The Age of Loneliness 

It’s been called an epidemic, a threat to our health that could be worse than smoking or obesity and it can make you prone to depression.

No, I’m not talking about alcohol or drugs.

I’m talking about loneliness.

Not only do over a million elderly people in the UK feel lonely almost all the time, but one third of 18-34 year olds list loneliness as a concern. If the recent BBC documentary “The Age of Loneliness” shows anything, it’s that we aren’t alone in feeling lonely.

And if we don’t like to talk about loneliness in the elderly, we’re often even more reluctant to face the loneliness of young people.

Amplified by the instagrammed perfection of Taylor and her #squad, and the endless stream of images from nights out, in a life which is increasingly being lived online and alone.

And it seems to me that this is a stark contrast to the way we were made to live. Isn’t it written in Genesis, right at the beginning “It’s not good for man to be alone”?  C.S Lewis writes:

“We are born helpless. As soon as we are fully conscious we discover loneliness. We need others physically, emotionally, and intellectually. We need them if we are to know anything, even ourselves.”

We were made for relationships; family relationships, friendship, romantic love. That’s why loneliness feels so difficult.

Studies have shown that the lonely have lower self-esteem, sleep difficulties and even play a part in the development of illnesses such as depression and anxiety.

So what can we do about it?

1.Limit social media

It might have ‘social’ in the title, but watching other people’s filtered lives can increase our own feelings of loneliness. Instead of spending an evening on Facebook, why not heading out to a local community event or ‘phoning a friend or family member?

2.Volunteer

Whether it be helping out at a youth group or taking a meal ’round to new parents, volunteering can boost your employment chances and help you to connect with your local community. For more information, head to http://www.campaigntoendloneliness.org/campaigns/end-loneliness-in/.

3.Get Active

The gym might not be for everyone, so why not try a team sport or exercise class to get you out in the evening, raise those endorphin levels and meet some like minded people.

4.Peer Support

If feelings of loneliness are impacting your mental health, investigate peer mentoring and peer support schemes such as your local Mind group.

5.Make the Most of Alone Time

Tackling loneliness is as much about dealing with being alone as it is getting out and about. Use the time you are on your own to watch your favourite box set, do some reading or cooking a nice meal for yourself. 
 
This article was first published as part of the #WednesdayWords series from ThinkTwice

Rachael Newham, 15/01/2016