As a solution-focused hypnotherapist, I regularly hear people say how lonely they feel. I think we can safely say most of us will have been feeling very lonely during the long periods of lockdown. For some people, like many elderly people, it was because they were on their own for many weeks other people may miss their siblings, or best friend and others may just miss being part of a wider social network.
According to de Jong-Gierveld and Raadschelders (1982), Duck (1992), and others, there are two levels of loneliness: chronic and transient. For people who are chronically lonely, their experience of loneliness is persistent, often extending to many years, and doesn’t change with what the person is doing. It looks like the cause of the feelings is internal. They may feel the intensity of the loneliness vary over time, but it is always there. Transient loneliness, as its name suggests, is experienced for short periods of time, and is usually the result of a specific situation either way loneliness is definitely not good for you.
The distress associated with loneliness can be significant and may lead to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. People who are shy, experience social anxiety, or are reluctant to take social risks, and they may be more likely to describe themselves as lonely and may have difficulty forming lasting and satisfying relationships.
It should be remembered, that while many people who feel lonely are physically alone, not everyone who is alone feels lonely. Some people simply choose to have few social connections. If a person chooses to be alone, they may well enjoy and welcome the solitude.
One of the issues with loneliness is that many people are reluctant to admit it – they feel that it is a sign of weakness. The obvious solution to feelings of loneliness is go to out and meet people, but that can be hard. Obviously, during lockdown that was very difficult!
So, what can you do to stop feeling lonely? The three Ps, Positive Thinking, Positive Action, Positive Interaction. Without positive social interaction, we can feel distanced, depressed and unhappy. Research suggests that loneliness can be a greater risk to your health than smoking or lack of exercise. Making connections with people improves brain function because it constantly engages and exercises the mind, while also developing cognitive function. When we connect with another person, our brain and body release chemicals that make us feel good. One of these chemicals is oxytocin.
Levels of oxytocin, the ‘Cuddle Chemical’ increase when we hear a friendly voice or see a smiling face or make eye contact with someone, but by far the best way to boost your oxytocin is through physical touch. A warm hug or a high five gives us a feeling of security and support. Feeling supported by others can do wonders for our confidence and self-esteem, and for our general sense of wellbeing.
During the pandemic loneliness is an even bigger problem, and it, in many ways, is a hidden problem. The good news is that solution-focused hypnotherapy can help.