The meaning of loneliness
It’s likely you or I will feel lonely at some point in our lives. Eighty four percent of adults in the UK have experienced loneliness, a recent survey by Campaign to End Loneliness found. One in 10 felt lonely more than half of the time.
Loneliness is not the same as being alone, or being a ‘loner’. It’s the feeling that you have fewer meaningful or emotional connections than you would like. That means someone can be surrounded by people, but still feel lonely.
As a social species, friendships can help us to function. When this need isn’t met over time – when loneliness becomes ‘chronic’ – it can affect us mentally and physically, increasing our risk of premature death by up to 26% (Holt-Lunstad et al., 2015).
Although it may sound strange but loneliness isn’t always the same as being alone. A person can be surrounded by loved ones; friends, family and even be busy in the workplace, surrounded by colleagues and still feel lonely.
Being alone refers to a person being by themselves, no one else in the room with them. However, loneliness can be described as the feeling of not having anyone with whom you can connect socially or emotionally.
An empty feeling of isolation. Loneliness is a normal reaction to feeling disconnected and or withdrawn from human interaction – many people suffer from loneliness from time to time, it can be an extremely difficult emotion to deal with and can often lead to mental health illnesses such as depression as a result of feeling loneliness.
Learning to deal with loneliness is an important life skill to have and develop in order to deal with day to day life.
Loneliness can be described as a void, a feeling of emptiness. For example, when you have a good piece of news or a bad piece of news, it’s not having that person to tell about it, not knowing who to call or text to share your feelings. Lacking those people in your life can be really hard to deal with and adjust to can be difficult.
It can be easy to assume that those who are great at communication, extroverts, do not suffer from loneliness, but they can. Some people are great at talking to different types of people and even start conversations. However, suffer from being able to develop a long lasting and meaningful relationship with people.
A Lot can be done to deal with loneliness, leaving it to pass is not usually a great way to the feeling of loneliness.
The good news is that the feeling of loneliness can be solved and you do not have to feel like that all the time – the crippling feeling of loneliness does not have to remain and constantly be your reality; steps can be taken to rekindle a deeper sense of wholeness and connection again.
Iconic quotes about loneliness to get you through difficult times, when you feel at your lowest.
Loneliness adds beauty to life. It puts a special burn on sunsets and makes night air smell better.
And if I’m alone in bed, I will go to the window, look up at the sky, and feel certain that loneliness is a lie, because the Universe is there to keep me company.
I never found a companion that was so companionable as solitude.Henry David Thoreau
Loneliness doesn’t have much to do with where you are.
Loneliness is proof that your innate search for connection is intac
The worst loneliness is not to be comfortable with yourself.
Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.
Here’s an uplifting song about loneliness that is sure to instantly make you feel better after one listen.
Bob Marley and the Wailers
The inspiration for this piece and quite possibly the happiest song about being lonely, it makes you feel less lonely after just one play
2. ‘So Lonely’
Even Sting knows the feeling, and he compressed it into one helluva awesome song for your pleasure
The words of this song are enough to make you go sit in the corner with a bottle of wine and cry, but place them against a big band and sing them in Dean Martin’s voice and you have a crooning musical wonder
A modern, upbeat dance song to listen to when you finally look back on your life and think ‘Where did all the time go?!”
Sam Cooke can make anything sound soulful and sweet – even being dateless on a Saturday night
As Miss Clark demonstrates, New York has been saving people from feeling lonely for a very long time
Less about being lonely and more about the process leading up to becoming lonely, yet she does it with such confidence and stylish flair
Who would refuse this man’s love letters? WHO?!!
Though the fab four have many songs about being lonely this one simply hugs the soul
10. ‘Lonely Boy’
The Black Keys
This song inspires epic air guitar moves, and no one can be lonely whilst playing air guitar. But if loneliness persists watch the video for it – IT’S AMAZING
I challenge anyone to feel unhappy while listening to this song. I don’t care how lonely you are, it’s impossible
(NB: don’t think about how she’s dead now or the way in which she died)
Three Dog Night
Three Dog Night taught us that “1 is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do.” However they also taught us that “2 can be as bad as one, it’s the loneliest number since the number 1.” So, you know, maybe we should move onto 3?
Here’s a list of links to relatable poems, that can help get you through periods of loneliness. Often listening to or reading relatable poems, can help you feel better.
Here’s a list of loneliness books, that will help develop your interpersonal skills and character and bring comfort to you during your difficult lonely periods.
1. Becoming Human
2. Hopecasting: Finding, Keeping, and Sharing the Things Unseen
3. The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment
4. Emotional Freedom: Liberate Yourself from Negative Emotions and Transform Your Life
5. Stop Being Lonely: Three Simple Steps to Developing Close Friendships and Deep Relationships
6. The Loneliness Cure: Six Strategies for Finding Real Connections in Your Life
7. Positive Solitude: A Practical Program for Self-Fulfillment
8. Celebrating Time Alone: Stories of Splendid Solitude
9. Never Be Lonely Again: The Way Out of Emptiness, Isolation, and a Life Unfulfilled
Pat Love and Jon Carlson
10. And She Lived Happily Ever After: Finding Fulfillment as a Single Woman
If you know of any other great books that may help other people, please leave your recommendations below in the comments – that would be great.
Loneliness at Uni
Starting at university can be academically stressful, with an increase in the intensity and depth of your chosen subject as well as increased workload. Completing essays and reading can feel almost near impossible when one feels overwhelmed with unexplained anxiety and emotions.
Feeling lonely at university is more common than most more think. From the outside, student life seems exciting and fun. A mixture of parties, societies, new friends, clubs and independent. In reality, loneliness is very common at university. There are many factors to make a student feel lonely whilst at university. The big factor, the most obvious one is all the attention surrounding social media. Students are often stuck on their phones, scrolling through social media sites such as Twitter and Instagram; and of course, life always seems incredible online, which can result in others feeling isolated and have feelings loneliness.
In addition to this, students often suffer from the feelings of loneliness because they have moved from home, making new friends and dealing with money issues, which is usually the first time dealing with these situations. Especially, students that come from overseas, can really struggle with this. Any of these topics can take a toll on a person’s mental health at university.
‘Lonely’ isn’t the same as ‘alone’. You can have lots of friends and still feel lonely, but you can also be quite content spending time on your own. Here are some suggestions to help you think about how you’re feeling.
Does any of these bother you?
- I don’t have someone I feel really close to.
- I don’t have much in common with the people around me.
- I don’t know many people to hang out with.
- No-one asks how I’m feeling, or how my day went.
- I don’t have anyone I can be myself around.
- A problem is getting me down, but I can’t tell anyone.
- I can’t join in with things because I feel different to others (i.e. because of money, age, disability, politics, or something else).
If you familiarise with any of the above points, then you may feel as though something is missing, then you may be struggling with loneliness.
There are also physical and behavioural cues to watch out for, like feeling more stressed than usual. You may notice changes in how much you eat, sleep, and exercise to cope with feelings.
How to cope with loneliness
Loneliness isn’t something you can just switch off, but there are ways to handle the emotions.
If you’re not usually in tune with your feelings, start there. Mindfulness, body scanning, or keeping a diary all help identify and release emotions. Even if you don’t feel like it, make plans to be around others – join societies or groups, have dinner with flatmates, or try volunteering. The companionship will lift your mood, and reduce feelings of isolation.
Although, putting yourself out there can be incredibly intimating, if you try to take small steps to overcome this fear, then in time it will get easier to meet new friends.
Although, above social media was mentioned that can negatively affect you. It does, like most things, have positive features too.
Social media can be good for discovering new activities, so use it if it helps. If it doesn’t make you feel good – i.e. affects your sleep or makes you feel dissatisfied with your life – cut back on screen time.
Sharing how you feel with others can be the most challenging aspect of loneliness, but it’s worth a try. You could open up to a family member or friend, or a tutor you trust – it could even be an anonymous message online, or call to a helpline. It’s especially worth contacting a support organisation if loneliness is tied in with a problem you’re struggling with alone, such as housing, money, or bereavement.
Where to get help
- Your university’s student services/support team.
- Samaritans – phone, email, and face-to-face listening service.
- Student Minds – guidance and support tailored to uni life.
- CAMHS– a service for under 18s who are dealing with mental health issues
- Mind – mental health support and advice (including for loneliness).
- The HFNE app has a community of like-minded people who are happy to interact with you
The feeling of loneliness will come and go, and there are things you can do to process and cope with the feelings. Reach out for help if you need it and, if it makes you feel good, be there for someone else in turn once you’re feeling more resilient.
Remember universities have a responsibility to provide services for students struggling with mental health problems and other issues, yet it can often be difficult to locate these services and make use of them. All universities have a student services department or place of contact, that will be able to point you in the right direction to get the proper help you desire.
Feeling lonely at university is very common, and it should be spoken about more often. Perhaps then students would not feel so lost when it comes to finding help. Admitting that you are lonely is hard, but talking to someone is a great way to start making connections and friendships as well as feeling comforted by the knowledge that you are not alone.
Loneliness at Christmas
Loneliness can be difficult to cope with at any time of the year, but add a little forced festive cheer and, for many, it becomes unbearable. The festive season emphasising family, community and that is not all the reality for everyone.
1. You’re not alone
It is easy to feel as though you are the only person having this feeling. To put things in perspective, the United Kingdom was recently named ‘the loneliness capital of Europe’, and consequently there are lots of people who, for whatever reason, are feeling isolated and aren’t seeing friends or family at Christmas.
Additionally, even if people aren’t alone, it’s also entirely possible to feel lonely in a room full of people. Take some of the pressure off yourself by recognising that many, many people are in the same boat there’s nothing to be embarrassed about.
2. but if you want to be, that’s fine too
Some people want to be alone during the holiday period, and that is okay to. Don’t feel pressured to accept invitations if you’d really rather be by yourself. Sometimes being in a room full of people who don’t understand how you feel can make things worse. If you’re not sure whether you want to accept an invite or are wavering, make a compromise in the form of dropping by for a festive drink before or after Christmas dinner, then spend the rest of the day as you want to.
Loneliness and depression
Depression and loneliness are two words that we all hate to hear.
They are words that we can all identify with, and we have all experienced at one time or another in life. But, one thing that many people don’t realize is how connected these two words, depression loneliness, really are to each other.
To understand the way they relate to and play off each other let’s first look at the two words separately. Depression is a considered a mood disorder, it is a type of mental health challenge and unfortunately, it is a fairly common issue.
In fact, the percentage of people that deal with depression is continuing to rise. There are many different levels of depression just as there are levels of loneliness. The feeling of loneliness can often result in depression.
When you are living with this it is hard to function in your daily life.
Depression brings with it all kinds of feelings. People struggling with depression may experience one of these feelings or they may experience all of them.
Their feelings may change one day to the next or sometimes even faster than that. Or, they may be stuck dealing with one feeling for long, drawn-out, extended periods of time.
The easiest way to break the cycle is to catch it before it starts or as you start to feel it. You can put processes into your daily life that will help you keep from circling through the depression loneliness cycle again and again. So how will you break the cycle?
- Talk about it.
- Connect with people you love
- Do your favourite things
- Spend time offline
- Journal and meditate
Feeling lonely in a marriage
Loneliness is a complex feeling. When someone says they feel ‘lonely’ in a relationship, it can mean a variety of things.
It may be a feeling of disconnect, feeling unheard or unloved. It could be a feeling of confusion and lost, as though things aren’t going as planned.
Changes in your life situation often mean different or greater pressures, which can leave you feeling like you need more support. For example, money issues, new jobs, relocating. If it doesn’t feel like you’re getting the support you need you may begin to resent your partner or drift apart from them – this is when the feeling of ‘loneliness’ can begin to creep in.
These changes in our lives can also alter the role we want our relationship to play in our life: a mother may suddenly find herself re-assessing whether her relationship gives her everything she needs after her grown-up children have left home.
Again, feeling your relationship isn’t giving you what you need can lead to a sense of alienation as you begin to doubt whether you’ve got your priorities right. That is why it is incredibly important to open up and discuss these things as they come, rather than waiting for these feelings to pass on their own as that is unlikely to happen.
Feeling lonely after a break-up
Breakups are awful. Let’s get that out of the way first.
When you’re in a relationship with someone, you open up and literally share your life with another person. You’re vulnerable, which makes things that much more difficult when things eventually end.
Some breakups are mutual. Some breakups are one-sided. Some breakups are necessary. Some breakups happen over time. That is why once a break up happens it is easy to feel isolated and lonely as someone you once shared your life with is no longer involved in it.
After a breakup, you’ll need to indulge in some self-care to make things feel as normal as possible while you work through your feelings. If you feel lonely, remember that’s a typical side effect of a breakup; this is especially true if your relationship was a long one and you still share many aspects of your life together.
How to overcome loneliness
Begin by talking. Try and make an effort to stay in touch with your friends and talk openly about how you feel. Chances are they will be able to relate or at least understand your situation. Feeling understood is a key component to overcoming loneliness, so do your best to speak openly. Although, this may be difficult – in the long run it will do you more good than bad discussing your feelings. (Although it can be hard)
Always look for new opportunities to interact with like-minded people. (Seek friendships!) Societies and clubs are always welcoming to new members. Volunteering in particular has been shown to give new perspectives and a feeling of usefulness in society, which fights against social isolation.
It’s important to remember that you are not alone and to try and maintain perspective. Take a moment to feel grateful for any friends or family members who are there for you and strengthen these commitments. Practising gratitude can help with negative feelings of loneliness, anxiety and discomfort.
Switching off technology can really help to. People who feel lonely are usually no less isolated than those who don’t, but they struggle to pick up on positive social stimuli and withdraw prematurely. Try to remedy this by thinking more positively about social interactions.
There is no quick fix for feeling lonely, but we can help prevent the devastating effects of chronic loneliness by spotting it early. Take time to read the research and understand just how important connection and community is to your health and ultimately to your education.
Loneliness is a societal issue that people should be taking more seriously. Take little steps to interact more often and more deeply to get the most out of life.