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LONELINESS IS MORE THAN JUST BEING ALONE

Date: November 9, 2018
Author: RAMHP Project Officer Mental Health Training – Elise Taylor

We often think that we must be alone to be lonely, however you can feel lonely in a house full of people. Feelings of loneliness depend on the perceived quality and quantity of your connections, and this will differ from person to person. This perceived lack of meaningful social and emotional connections is what we call loneliness.

A recent report from the Australian Psychological Society and Swinburne University revealed that 50% of Australians sometimes or always feel alone, with this being higher in younger adults compared to those over 65 years old.

Loneliness is typically mild and temporary and involves feelings of disconnection, isolation and lack of belonging. However when these feelings are intense or persistent, loneliness has been associated with increased risk of physical and mental illness such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and depression.

Most of my friends live too far away to see in person. So I make an effort to stay connected via Facetime.

But there are ways that you can combat loneliness:

  • Get involved in the local community – there are many ways that you can be more involved in the community, such as by joining a sports team, choir, running club, book club, chess club or local committee. Or perhaps you could challenge yourself and try a language or painting class. There are many different clubs to join and classes to try, you just have to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Visit your local library, community centre, TAFE or university to find out more about activities, clubs and courses in your local area.
  • Have a chat – this could be over a cuppa with family, friends or the neighbours. Or perhaps have a chat to the person behind you in the line at the supermarket.
  • Volunteer – this will not only allow you meet new people but you will also feel good for contributing to your chosen cause. Think local animal shelters, bush regeneration groups or school committees. Go to volunteering.nsw.gov.au to look for opportunities in your local area.
  • Get involved in community events – many communities run various events throughout the year including school fairs, markets, theatre productions or sporting events. Have a look in the local newspaper or at eventbrite.com.au to find events in your local area.
  • Look after yourself – take time out to get a massage, go for a walk, have a nice meal at a café or go away for the weekend. Taking time out for self-care is important.
  • Pets – can provide companionships and comfort during times of stress or loneliness (however should not replace all human companionship). Contact your local animal shelter or veterinarian to get advice on finding a suitable pet.
  • Talk to a psychologist – if none of the above have helped address your feelings, it might be a good idea to ask your doctor for a referral to a psychologist. Psychologists can help correct unhelpful thoughts and feelings and provide strategies on how to cope if feelings of loneliness do creep back in.

Having an afternoon nap on the deck with my dog. Ebby is always happy to keep me company.

For more discussion on loneliness listen to our podcast here or for further reading see the Australian Psychological Society’s report here.

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