Lonely no more, hello friends

17/06/2018 at 11:07 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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This week, 18th to 22nd June, is Loneliness Awareness Week. Organised by Marmalade Trust, it aims to lift the lid on an uncomfortable subject. Show me someone who has never been lonely, and I will show you someone with a poor memory. Just look at this video of children talking about loneliness. Their words are touching, and universal.

There is no one way of feeling lonely. There is no one age that is exempt. Almost half of all UK adults admit to feeling lonely at least some of the time. You can be lonely because you live on your own and don’t see many people. You can be lonely because you feel excluded from a social group.

Renting a flat with strangers can be a lonely feeling. So can dropping your child off at school and going home to an empty house. And it’s easy to feel lonely in a busy workplace, when you’d rather be with people you love.

Brief periods of loneliness are ok. They teach us to appreciate friends. But a long period of isolation can seem like solitary confinement. It eats into self-confidence. It erodes that all-important feeling that we are loved, and lovable.

This week, while the national focus is on loneliness, there are some valuable things that you can do.

Be aware of loneliness

Notice the emotion within yourself. Notice it in others. Don’t dismiss it, or call it by another name. Loneliness, like all emotions, is an honest feeling and can serve a purpose in creating change for the better.

Address your own loneliness

A simple step is this: each morning, write down a short list of achievable things to do that day. Include at least one item that is important to you: an interest of yours that perhaps has fallen by the wayside; or a cause you feel passionately about. Prioritise that item. Do whatever you can to complete it during your day. The chances are that doing so will include interaction with like-minded people. Follow the fundamental rule of friendship: do no harm (that includes caring for yourself of course). Then take a step. Create movement.

Address the loneliness of others

Take a step to alleviate other people’s isolation. Make a point of talking to them in a friendly way, without any agenda. If appropriate, visit them, or invite them out to a coffee shop. Create a sociable activity that will include local isolated people. Then follow up after that event. From time to time, have a friendly conversation with them. Start noticing, and caring about their wellbeing. In short, be a friend.

Make new connections

Here are a some small steps that can help to banish loneliness: put your phone down to talk to someone on the bus, train, in the cafe or waiting room. Invite your colleagues to share the lunch break, share a smile with someone, ring an old friend or relative… what else might you add to that list?

For a healthy life, love is the answer

10/03/2017 at 5:15 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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i-m-priscilla-105714Photo courtesy of I’m Priscilla/Unsplash

Think of the good relationships in your life. These could include a partner, children, parents, sibling, nephew or niece. A small group of supportive friends or colleagues. Maybe an animal companion or two. Whoever they are, think of them now….

Chances are you feel a glow deep inside you, a softening and relaxing of your whole body. It’s uplifting to think of those we love and care for. And now there is plenty of evidence that having these relationships helps us to stay healthy too.

A Harvard study  which began in 1938 and is still ongoing has been tracking over 700 men, some from inner-city Boston and the others from Harvard. They were teenagers when the study began. Seventy members of the original group are still alive. The men’s wives and children are now also being included. Along the way, the researchers have discovered that people with good relationships tend to be healthier too.

“Good, close relationships predicted not just that they would stay happier, but they would also stay healthier,” says Dr Robert Waldinger, the study’s current director.

Fame and fortune – the things people so often believe they want – simply don’t have the same effect. Having enough is all that’s required as far as happiness is concerned.

Realistic, not rose-tinted

Good relationships don’t always go smoothly. But that’s just part of being human. What matters is that you feel the other person fundamentally has your back.

When relationships do end, it’s good for our long-term health to build new bonds with like-minded others.

Joining new clubs may feel daunting, but it could be the healthiest gift you can give yourself.

It’s never about the number of friends you have. What matters is the quality of your relationships. Many will agree that loneliness in a crowd is far worse than pleasant periods of chosen solitude.

Loneliness is toxic. In the Harvard study, loneliness is associated with a shorter life span. Yet it’s sadly common. Relate’s new study of relationships in Britain, ‘The Way We Are Now’, has found that 13% of UK people have no close friends, and this number has risen in the past two years.

Relate has also found that just under half of all people feel lonely sometimes. A similar number of people living together feel lonely often or all of the time.

Five steps to happiness

Nurturing the good relationships we have, and building new ones when we feel the need, are linked strongly with happiness and health. This is an active process. We have to work at it a bit. Here are some suggestions.

• Write a thoughtful letter by hand to someone you care for, full of appreciation and kindness. Ring up an old friend you haven’t spoken to lately.

• Say “I love you” often to those you love.

Volunteer at a local charity that’s aligned with your interests and skills.

• Join a Meetup or local community group with similar interests to you. Regularly attend get-togethers.

• Finally, there is one practice that will make all of the above easier to accomplish. It’s simple really: love and cherish yourself. Remember that you are a unique member of this amazing human race. You are loveable. For many of us, this takes a little work. But it’s worth it. When you can cherish yourself, it’s infinitely easier to love others – and to allow others to love you in return.

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