As I researched for an event we were having on loneliness I was amazed at the number of reports that have focused on this topic in the last few years. It seems the consensus is clear – loneliness is bad for health and wellbeing and it is becoming increasingly prevalent and pervasive.
From childhood to old age, from poverty to affluence, from social isolation to high density living – loneliness can be found and experienced. Loneliness affects physical health as well as mental health.
It seems there are no barriers to loneliness and there are no places where loneliness is not present in some degree.
As we looked at the issue, it became clear that loneliness can often be triggered by age related events or changes such as moving from primary to secondary school, leaving home, children leaving home, or older people finding themselves increasingly alone when all their contemporaries have passed away. Or loneliness can be triggered by other life changes which can happen at any time, such as a broken relationship, moving house, losing a job, failing health. Loneliness can also be precipitated by some personal characteristic which isolates a person such as skin colour, sexual orientation, or a learning disability.
We can all experience the existential loneliness when we realise that despite all our friendships and relationships we do actually experience life’s journey in a singularly unique way.
Sometimes we can find the words to express this, but others times we are unable to do so.
In short, it actually turns out that we are all susceptible to loneliness at various points in our lives and also several times in our lives.
The issue is not just loneliness itself, but that we find it so hard to articulate the fact that we are lonely.
Why is it so hard for us to admit that we are lonely?
Do we consider it a sign of weakness, or a sign of failure? Are we afraid that people will ignore us even more if we admit to being lonely?
The Joseph Rowntree Foundation, in their research, suggest that if we are to deal with loneliness in our communities, if we are to help those who are struggling, for whatever reason, if we are to develop our own sense of connectedness, we need to work on creating ‘Kinder Communities.’ Even small acts of kindness make a significant impact on individuals. Despite a growing use and dependence on the internet and the virtual world, the report makes the point that ‘we all still live in real houses, on real streets and rely on real people to make our lives work.’
There is much research that has already been done and I’m sure more will be done to find out why our lives are more disconnected and why loneliness is now such a great malaise in our society, but the solution is so readily available and accessible. It is simply – make a connection with another person – a smile, a gesture, a touch, a word or a helping hand. How hard can it be?
Project Coordinator, Finn’s Place
About Finn’s Place
Finn’s Place is a Go For It funded wellbeing project, based in Langside Church in Glasgow, providing activities including meditation, art, retreats and gardening. For further information, please email Ruth or like their Facebook page.
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