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How do I know if I'm lonely?

This month, we're taking to social media to answer the most commonly Googled questions about loneliness.


One of the questions asked most often was: how do I know if I'm lonely?


Loneliness means different things to different people. But there is a general sense of isolation or disconnection from others, or a feeling we are lacking or missing social connections and companionship.


Loneliness is normally situational, as opposed to depression or anxiety, which can be a constant or all-pervasive feeling we have, no matter what is going on in our lives. We can also feel lonely when we’re not alone, which can feel counterintuitive and confusing.


If you've been lonely for a long time (chronic loneliness), you might experience decreased energy, an inability to focus, insomnia, feelings of self-doubt, hopelessness, or worthlessness. You might even feel cravings for physical warmth, such as hot drinks, baths, or cosy clothes and blankets. Some people feel body aches and pains and a decreased appetite. 




 

Check-in with yourself and try to observe your feelings and emotions. These questions are a good starting point.

 

  • Do I feel like I’m missing social contact with others?

  • Do I feel like spending time by myself is a negative experience?

  • How much regular contact do I have with family and friends?

  • Do I have positive and supportive relationships in my life?

  • How does contact with your friends and family make you feel? (positive and happy or saddened)

  • Do I feel like I’ve lost my confidence and social skills?

  • Do I feel like I have a negative view of myself and others?

 

Research shows that we can start to fall into a cycle of loneliness: the longer we feel lonely the more we start to isolate ourselves. We can start to feel like there is something wrong with us, or that the world is an unfriendly and scary place when that normally isn’t the case at all.  


First and foremost, loneliness is a normal human emotion. Left unchecked, chronic or long-term loneliness can develop into a mental health condition like anxiety or depression.




Many also asked: What can I do if I feel lonely?

Be kind to yourself. Remember that loneliness is a very normal human emotion that lots of us experience. Think about what you can do in the immediate moment: do you have friends, family, work colleagues or support workers you can reach out to?


Tip: if you don’t feel comfortable telling someone you’re feeling lonely, you can always say you rang up for a chat and that going forward, you feel like you’d benefit from more company. Otherwise is there a local group or club or online community you could join? Can you pick up the phone and reconnect with old friends? If you have been experiencing chronic long-term loneliness and it is having a detrimental effect on your physical and mental health, talk to your GP or health worker.


You don’t have to have a big scary life overhaul or do something dramatic - it’s about taking small steps to feel more connected. Our simple and effective three-step approach will help you identify how you’re feeling and what you can do about it.

  1. Realise you are feeling lonely and that it’s nothing to feel embarrassed about.

  2. Recognise the effect it is having on you and your life.

  3. Reach out. Tell someone how you are feeling, build up your daily community or seek the relevant advice and support.


You can read more about our Three-Step Approach here >





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