Everyone has had the experience of feeling alone and isolated at some point in their lives.
Whether you are living by yourself for the first time or even feeling isolated in a crowd of people, the feeling of loneliness can be present.
For over 20 years I have been the empathetic voice on the other end of a distress line; loneliness and isolation have been the reason behind most of the calls.
I have also been that lonely person who has not reached out because I was afraid of being judged for being “just lonely.”
Very few people reach out for support when they are lonely even if that is the root concern for them, because it has not been taken seriously.
Loneliness is real. Loneliness is damaging. And we can do something about it. A recent major research study on loneliness in Britain led to the appointment of a Minister of Loneliness, based on the known serious health impacts of loneliness.
It got me thinking and prompted me to look deeper. The study showed that persistent isolation has a higher impact on both physical and mental health than obesity or excessive drinking.
The effects run across the generations from children to the elderly. Isolation should be taken seriously. How often do we eat alone in front of the TV, with computers or other devices? How many opportunities could we take to reduce our own social isolation and that of others?
What can we do? I do most of my work from home and over the internet. It is easy to be days or weeks before I get together with others in person, which is a different interaction for me than the one I have electronically.
Connecting with others in person, sharing time, food and ideas with people who share similar values, culture, and passions is so important.
As an introvert, I am very aware about how I choose to connect with others so that I don’t feel like an island in a river of people, keeping in mind the gap between the expectation of what I am looking for in interactions with others and what the reality of the experience actually is. Choosing to have connections with others and arranging to be with others who share things in common with me is something that is meaningful.
When I was a child living in rural Dufferin County, we would go to community dinners, quilting sessions and local fairs.
We would check in regularly with our neighbours who lived alone and invite them to join us when we went to town.
I plan to bring many of these practices back into my life, as well as volunteer and to get involved with other local events. Perhaps I’ll invite a new neighbour over to have coffee with me.
What are some things you can do that will help alleviate loneliness for yourself and others?
This article was written by Libby Pease ACC, Certified Life Coach, Listening Tree Studio and Coaching. The “Open Mind” column is sponsored by community partners who are committed to raising awareness about mental health, reducing stigma and providing information about resources that can help. Published in Wellington Advertiser April 12, 2018.