You may think things like “How can they feel lonely when they have an amazing family?” or “I’m their friend. How can they feel lonely when I’m in their life?”
The truth is, loneliness can creep up on you even while you are surrounded by people. There is a difference between solitude and loneliness. Just like not all who wander are lost, not all who prefer solitude are lonely.
How can you know if someone is lonely?
- They spend a lot of time alone.
- They are unproductive.
- They get stuck on the negatives.
- They seem to be sick or ill frequently.
- They seem overly attached to their possessions or hobbies.
Sometimes loneliness can be a symptom of something else going on in our lives, like illness or disability. Mental illnesses can cause us to feel lonely.
A nationwide survey led by The University of Manchester and BBC Radio 4 has found that 16-24 year olds experience loneliness more often and more intensely than any other age group.
Loneliness doesn’t only affect our mental wellbeing, though. It can cause an increase in cortisol, which can “impair cognitive performance, compromise the immune system, and increase your risk for vascular problems, inflammation and heart disease,” according to the Cleveland Clinic.
What if you know someone who is lonely?
How can you help?
- Let your friend or family member know that you are thinking about them. Send them a message, call them on the phone, or go for a visit.
- Let them talk and vent. We’re often compelled to give someone advice when they are hurting, but sometimes we just need to be quiet and listen.
- Give them a hug. Loneliness makes you feel unworthy, unloved. If your friend or family member is unable to give themselves the love they need, remind them with this simple gesture that you care (of course with corona virus on the loose, you can’t do this but you can send virtual hugs as gifs in the meantime)
- Take them out. Let them feel special. Again, with COVID-19 this can be difficult. So maybe send a delivery service to their house, then call them up and eat together on video call if you can.
- Play. A game of bowling or air hockey makes a difference. Even just a board game. Whatever your thing is, even if it’s just a game on your phone.
- Ask what they need. Loneliness makes you feel like a burden, which is why lonely people isolate. If they’re too shy to ask for something, offer your help and let them know you are there when they need it.
We all feel lonely sometimes. Remember, you are loved. You are important. This too shall pass.