Each of us sometimes has a feeling of loneliness. Although we usually cope with it without any major problems, it can happen that it lasts for an extremely long time and becomes overwhelming.
Man is a social being and cannot function properly without contact with another person. This was best demonstrated by the pandemic, during which we all had to limit social meetings and direct contacts with loved ones. Locked inside four walls and isolated from others, we begin to fall into apathy and irritability. It is not uncommon to feel lonely and useless to anyone. When this condition persists, we may need to seek professional help. When does loneliness become a problem?
The different faces of loneliness
When we speak of loneliness, what we most often have in mind is a situation in which there is no one in a person’s life to support them, to listen to them, or simply to keep them company. In the collective consciousness, lonely people, whether by their own will or independently, have not built close relationships with anyone.
However, experiencing loneliness is a subjective thing and only we can judge whether we feel comfortable without the company of another person. Someone who spends time alone does not necessarily feel lonely. Many people regenerate or relax in this way. What is more, specialists convince that temporary solitude is necessary for proper mental, emotional, and spiritual development of a person.
Loneliness is also not necessarily associated with social isolation; we do not have to be alone to feel lonely. The feeling of alienation can accompany us at work, at school, in the family or in a relationship. We then speak of mental or emotional loneliness. If, on the other hand, we often find ourselves deep in thought about the meaning of life and our place in the world, we experience existential loneliness.
Why do we feel lonely?
Psychologists note several reasons why people feel lonely and unnecessary. For example, in childhood and adolescence, factors such as:
- lack of parental attention;
- shy character;
- inferiority complex;
- lack of acceptance by peers;
- pathology in the family.
Sometimes exacerbated feelings of alienation occur under the influence of psychological disorders, also in people suffering from various types of anxiety or experiencing severe stress. In addition, loneliness more often affects people with low self-esteem, shy and insecure. Such people tend to shut themselves away and not communicate their needs to anyone.
Social isolation, when a person is physically “cut off” from others, is also an important factor. Long-term isolation can lead to a significant reduction in the number of social ties and contacts, as well as a narrowing of our social circle – in extreme cases, we can even talk about social exclusion.
The elderly, people with disabilities, migrants and the unemployed are most vulnerable to loneliness. In addition, the feeling of alienation more often affects residents of large cities.
When loneliness becomes a problem
Loneliness can be temporary (situational) and result from specific events in our lives, such as the divorce of our parents, the death of a loved one, changing schools or moving to another city. In this case, after some time we get used to the new situation, we overcome the feeling of loneliness and everything goes back to normal.
It can happen, however, that loneliness accompanies us for too long and becomes chronic. Usually such a state is experienced by people with low self-esteem, shy and uncommunicative, who do not have adequate social skills and who are constantly afraid of something. Often the tendency to chronic loneliness is the result of trauma experienced in childhood or adolescence.
Chronic loneliness can lead to serious mental disorders, depression, apathy, irritability, anxiety attacks, neurosis, and insomnia. Therefore, when we can’t cope with it, we should immediately go to a specialist who, with the help of appropriate therapy, will help us find the reasons of such state and work through them.
How to cope with loneliness?
1. Act instead of thinking. Work in your garden. Clean out the garage. Wash your car. Talk to your neighbors. Call friends and go to a coffee shop or movie with them. Go for a walk. Changing your situation will help you get away from gloomy thoughts.
2. Be good to yourself. Self-flagellation is never the answer. When you feel bad, it’s important to take care of yourself and your well-being. Pamper yourself a little, buy yourself a gift, eat something tasty, spend time doing what you love, and most of all, speak and think well of yourself.
3. Don’t close yourself off to others. Get out of the house and seek contact with other people – you can go to a meeting with friends, sign up for a group class or go on a group outing. Even the smallest interaction, like small talk in an elevator or store, can make you feel better.
4. Engage in something new. Exploring and learning new things is a great way to take your mind off sadness and loneliness. When you engage in something that really intrigues and interests you, you’ll gain more confidence and boost your self-esteem. And remember, you don’t have to learn alone, but in a group of other beginners. It’s a great way to meet new people.
5. Help others. Volunteering is a good way to meet interesting people, but also to understand what is important in life. What’s more, helping others raises your self-esteem and makes you feel needed. By helping the elderly, the sick, the needy, you can gain a purpose that will give your life meaning.6. Adopt a pet. Studies confirm that the presence of animals in our lives can reduce loneliness. In addition to the companionship of the pet itself, we also gain the opportunity to interact with other pet owners.
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