THE LONELINESS EPIDEMIC AND 5 TIPS TO COMBAT IT

By Saphia Haddouche
PHOTO: VIA STOCKSY: SIMONE BECCHETTI

Hands up, who feels lonely?

Loneliness has become like a dirty word. So many are suffering from it but no one wants to talk about. Especially considering that we live in a lively, cosmopolitan city like London, how can we be lonely?

Well, it turns out recent research by the Office Of National Statistics discovered that London is the loneliest city in Europe and, in fact, young people today are suffering acutely with loneliness. A staggering 83% of 18 - 34 year olds are sometimes, often or always lonely and spend considerable time worrying about being alone in the future.

The increase in the use of social media has had a huge affect on the younger generation’s emotional wellbeing as compared to the older generation where things really did seem a lot simpler.

Ever find yourself alone at home scrolling through the filtered lives of your peers on Instagram or Facebook feeling like you are missing out? On what? You don’t actually know but that feeling of FOMO (fear of missing out) has become a real epidemic and not just across Gen Y. This comparison, judgment and slight obsession with not missing out on social events has spread like wild fire leaving us all wrapped up in a lonely tizz not knowing how to overcome it.

All this loneliness breeds too much introspection and a danger of leaning into ‘me, myself and I’ type of thinking. The WORST kind - totally blocking a healthy balanced state of mind. How can you be happy when you are busy worrying about being alone and all the things you should be doing?

If all this seems like an impossible mountain to climb, we promise you its not. Whilst all of the above is certainly true, there is a solution to remedy your loneliness.

What is the opposite of loneliness? Connection! Connection is one of the things that, as humans, we not only crave but also actually need to survive, especially in large cities like London.

Although people who suffer from loneliness often seek professional help, MIND in Cambridgeshire says that taking the time to connect with people face-to-face can help overcome the isolation issue.

So with that in mind, here are our top five carefully curated tips on how to overcome loneliness once and for all:

  1. Get connected to your community - We know the opposite to loneliness is connection, and whilst it can be a little harder to create community in big cities with slightly more transient flow, it isn't impossible. Get to know your local shopkeepers, fitness studios, florist, fishmongers, restaurant owners - we’re serious! Getting to know people in your community to say hello to instantly helps you feel connected to the area you live in. You may even start getting a wave from the local lollipop lady.
  2. Voluntary work - There are an abundance of charities out there always looking for volunteers. Take some time to think about which ones really resonate most for you. Pick your top 3 and email them all offering your services. We’re incredibly lucky to be in a position to offer help in society and the benefits to your soul really are unmatched.
  3. Minimise social media time - Put boundaries up around social media time. Research shows social media only adds to loneliness and, whilst it is a powerful tool for brands and businesses, it is not the human connection we all crave. So, when you find yourself scrolling down a friend of a friend’s page for the third time and you have no idea why - shut it down and put your phone in the other room. If you are feeling really brave, take a walk around your local park and go for a coffee without your phone.
  4. Get over yourself - Ang Sang Suu Kyi says ‘If you are feeling helpless, help someone’ How much of your day is spent thinking about me, myself and I? Be honest. It’s ok we all do it, but it is the awareness that counts. Studies have shown that shifting out of a selfish state of mind and focusing on others immediately decreases connection and loneliness issues. So we suggest calling a close friend or family member and simply asking them to speak about themselves, DO NOT talk about yourself or your issues. Sound too simple to work? Give it a go, the moment you feel yourself slipping into a sorry state of mind pick up the phone.
  5. The science behind happiness - We’ve all heard of gratitude lists; well, in a 2008 study, a group of people were observed experiencing the practise of daily gratitude under FMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) It found that they were influencing their hypothalamus in real time - basically increasing the happy hormones in their body! Try writing 10 things you are grateful for on a daily basis and see how your mood and perception of your outer world shifts. It is a commonly used tool with therapists when clients come in suffering from depression. It doesn’t need to be that bad for you to start doing gratitude lists, however we could all do with a gentle shift in perception every now and again to realise how lucky we really are.

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