You’re Not Alone in Feeling Alone

A spreading health problem: loneliness.
Rahman Mohamed

In the UK Prime Minister Theresa May created the “Minister of Loneliness”.  Studies suggest that loneliness can be as unhealthy as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.  Loneliness can be not being with another person.  For some loneliness is a way of life, working from an apartment and living without a roommate.

Others experience loneliness because of isolation – cut off from other people.  Some who is around or with other people but is separated and feels loneliness.  It can be physical isolation, not having anyone to be with because of where you are.  Even though you’re in a packed office you’re cut off from everyone because you’re in a cubicle.  Because the bathrooms are private the only place you talk to co-workers is at the water fountain or while you’re in line for the bathroom.  When commuting anywhere you’re on public transit and not with someone you know.

Isolation loneliness is also experienced because of exclusion, not with others because they don’t want you with them, aka the high school popularity effect that leaves you alone to suffer loneliness.  Someone who lives in Canada but doesn’t drink and know how to play hockey is left out of the weekly Saturday bar night when people talk about their week, plans, and themselves, not just Nazim Kadri and how he’s playing against Montreal.

CBC has posted methods to combat loneliness.  They include

A study from Purdue University found that people felt a connection with eye contact.  Even if it’s just a stranger you walk past on the street and never see again the study found that there was the sense of connectedness, feeling acknowledged.  It is a method that can be used to fight isolation (being alone) and exclusion (being left out).

Becoming part of a team sport is another found way.  For someone who is isolated, not with anyone, joining an activity can help find someone.  It may not be the magic love found on the first night but it can be someone you can talk to.  Whether or not someone from the activity interacts outside the gym or classroom being in the sport or activity takes away isolation; you’re not alone if you’re with others (even if it’s a basketball free throw and you’re at the bottom).  Team activities can also be individual activities done in groups.  Walking downtown with a group instead of the suburb side walk, skating in a rink with others instead of alone.  You don’t have to always do them with others but with others it can improve mental health and combat loneliness and increase feelings of self worth.

Social media is often called a way to meet and interact with others.  Although it can be used to combat loneliness it is advised to be used in a controlled manner.  As social creatures, human beings are animals designed by nature to interact physically.  Humans are designed to meet others, talk face-to-face, go out for a movie and maybe even a cup of milk and maple syrup while you laugh.

Loneliness isn’t something new.  In Journal of Personality AssessmentDeveloping a Measure of Loneliness” (1978) was published.  Based on a study involving undergraduate students at UCLA a scale to measure loneliness was developed to use for further research.  According to the research people who said they were lonely often said they felt empty, self-enclosed, awkward, restless, bored, shy and less attractive.  They weren’t likely to say they were hardworking or had a wide-range of interests.  Recently “To Combat Loneliness, Promote Social Health” (2018) was published in Scientific American.  It terms loneliness as social health and it needs more promotion similar to mental health.  To combat loneliness it suggests a grassroots approach “calling a friend or family member you haven’t spoken with in a while or introducing yourself to a neighbor you haven’t met yet”.

In Canada loneliness is sometimes called the “Winter Blues”, someone being lonely in Winter because the weather restricts them or just makes them feel bad.  Loneliness falls into Social Health and can affect people year round.  On the other Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a mental health problem that plays a role in behaviour in the winter.

Both can be fought.  One of the best ways is to come out, find people who will take you into their circle or to just not hide yourself.

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