In a modern world where instant messaging and social media platforms like Facebook and Whatsapp put the power to connect with others quite literally in the palm of our hands, loneliness might seem like a bit of a foreign concept at times. How can it be possible for anyone to feel lonely when we’re all living in the middle of an intricate and infinite web of social connection? Surely if everybody has somebody they can talk to, nobody can be truly alone… can they?
The sad reality is that, despite all these digital opportunities for connection, one in four of us still struggle with loneliness some or all of the time for a number of different reasons, such as the loss of a loved one, changes in employment, and moving to a new area. Unsurprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has also been a significant trigger for many people, too. It’s thought that feelings of loneliness were almost three times as prevalent during the lockdowns compared to pre-pandemic levels, and many people are still struggling with the negative impact those prolonged period of isolation have had on their wellbeing even now.
Oftentimes, however, people experience loneliness even when there is no identifiable cause, and the effect it has on their wellbeing can be profound and long-lasting. Research has found those with mental health conditions, physical disabilities, low incomes, and those from minority groups are most vulnerable to this type of long-term loneliness, and that higher rates of mortality and poorer physical health outcomes are just two of its unwelcome consequences.
So, what can we do to stop loneliness in its tracks and show those who are struggling they’re not alone?
The Harvard Study of Adult Development has shown that ‘embracing community helps us live longer and be happier’, and that ‘the warmth of our relationships [has] the greatest impact on our life satisfaction and health’. With this in mind, we’ve put together some suggestions for you below to not only improve your own happiness and wellbeing, but the lives of those around you, too:
- Check In with Others: when life gets busy, we often forget to nurture our social connections. To help keep your own loneliness at bay, try to make a conscious effort to reach out to friends and family on a regular basis, whether that be through a group chat, video call, or an in-person visit. You’ll not only give your own mood a boost – you’ll probably make someone else’s day, too!
- Find Your Community: if you aren’t already part of one, you might want to consider joining (or starting!) an offline or online community that shares your interests as a way to make new connections. It might seem daunting at first, but once you’ve found the right people and have made yourself part of their group, the sense of ‘belonging’ you’ll feel group can be pretty powerful. If you know anybody else who might share in your interests, invite them to tag along with you as well – it’ll be a great bonding experience for you both.
- Think Local: if you don’t already know your neighbours, now is as good a time as any to reach out and get acquainted. Even a simple hello can make a big difference when it comes to combatting feelings of loneliness, both for yourself and others, which brings us on to our final point…
- Harness the Power of Your Smile: studies have shown smiling and being around smiley people can increase our happiness and sense of wellbeing, so next time you pass someone at the supermarket or on a walk, be sure to smile!
If you’re struggling with feelings of loneliness or want to find out more about how you can help your colleagues feel less alone, contact one of our friendly team below and we will be delighted to help.