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Fears of Loneliness; How Reaching out can Help Mental Health

by Christopher Paul Jones(more info)

listed in depression, originally published in issue 251 - January 2019

Loneliness is on the increase, and with the winter fast upon us, more and more of us (and not just the elderly) may be finding themselves caught in a world where they feel lost, alone and invisible.

One important point to raise here, is that in order to be lonely, one doesn’t actually have to be ‘alone’, Many people are existing in unhappy relationships for example, where they feel more alone than they have ever been.

Add our current social media addiction means that many of us feel like we are living a ‘picture perfect’ life where we are so busy trying to capture the essence of living that we are forgetting to just enjoy it. We feel more distant  than ever, despite having access to the world's biggest social network.

There is also the other side of the coin, when it comes to loneliness and mental health - and that is that it’s not just about being lonely, and how that can affect our mental health, but how having mental health issues can then lead to loneliness. People often feel misunderstood, push loved ones away,  or those around them keep their distance as they don’t know how to cope with things… and before you know it, a person is totally isolated.

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https://pixabay.com/en/depression-loneliness-man-mood-84404/

It’s Important to Address why you are Feeling Lonely. Start There

Take a look at your life, and ask yourself why you are feeling lonely. Is it because you have a shortage of people around you? If so, look at local groups and meetups and get more involved in your community. Or, is it that you have a huge social network but despite company, you feel detached and lonely? If so, you could be suffering from depression and feeling detached can be one main sign of that. Perhaps go and speak to your GP.

Identifying why you are feeling lonely is a great first step as you can realistically look at things and see if, and how YOU can improve your situation. You also then have a better idea of where you need to start, and whether you need to reach out for help from a medical professional.

Reach out. Talk about it. Stop Loneliness from being a Taboo Subject

We still, to this day, find it embarrassing to tell others that we are feeling lonely. We worry that it means the same thing as admitting to others that nobody wants to hang out with us, and this can lead to a sense of feeling like a failure or a reject. But as I said at the start of this article, it’s quite common nowadays, even with a really large social media circle, to feel completely isolated.

Being lonely does not have to mean that there is something wrong with you or that you have nobody around you. Look at some celebrities who have committed suicide or had depression - they have been struggling mentally, yet they had, on the outside so it seemed, ‘everything going for them’.

Reaching out, whether it be to loved ones, your partner, family, your friends - or total strangers on an online forum… can feel really liberating. It means that you are taking control of your situation. It means that you are admitting to yourself and others that there is a problem, and then it gives others the chance to support you. Which leads me onto my next point..

Let other People Support You. Maybe you are Lonely because THEY need to Change Things

Loneliness isn’t always about something that you are doing (or not doing). Sometimes, those around you may be the one who has the problem, and as a result of that, they are not there to support you in the way that perhaps they should do.

Sometimes, by telling those people how you are feeling, you give them the chance to go inwards, and reflect on things from their situation - and then, they may step up and be there for you.

Of course, it might be nothing to do with other people and you may find that actually, you do have a large support network, and when you reach out to others for support, they are totally there for you - yet you still feel lonely.

This means that perhaps you need to then reach out to your doctor or medical professional and talk to them about how you are feeling.

Reach out to the Professionals - it’s your Responsibility to take care of things Mentally

If you feel that your loneliness is affecting you mentally, or perhaps you know on some level that it is a mental health condition that is making your lonely, please don’t put off going to talk to your doctor. These days, it’s encouraged that we are more open and talk about things, and often, people find that when they do go and speak to a professional, they feel an instant sense of a) connection and b) relief.

Your GP will be able to point you in the right direction so that you can talk to someone, or perhaps you require medication. He or she can also direct you to support groups, and don’t be afraid to turn to charities such as Mind or even set up a support group in your local area (or online if you prefer to!).

Reach out and you may be Surprised at who else is Feeling Lonely

It can be so easy to think that we are the only one who feels like this, and that everyone else out there has their game together. But the truth is, more of us feel down, and lonely, yet we just don’t talk about it. By reaching out, you may find that the person that you are talking to turns around and says ‘I totally get it, I feel like that too!’.

You may then be the catalyst for that other person finding a place of acceptance about their loneliness and then going out there and changing things. This can give you a real confidence boost, as you realize that attitudes are contagious, and actually, there are people out there, but we just need to make the effort to reach out to them. I mean really reach out to them. Which leads me to my next point.

Reach out and Go Out. Break the Social Media Cycle and go right back to Basics

The current rise in loneliness related to people hiding behind a facade via places such as Instagram and Facebook leads me suggest that we all take a break during our day from social media and actually go outside, and talk to real people. 

If this seems like mission impossible, start by picking one day of the week, such as a Sunday, to do a social media detox. Stay offline and visit real life people.

Having a large friends list on Facebook, and trying to keep up with the fast pace of an ever evolving ‘home feed’ can leave us feeling overwhelmed, and with a fear of missing out on something. Ironically, whilst we are glued to our phone screen, we are missing out on real connections.

To conclude….. Mental health and loneliness can be a self-perpetuating cycle. We can become depressed, because we are lonely, and we can become lonely because we are depressed. The key to avoiding loneliness and keeping a more balanced state of mind, is to become aware of the importance of avoiding being lonely. We also need to take on the role of looking out for other people and not be afraid to reach out and talk about loneliness.

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About Christopher Paul Jones

Christopher Paul Jones Certified Trainer NLP, Master Practitioner NLP, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), aka The Breakthrough Expert, is a therapist based in Harley Street who specialises in helping people let go of their fears, anxieties and even their phobias; from a fear of public speaking to anxieties around work, Christopher has helped 100s of people ‘let go’ and get their lives back. He even cured his own morbid fear flying, to the extent he was able to take a sightseeing flight through the Pyrenees – strapped to the OUTSIDE of a helicopter! For contact and more information please visit http://christopherpauljones.net
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