What is loneliness? It is a universal human emotion. It is common and unique. I believe that it is a state of mind and does not necessarily mean being alone. A person could be surrounded by people and feel alone, for example amongst family and friends, with a partner, at university and work to name but some.
Who does it affect? All genders and ages can be affected especially in todays cyber world where everything seems to be at the click of a button. We live in an age where people live longer and often don't have family or friends around. There are many elderly people who are alone and can spend days or even weeks without human contact.
Contributing factors can provoke the onset of being lonely; divorce, the death of someone close, moving away from family and friends, reduced mobility restricting activities and generally feeling isolated. It can also be the symptom of depression. Some people can become lonely if they lack self-esteem and feel that they are not worthy of peoples' attention.
How does it affect us? It does not happen over night which can make it difficult to recognise when someone is suffering from it. The negative effects of loneliness can be both physical and mental. Health risks associated with it are; increased stress levels, cardiovascular disease and strokes, depression and suicide, progression of Alzeimer's disease, reduced immune system, poor decision making, anti-social behaviour, alcohol and drug abuse. Preventions and treatments for this state of mind vary dramatically because there is no single cause.
Prevention. Being self-aware is the first step and acknowledging that something has to change. Recognise the physical and mental affects that loneliness might have on you. Focus on developing quality relationships with people who share similar attitudes, interests and values as you such as getting involved in community projects, hobby clubs and outings. A pet can make a good companion and reduce stress. If you know someone who is lonely and isolated.....give them a call! Always expect the best. Lonely people often expect rejection, so instead focus on positive thoughts and attitudes in your social relationships.
At the time of writing this article we are fast approaching Christmas. A time of year where so many suffer from this state of mind. So please give them a thought, pay them a visit or pick up the phone!
Painting 'Naked Young Man Sitting by the Sea', Hippolyte Flandrin, 1836