Is more than being alone. We all know the idea ‘feeling lonely in a crowd’ and unfortunately we all know the feeling of being lonely although we are surrounded by people. What is loneliness…the feeling that you are alone isn’t the full story. After all being alone could be described as solitude or retreat and may well be a positive not a negative. Relaxing with a good book or walking the dog with the early morning dew underfoot….those aren’t times of loneliness.
Sadly nowadays more & more people suffer with loneliness. Confusingly with social media telling us we have hundreds of friends, yet consider at the same time we have so little actual social contact. People won’t chat to a stranger on the train, casual interaction over a purchase in a shop is often noted as being unusual rather than the expected. We don’t expect our cashiers or others in the queue to chat about the day or our purchases, in fact we may often be checking our Facebook or texting while we wait in the queue. Somehow alone with our social media is more alone than being alone in your head.
So is that it? Is loneliness the negative side of being alone? If so what is being alone…we have already discussed that it is not the absence of people as then how the could you feel lonely in a crowd. Is it exclusion? The feeling of not fitting it?
However this is not the case or all eccentrics would be lonely, or anyone starting out a new venture or seeing something from a different perspective would be lonely as they were not fitting in to the norm. In fact those that stand out from the crowd may be less lonely as they may have a passion or interest that encourages interaction or absorption.
So is loneliness boredom? A lack of interaction with the world rather than a lack of company of people?
What do we know about loneliness. Firstly it is unhealthy. It is almost as detrimental to health as smoking yet not discussed as much. When do you hear doctors tell you to do something about your social situation to improve your health? Many different studies have shown the health benefits of a close knit supportive community. Be it with family or friends, being in a loving relationship or attendance at a group of like-minded individuals; we are healthier when we are not lonely. In fact other research has investigated the importance of companionships & socialising in relation to physical exercise to the health of the older generation. This has shown the benefits of enjoying sedentary social activities to be as beneficial for cardiovascular health as partaking in physical exercise.
When we are lonely our mind floods the body with hormones telling us we are not happy. The problem is our body can’t distinguish between stressful situations and loneliness in terms of the hormones and their effects on, for example, our immune system, our cardiovascular health and our digestive health.
Is it any wonder then that loneliness can be equated to sadness, that it is linked to poorer healing & lower immunity.
Maybe we need to look at how loneliness effects us to answer what loneliness is. Is it a lack of social support, of companionship? Is it the feeling of stress at the idea of being alone? Is is a physical feeling attempting to motivate us to take action. Our bodies have systems to keep us healthy so if being part of a community, and/ or a loving relationship is good for our health is it any wonder that our bodies crave it. It is worsening this loneliness epidemic…In this modern day world of faceless interaction, phone calls not face to face communication, travel meaning we often move away from our family and friends & live in societies where we mayn’t even know our neighbours. I personally am aware my yoga community keeps me well. The friends and support I have found plus regular interaction with family has allowed me to resist feeling lonely.
Don’t get stuck relying on one way to reduce loneliness…for example the idea when I fall in love I won’t be lonely…. We need many different people to form a supportive community and indeed having ten supportive friends may improve healing from breast cancer more than having a supportive spouse. Hence make friends, join a group and get out and spend time with people. You may even find you no longer feel so lonely in crowds as wherever you are you always have the inner security of knowing you are a part of a greater whole, a community 🙂
Suggestions of 3 ways to feel less lonely
Join a group. Any group that does something you enjoy…. Obviously my first suggestion is yoga classes ( well you’re reading my blog so that suggests an interest?!). However any group that meets regularly, interacts and shows support for its members is great for our health.
Make mealtimes more social. At work maybe share your break times with friends, make time to say hello to work mates or plan family dinners or regular events with friends.
Don’t just interact via text or Facebook. There’s an increasing reliance in social media and technology rather than actually talking. If distance is a problem then use Skype over email…see somebody, share your world with someone… Watch this http://blog.petflow.com/this-is-a-video-everyone-needs-to-see-for-the-first-time-in-my-life-im-Speechless
Reduce the possibility of loneliness and improve your health.