A recent survey found that 18-24 year olds are most likely to report feeling lonely. And that adults experience most loneliness on weekend evenings. Research also shows that three quarters of people don’t tell anyone when they’re feeling lonely, even if they have someone they can count on!
It’s very hard not to see loneliness as a personal failure right? Or to blame the people we know. What’s wrong with me.. / people should be inviting me to things.. / maybe they’re arseholes or maybe I’m a loser..
Firstly we should remind ourselves that it’s NOT a personal failure; loneliness is the by-product of a society in which there’s lots of freedom. It’s a societal issue, not a personal one. You could be the most entertaining and charismatic person in the world, but if all your mates have moved away; you’re going to feel lonely. Every culture has its issues. If we were living in small close knit communities our problem wouldn’t be loneliness, instead it would be a lack of freedom or autonomy.
Secondly, maybe we could lower our standards. A lot is expected of us these days; interesting job, fresh trainers, world travel… We’re perfectionists. As such, we may also expect a lot from the people around us. They should have similar opinions and values, they shouldn’t annoy us, they should be as clever or as cool, they should never let us down… But actually every human is incredibly flawed and annoying. Think how often your sibling or best friend infuriates you, but how much value you get from that relationship (hopefully). Think about some of the people you’ve known for years that you love, but whom you thought were complete twats when you first met them. Connections take time.
I was lonely at the beginning of this year, but instead of seizing every opportunity to be in contact with people; I would think ‘hmm.. I do want to see people.. But maybe not right now or maybe not you guys..’ And I would stay put on my sofa and morph into a wet lump of red wine and self pity. Which is obviously foolish.
it’s not personal
Remember loneliness is a societal issue, not a personal one. This should help quiet your insecurities, thus they won’t be in the back of your mind defensively giving you reasons to avoid interactions.
Research has found that people in cities who don’t feel attached to their community are particularly likely to feel lonely. Getting involved in a ‘thing’ in your area has benefits for society and for you, and there is something especially rewarding about being in a group with a common goal. You could go to a local XR meeting or join a pea throwing club. Almost 4 in 10 Britons do voluntary work, which is pretty rad.
focus on similarities not differences
Notice ‘us and them’ thinking. We’re very prone to it, and have specific parts of our brain that categorise people as ‘in’ or ‘out’ group. Try replacing ‘I am not like these people because of xyz’ with ‘Everyone is different but we all have some common ground’
feel no shame in admitting if you’re lonely! many of us are, don’t worry my friend.
It’s beneficial to spend some time alone, however in a society where isolation is easy, it’s good to remember that we’re all annoying as hell, but also lovely, and we really do need each other.
don’t beat around the bush
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