Loneliness extends beyond physical isolation. It encompasses the distress felt when our social relationships don’t align with our desires and expectations. Our upbringing and social environment shape our comfort with connections. Paradoxically, one can feel lonely amidst a crowd if those connections lack meaning, or feel content when alone due to embracing solitude.
Sweta Bothra, Lead Psychologist at Amaha through her years of experience over the years shares insights on effective ways to build social connections as an overwhelming majority of individuals have sought therapy and openly shared their experiences of grappling with feelings of loneliness. Feeling lonely when our social needs aren’t met can lead to physical and mental changes that signal something is wrong. Chronic loneliness can elevate blood pressure, impact cardiovascular and immune functions, and increase stress levels compared to non-lonely individuals. Moreover, it can negatively affect learning, memory, and decision-making, and weaken the immune system, making us more susceptible to illnesses. Chronic loneliness also affects how we regulate our emotions and can contribute to depression, anxiety, and an increased risk of suicide, alcoholism, and drug use.
Strategies for Overcoming Loneliness
1. Accept and normalize loneliness: Rather than distracting ourselves, it’s crucial to acknowledge and express our feelings regularly.
2. Develop awareness: Pay attention to the physical and mental effects of loneliness, recognizing that negative thoughts and feelings about the future are temporary and may not reflect reality.
3. Be kind to yourself: Treat yourself with kindness and avoid self-criticism or dwelling on flaws. Taking care of ourselves reduces the reliance on others for love and acceptance and diminishes negative self-perceptions.
4. Reflect on the positive aspects: Loneliness can serve as an indicator that our relationships lack intimacy, motivating us to take steps to solve the issue. Additionally, use this time to distance yourself from toxic relationships and focus on activities you enjoy.
5. By engaging in activities we love, joining online groups, making future plans, appreciating existing relationships, and reaching out for support, we can combat loneliness. Remember, you are not alone in feeling lonely during this challenging time.