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How to break free from loneliness

August 18, 2021

Loneliness

Feeling lonely? It’s ok, you’re not the only one. 46% of older adults feel lonely at least sometimes1. You might have retired recently and are wondering what to do with your time, or you’re now living alone having lost your life partner or close confidante – and it can be hard to let anyone else in. Perhaps you can’t visit family and friends as often as you used to, or recent global events and issues have disrupted your normal routine. There are plenty of reasons why loneliness can creep up on you and it can have a huge impact on your overall health and wellbeing. But there are steps you can take to break free from loneliness and to enjoy the freedom you deserve. That starts with understanding loneliness.

 

How do we become lonely?


Believe it or not, there's a lot of research available on loneliness that
covers the areas of biology, psychology, sociology, and geography. When you break it down, loneliness occurs in many ways – being hurt emotionally, being physically alone, being in a minority, isolation at home, changes in life stage, being geographically distanced, and changes in relationships and family life. If you live alone or have little contact with neighbours or people in your community, you’re more likely to feel lonely. Lifeline Australia says: “Everyone feels lonely from time to time, but long periods of loneliness or social isolation can have a negative impact on your physical and emotional health and wellbeing.” However, it's also important to understand that even if you have lots of friends it's still possible to feel lonely in a crowd. Loneliness is about how we feel about the quality rather than the quantity of relationships.

 

How to know if you are lonely

 

People are naturally social. We typically know what makes us happy and that helps us to lead full and enjoyable lives; plus, it gives us a sense of identity. Most people enjoy a little solitude every so often (like after the grandkids visit), however if your social connections have changed or been removed, feeling persistently ‘down’ can become commonplace. Typical signs are often feeling unwell, eating unhealthily, a poor sleep routine, feeling misunderstood, low self-esteem, not caring, sadness and crying. There are so many more examples, all of which can have physical and mental health effects, plus a financial cost in the form of doctors and employment.

 

The benefits of togetherness

 

An important part of life in a Ryman village is the feeling of togetherness, and we understand that taking the first step is often the hardest part. We see it all the time – residents find themselves looking forward to things, enjoying shared meals, and participating in things they’d otherwise have missed out on. Residents tell us they feel happier, healthier, and more open to trying new activities. Plus, they find new friendships with people they have common interests with. The way we’re living in 2021 – increased social isolation and a reliance on digital connection – means it’s never been more important to ask for help. Ryman villages organise events such as live performances, fashion shows and bowls tournaments, as well as supporting various sporting clubs and groups in the wider community. What’s important is that you stay connected, kick loneliness to the kerb, and live a full, happy life.

 

1 https://endingloneliness.com.au/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Ending-Loneliness-Together-in-Australia_Nov20.pdf

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