Loneliness – How do we really define it? Sometimes loneliness is something that a person chooses and sometimes it comes to them. Sometimes loneliness is when you have no one around and on other times it might all also surface when you are in a room filled with people. The feeling of emptiness is what accompanies loneliness. So to identify if one is feeling lonely look out for the following signs-
• No close or best friends
• Negative feelings about self
• Low self esteem
• Inability to form intense and deeper connections
Such an undesired effect may occur in various situations, heightened sense of loneliness, maybe because of psychological distress, shifted interest, alcoholism, medical issues, shift in relationship dynamic, addiction to substance or the virtual world, employment or unemployment, lack of self-love, indifference to self and others and so on. Loneliness can result in a lot of mental health issues like depression, anxiety, sleep troubles, eating disorders and stress related issues. A contributing factor to this issue has recently become the virtual world. With the internet at almost every individual’s fingertip, we are more dependent on the virtual world than ever. From socializing to shopping, business to job, education to playing games, marketing to entertainment, we have got every and any possible content of interest at our fingertips. Already the issue at hand was growing exponentially when COVID-19 Pandemic stepped into the picture, our relations with the virtual world has also increased. For some , this might not feel like a big issue and some might actually like it.
Though the terminology is ‘social’, it is bringing us farthest from socializing. With chatting platforms, different calling features, attractive advertisement, mate-meeting platforms, entertainment and gaming facilities, individuals feel a menial need for physical interaction. The rate has shockingly decreased of people wanting to physically socialize with one another. With increased rates of psychological distress such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, and some social disorders, the virtual world has provided the shoulder to cry on causing a toxic relationship between the user and what it has to offer. Though some content gives us pleasure, some may trigger our weak points, along with depriving us the opportunity to explore life physically. With most individual’s spending quantity time on the internet, they get overindulged with the activities there.
An unsaid understanding between most individuals exists here concerning different platforms and different types of communication. For example, WhatsApp or Telegram is used mostly for chatting and people are expected to have a conversation there, whereas, Instagram is used for media sharing and it is okay to not carry a conversation there, Microsoft Teams or Google Meet is for formal use and people do not expect to have video conferences with friends there, Pinterest or YouTube is for media surfing and not at all for chatting. Like this, people have formed an unsaid bridge of understanding across the globe.
Introduction of media sharing apps may have contributed to people feeling lonelier than the interactive platforms. On these platforms, people may feel lonely for multiple reasons. It gives one the opportunity to compare their own life positively or negatively with those more or less successful than them which may also cause an inferiority complex or a superiority complex. Along with this, it may build up unrealistic desires and expectations, causing shifts in one’s ideologies, desires and preferences. With the internet offering positive and negative content, it can be beneficial, as well as destructive. An example of destructive influence may be gaming addiction where people of all ages may choose to alienate most of their responsibility and be overindulged in their phones which may be in case of simple phone addiction too. But what adds to gaming addiction is the violent graphic content in it. In the past year, due to the pandemic, the virtual world has come to rescue people by offering almost everything one needs to pass their 24 hours but at the same time it has also made them dependent and extremely isolated.
Things to do if you're feeling lonely
You are connected to the world: right now, you are sharing this experience of loneliness with young people all around the world. Remember that loneliness is a universal experience - a part of being human.
You are in control: you can use the power within yourself to make positive changes to your life. You could do this by relaxing, reflecting or doing a new hobby. We believe in you. You can take action.
You can embrace your creativity: try to represent your experience through art and creativity and share it with others. Own your experience. Take its power away. Share it with the world.
You are cared for: we care about you, as do support services, friends and family (or your created family). They are already out there. Reach out and let them in.
You deserve quality relationships: make building quality relationships a priority over a quantity of relationships. The bonds you have with people can help to combat loneliness. Take time to strengthen your relationships. Tell yourself you deserve this.
Your hobbies and interests are important: we care about what you enjoy. It could be anything from finding a new TV show to learning a new sport. Remember that the things that feel a little scary can help us grow.
You can express your emotions in a healthy way: practice sitting with your emotions. Being present with your emotions. Reflecting and accepting your emotions. Connect to you. Journal, doodle, voice-memo and express yourself.
You can get curious about guilt and shame: try and have a conversation with them. Tell guilt and shame that you are not to blame for your feelings of loneliness. Remind yourself that it is not your fault. That these feelings are okay.
You are unique: not following the crowd doesn’t make you alone, it makes you unique. We love who you are. There is nothing to be ashamed of.
You are allowed to open up: opening up about how you feel is not a weakness, it is courageous. Try sharing how you feel with someone you trust. Getting honest and vulnerable can help create connection.
You can create space between your feelings and social media: try to become active not passive when using social media. What feelings arise? Are you making judgements about someone else’s life or your own? Could you take a break from social media Unfollowing or muting accounts that bring up difficult feelings and following accounts that make you feel empowered can help with feelings of loneliness.
You can find your community: by joining a group whether based on a hobby, religion, spirituality or an interest can help you ‘find your tribe’. There are people out there waiting to connect with you. Who are just as scared to make the first move.
You can find peace in a busy world: if you are feeling disconnected to yourself try and get into nature. Whether that’s noticing a houseplant, finding a little park or getting into a forest. Getting into nature can help you to feel at peace with yourself.
You deserve to treat yourself: show kindness to yourself with a little gift. Whether that’s buying your favourite chocolate bar, putting time aside to play video games or dancing to your favourite song. You can be your own friend. You can be kind to yourself.
We are grateful for you: we’ve taken a moment to be grateful for you. So, why don’t you take a moment to be grateful for the small wins in your life. It could be for getting out of bed today. It could be for watching a bird pattern across a roof. It could be for a great new show you’ve found. Try having the glass half full rather than half empty. Mental Health Foundation
DR. BHAVNA BARMI
CHILD AND CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST NLP
PRACTITIONER AND RELATIONSHIP THERAPIST
FORTIS ESCORTS HEART INSTITUTE, NEW DELHI
FOUNDER- HAPPINESS STUDIO
+91-+919560976902 | BHAVNA.BARMI@GMAIL.COM