Volunteering is a great way to expand your social circle and build confidence.

Finding a cause that’s important to you and doing something that improves the lives of other people or animals is proven to increase happiness.

Additionally, connecting with people who share your interest in a cause can forge emotional connections with others and being part of the wider community is where belonging happens.

If you feel lonely and lack the confidence or motivation to embark on any of these suggestions yet, please contact me for a conversation to explore how I may be able to help you.

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