According to the World Health Organisation, loneliness and isolation are one of the most significant contributors to poor health and disability.
Loneliness is associated with and definitively contributes to poor mental health, including illnesses such as depression, and even to poorer physical health, including cardio-vascular disease.
In fact, loneliness is a hidden killer that, according to many experts in the area, poses as great a health risk as obesity (and we all know how problematic that’s proving to be); and not surprisingly, therefore, it’s increasingly being recognised as a crucial variable that needs to be resolved unless we’re all to be hit with a range of serious and expensive consequences, especially given the rapid growth of the ageing population around most countries of the world.
Unfortunately, loneliness and isolation are on the rise!
And of just as much concern, the remedy for loneliness is not as simple as finding more friends or spending more time with others.
One can be surrounded by people, yet still feel lonely.
One can be on one’s own, yet feel happy and content.
Dealing with loneliness, therefore, requires a considered and multi-faceted approach that (among other things) will need to include (1) improving the quality of existing relationships, (2) building more and better quality, positive relationships, and (3) improving the relationship you have with yourself!
So how do you do this?
Give some thought to these tips and where relevant, do what you can to apply them in your life:
- It’s always easiest to start with and to make the most of what you already have. So before you start thinking about making new friendships, take a good look at your existing connections and reflect upon how you can improve the quality of your friendships. For example, you could try scheduling more time with your favourite people; ensuring you’re really present, and mindfully attentive when with your friends; be open and honest and genuine when with friends, but also ensure you focus on the positives in others; be generous and giving and thoughtful with and to others; and do all you can to have fun!
- As we go through life, it’s natural for some relationships to drop off as they’ve served their purpose or as you grow beyond them. As a result, it’s important to keep replenishing your networks and building new and more relevant friendships. So reflect upon your interests and hobbies and seek out those who share similar likes; be open and willing to try something new; join clubs and/or go to meetings where you’re likely to meet others who share your ideals and passions.
- And finally, it’s hard (if not impossible) to have a good relationship with anyone else if you don’t, first of all, have a good relationship with yourself. One can hardly be a good friend or colleague, parent or child, or a good anything for anyone, if you’re sick and tired and miserable. In contrast, you’re far more likely to be a good friend if you’re healthy, happy and feeling confident so make an effort to focus on your most positive attributes and to forgive yourself for any faults and mistakes; remember that no one is perfect and that that’s OK; and finally, take care of your physical health and wellbeing as a sign of self-respect