More and more people are becoming aware of the issue that is mental health. So many individuals personally feel the effects of poor mental health and the Mental Health Awareness Week aims to shed a light on their struggles and also spread the message of where to find help and how to find small joys in between the battles. Every year a whole week is designated to this powerful cause and the theme changes annually.
This year's theme is loneliness, something I am sure we have all struggled with thanks to the pandemic. We've all had a taste of what it feels like to be isolated and disconnected from friends and family and the effect this can have on our mental health and wellbeing.
Loneliness affects everyone at some point in their life, among the worst affected are the elderly. Our ability to get out and about and connect online hugely affects our feelings of being alone. This can be for many reasons, maybe we can't physically leave the house or maybe doing so causes us so much anxiety that it is too exhausting. Even if you do regularly go out and socialise, if you're struggling internally, it can be easy to isolate yourself and avoid deep connection with others. Sometimes, even when you are in a fantastic place with your mental wellbeing, you can still feel lonely. In our culture of surface level connection, we can often feel disconnected to our fellow humans and are left craving a deep, meaningful connection.
Whatever the reason, you are not alone in your loneliness.
So how can we tackle these feelings of loneliness?
Now obviously this path is going to be very unique to you, the cause of your loneliness as well as your healing is so personal. Take your time on this journey but challenge yourself. Often, loneliness is actually our comfort zone. To overcome it, you've got to step out of where you feel safe and take the plunge into the unknown, it's where all the excitement happens.
We wanted to give you a few practical ideas that may help you see a little bit of light when it all feels very dark, take what serves you and leave the rest! Remember that reaching out or starting something new is nearly always worse in your head than in real life!
1. Check in With Your Mindset
Notice what thoughts you have around being lonely, and how much time and mental energy they take up. Are you constantly telling yourself how alone you are? Do you often think about how hard it is to connect to others? The first step into changing your mindset is to notice it. Just because you have a thought doesn't mean it's true. You don't have to take everything your brain says as a fact, it is highly conditioned and often incredibly biased! A fact might be that you haven't been outside your house in 3 days but your mind might keep playing the same negative thoughts over and over, a little like this "I'm so alone, I don't have any friends, everyone hates me. Why has no one checked in on me? I'm so miserable." Notice the difference? Stick to the facts and notice when your mind is weaving a narrative.
2. Get Outside
Even if you put your headphones on, blast music and don't say a word to anyone, a change of scenery does wonders for your mental health. Getting into nature and just reminding yourself that other humans and life exists can be really helpful for alleviating some loneliness. It's easy to get stuck in our own world and sometimes just seeing that you're not the only one is helpful.
If you have a dog, or even if you don't and just love them, meeting dog walkers and having a brief chat about your four pawed besties can be really enjoyable. If you have social anxiety, it can ve a really helpful stepping stone to slowly break your habits. It's very low pressure and a relaxed environment, and hey dogs make everything better, right?
3. Call Someone
This doesn't matter if it's your bestie, mum, or the samaritans, if you need a chat or some advice then there are people you can call, even if it doesn't always feel like it. So often, we don't like to burden others or don't feel like our problems are a big enough deal to raise them but we only make ourselves more unhappy in the long run. Sometimes the kindest thing you can do to yourself is recognise that you are unhappy and want to connect with someone. Your feelings are not a burden, they are the colours of being human, do not hide from them or suppress them because you think you are protecting someone else.
4. Take Up a Yoga Practice
We might be biased but science isn't. It has been evidenced by many studies that yoga helps with anxiety and depression and general feelings of wellness. Not only will yoga help if you are struggling with your mental health but it also moves your body and provides structure to your day. If going outside and practicing in a studio isn't an option for you, many studios offer an online option (*cough cough*) which will still have many benefits. If you can get out, however, it is incredibly beneficial. Not only does it provide an hour or so of structure, you can take yourself out on a yoga date and get a coffee afterwards! Plus you will be around people and connect to them in a meaningful way in the journey of self improvement - there's often a few people who love a chat too!
Yoga makes for great self-care time and prioritising yourself and your health is incredibly important, you will likely find great improvements in your overall well being!
5. Join a Local Group/Sport/Religion
You would be surprised at how much is actually available to you in your local area! Whether you are into gardening, sewing, environmental issues, art, activism, or even a sport there will be many groups near you to join. Often these groups are free and are looking for members! Many will meet regularly and provide a great way to connect to others and serve your local community. Joining a sports team will also provide the same companionship and teamwork and can be incredibly rewarding!
If you are religious or looking to learn more about a religion then having a look to see what is nearby may be a really wonderful way of connecting to others. Religious groups often are incredibly personal and are like a family which can really help with loneliness.
6. Change Your Career
Maybe you spend most of your time alone at a desk and then have little to no energy to connect to others when you are not working. Many of us spend most of our time at our job and so how happy, fulfilled and connected we are in that will have huge impacts for our mental health at all times in the day. If your job is an underlying cause of your loneliness then it might be worth a change of career. Working with people or even animals will likely leave you feeling more fulfilled.
This step is definitely more drastic so think it through! Remember that how you spend your time matters, so don't waste a second!
7. Find Deep Connection
Although you might feel like you're the only one, there are thousands of people who are also seeking deep and meaningful connections, human to human. Meditation, yoga and wellbeing retreats are an excellent way of finding these people, some will be expensive but there are people who offer these for free because they love to initiate this natural human connection and love. You might have to do some research and travel but they are out there.
There are many groups online that also have this incredible sense of community, acceptance and love and so you may wish to reach out to them and join their community groups. There are people in this world who already love you just for being you!
The More Love, The Less Loneliness
Rememeber that the more love we bring into this world and the kinder a place we make it, the less people will struggle with feelings of loneliness and poor mental health. We have so much power to make a positive difference to someone's day so use this power wisely and lovingly. Every interaction you have with another can either bring them love, kindess and connection or hurt and feelings of aloneness. Only together, and only lovingly can we fight mental health and loneliness.
Let us know what tip was the most impactful for you and if you have any more suggestions that have helped you!
By: Katrina Scales