Loneliness is a strange thing, in a crowded room or a busy neighbourhood you can still feel like you’re standing alone, like nobody hears you and nobody can be bothered with you. You can feel completely isolated from your community, colleagues and peers without actually being all alone.
You can’t measure loneliness, it’s an immeasurable feeling, rather an a quantifiable situation, meaning you can feel lonely without actually being alone. Someone else can’t measure your loneliness, and you can’t measure theirs. In fact loneliness and being alone aren’t even the same thing, time alone or solitude is something you choose, loneliness is imposed on you by others.
Loneliness feels draining, distracting, and upsetting;
while being alone is often a desired solitude that feels peaceful,
creative and somewhat restorative.
Solitude restores body and mind. Loneliness depletes them.
In 2018 experts believe that loneliness is serious issue, and that we are in the midst of a loneliness epidemic. There is no magic number or mathematical formula for loneliness, it doesn’t matter how many friends you’ve got, or whether your single, dating or married, loneliness is based more on whether you feel disconnected from those around you either emotionally or socially … or both. Is this the impact of our digitally saturated lives or constantly being busy?
“For far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life, I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones … people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with.” –
U.K Prime Minister Theresa May, in a statement to the New York Times
Social media creates a false sense of connection and what makes this loneliness epidemic so insidious, is the fact it hides in absolute plain sight and isn’t typically seen as an issue and that loneliness comes in many shapes and forms. A major contributor in unhappiness for many people today, is in fact loneliness, and todays social media saturated existence often makes establishing and maintaining meaningful relationships and interactions harder.
At times in my life I’ve definitely felt lonely, isolated, rejected and left out. There have been times I’ve felt like my invitation to life’s social events got deliberately “lost in the post“. Looking back, I know I was over thinking things, but that doesn’t change how I felt. We all know “feelings aren’t necessarily facts” but simply knowing that, doesn’t make a specific feeling go away.
Understanding why you’re feeling lonely will ultimately help you tackle and overcome that dreaded sense of loneliness. The cure for loneliness isn’t eliminating time alone, time alone is an important self healing tool and where as mental health advocate Jimi Hunt puts it “where the growth happens“.
Like most things in life there are different types of loneliness…
You may feel lonely because you miss having someone else’s ‘quiet presence‘. You may have an active social life through work, or have plenty of friends and family, but you miss having someone to hang out with at home — whether that would mean living with a roommate, a family member, or a sweetheart. Just someone who’s fixing a cup of coffee in the next room, or reading on the sofa.
Quiet-presence loneliness is different to that No-Sweetheart sense of loneliness. You may have lots of family and friends, and even friendships with deep meaningful connections you can still be lonely for an intimate relationship
Even if you have lots of family and friends, you feel lonely because you don’t have the intimate attachment of a romantic partner. Or maybe you have a partner, but you don’t feel a deep connection to that person.
Sometimes, you get in a situation where you begin to doubt whether your friends are truly well-intentioned, kind, and helpful. You’re “friends” with people but don’t quite trust them or that all important deeper connection. An important element of friendship is the ability to confide and trust, so if that’s missing, you may feel lonely, even if you have fun with your friends, you may feel lonely due a lack of a deeper connection.
You might surrounded by people who seem friendly enough, but they don’t want to make the jump from friendly to friends. Maybe they’re too busy with their own lives, or maybe they have lots of friends already, so while you’d like a deeper connection, they don’t seem interested. Or maybe your existing friends have entered a new phase of their life which simply means they no longer have time for all the things you used to do — perhaps everyone has started working longer hours, or have now started a family, which in short means your social scene has changed.
Most of us have been here, it’s that unfamilar fresh start… perhaps you’ve moved to a new city where you don’t know anyone, or you’ve started a new job, or you’ve started at a school full of unfamiliar faces. You’re lonely because you’re yet to establish connections, and there isn’t exactly a timeline on connections.
If you’re someone that lives with depression, this can be a common feeling. It’s being somewhere familiar yet still feeling vastly different in an important way which leads you to feeling isolated. Maybe your faith is really important to you, and the people around you don’t share that — or vice versa. Maybe everyone loves doing outdoor activities, but you don’t — or vice versa. It can sometimes feel hard to connect with others about the things you find important.
Feeling lonely from time to time is okay, its part being human. However if you have on going feelings of lonely be sure to talk to your friends and family or even a professional. You are valued, and shouldn’t have to live with ongoing feelings of loneliness.
Keep your eyes peeled for Cure For Loneliness coming soon to The Restless Empire
Below is a list of some of the services available in New Zealand that offer support, information and help. All services are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week unless otherwise specified.
Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
Lifeline – 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP)
Suicide Crisis Helpline – 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Healthline – 0800 611 116
Samaritans – 0800 726 666
Visit The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand for more resources