Coping with loneliness

Posted 2 months ago

February's Wisdom Q&A

Natalee Goodman - Lead Counsellor

Is loneliness normal?

Yes, loneliness is absolutely normal. Everyone feels lonely from time to time. Sometimes we feel lonely because we are alone, and sometimes we feel lonely in a group because we feel ignored, unheard, or misunderstood. Like all emotions loneliness is a guide, it tells us what we need. Usually, if we are lonely, we need good company and to feel heard, understood, and part of a group. Please don’t beat yourself up for feeling lonely.

How do I know if I am lonely?

You’ll know if you are feeling lonely if you are craving a connection with others and for whatever reason you are not able to find that connection currently. It’s not always about being alone physically and sometimes we can benefit from being on our own for a bit to decompress. Equally, as I said in response to the last question, we can feel very lonely in a crowd if we feel that we are ignored or misunderstood.

How do I help my granny who feels lonely?

That’s a tough question and depends very much on whether your Gran can get out and about or not. If your Gran can’t get out and about, it might help to arrange with your family and her friends to visit or call her on different days and times so that she has regular contact with the people she loves. If she lives a long way from her friends, or they can’t visit each other, they might like to become pen pals to keep in touch. It’s about the quality of connection with others rather than lots of it for most people.

If your Gran can get out and about, help her to find some local groups she might like to join. Lots of churches, mosques, and synagogues have “tea and toast” mornings or similar for instance. Also, there are many craft groups and other hobby groups that can be found on apps like Meetup or advertised in local newspapers.

Why do I feel lonely when I’m surrounded by people?

Loneliness feels like it’s about being on our own and not having any interaction with others. It can be about being on our own, but the bigger issue is quality connections with others. It’s about feeling like you are part of a group, whether that is family, friends, or other organizations. It’s about caring about others and them caring about you, knowing what’s going on in their lives and them knowing about yours. So, we can easily be lonely in a crowd if we feel uncared for, unheard, or misunderstood. It is important to find your tribe so to speak, those people who you can connect on a deep level with and who you feel safe with.

What things can I do to combat loneliness?

If you are feeling lonely there are lots of things you can do to feel better. The first is to reach out to someone who you care about and who cares about you. It might help to arrange regular get-togethers with your people so that you know you will see them soon.

If you feel that you haven’t found your people yet, then it may be time to get out there and try to find them. You can join local groups related to your hobbies, start volunteering, or take up a class in something you are interested in to meet people. If you struggle to leave the house, then there are so many communities you can find online. Like I’ve said in previous answers, it’s about the quality of connection and online friendships can be just as meaningful as in-person friendships.

In the meantime, it might help to distract yourself. It takes a while to build those kinds of relationships so don’t be upset with yourself if it doesn’t happen quickly. Whilst you are working on building your tribe, fill your days with positive activities that you enjoy so you’re less focused on feeling alone.

How do I support someone I think is feeling lonely but won’t talk to me about it?

Firstly, I think it’s so lovely that you have noticed. That’s very perceptive and kind of you. We can’t force people to talk to us about how they are feeling, and some people really won’t want to. However, you can set up the circumstances where it is more likely that they will speak up if they want to. You can achieve this by spending time with them one-on-one, with no pressure, and see if they bring the topic up. Other ways to help would be to encourage them to come out and about with you, to join you when meeting friends, or to ask them to keep you company at an event or just when doing your usual chores. All of this will increase the connection between the two of you and hopefully reduce their loneliness.

Do you think pets help people with loneliness?

Absolutely they do. Pets can be great company. Pets give a person something to focus on, something to look after and give attention to, and most pets interact back with you which is helpful. Dogs particularly are very loving, but other animals can be too like cats, birds, and I’m sure many others. If you are thinking of getting a pet to help with loneliness then I encourage it, but also make sure that you can meet your new friend’s needs too, so you have the best relationship possible for both of you.

Do you think people are more likely to feel lonely living in a city or rural areas?

Honestly, I don’t think it matters where you are living, I don’t think either situation is more or less likely to lead to loneliness. It is about the quality of the connection you have with others that determines whether you feel lonely or not. So, wherever you live, make sure that you can still connect with the people you love in ways that are meaningful to you and you will be fine.