Everyone feels lonely once in a while, but if this feeling persists, it could make you depressed, acutely sad and withdraw from day-to-day life. Here are some tips by experts on how to cope with loneliness
“It feels lonely in a big city,” says a young Carrie Bradshaw in the famous TV series, Sex and the City. Her partner holds her hand. This could be any of us. What is this feeling called loneliness? Dr Ashish Kumar Mittal, Consultant Psychiatrist, Columbia Asia, Gurugram, defines it: “Loneliness is a psychological concept wherein an individual consistently feels the absence of being associated (perceived or actual) with another individual in any way, either physically or emotionally.” And all of us feel this loneliness at some time and in some form in our lives.
Experts cite many reasons for loneliness:
- Loss of work
- Work pressures
- Passing away of a loved one
- Moving to another land
- Dissatisfaction with work
- Ill health
- Old age
- Toxic relationships such as a bad marriage or live-in without commitment and more
Everyone feels lonely once in a while, but if it does not go off, then it could lead to depression, acute sadness and withdrawal. And this has some serious consequences, as a report by the World Health Organisation Let’s Talk (April 2017) states, “… Globally an estimated 322 million people were affected by depression in 2015. Depression contributes to significant disease burden at national and global levels. At the individual and family level, depression leads to poor quality of life, causing huge social and economic impact… India is home to an estimated 57 million people (18% of the global estimate) affected by depression, physically or emotionally.”
However, experts suggest ways of overcoming loneliness while it is still a fleeting moment. “Perhaps your daily routine is punctuated by this pain emanating from emptiness in your chest. If you know that, you are in trouble. It is a symptom of your severed connection from humanity. But while it can instill a sense of worthlessness and hopelessness, it can also be soothed,” writes Leslie Becker Phelps in an article on Overcoming Loneliness on the website psychologytoday.com
Find a hobby
Dr Mittal says, “Ignoring the feeling of loneliness is not healthy as it may take the form of depression and decrease the productivity of person. Yoga, meditation, exercise, socialization and involving oneself in a new hobby usually helps. If the feeling persists, then professional help needs to be taken to know the actual reason.” Shying away doesn’t solve issues, accepting and seeking does, as most spiritual masters have said.
Surround yourself with color
Communication professional Madhu Sen says the blues vanish when she is in colorful surroundings: “Loneliness is an emotional and mental state and very much within our control. Being single, I have handled many difficult situations alone without support. I have seen the highs of life, but I find solace in color, the moment I feel down, I take a walk in a vibrant shopping area. I like to shop, see the new trends and drive isolation out. Life is beautiful and colors make it vibrant.” She normally ends her long walk with a glass of fresh orange juice which is a healthy and refreshing wake-up call for the body.
Take a Green Holiday
Remember the movie, Jab We Met, where the happy-go-lucky Kareena Kapoor brings the down and out Shahid Kapur back to life with her adventurous ways. Breaking away from the mundane is a wake-up call to break out of the pattern. Experts recommend a change of scene when things are not working out. A vacation to a green place could work wonders in bringing back happy times.
Smiles and loneliness are not friends. But that’s the very reason smiles are needed. Becoming a part of karaoke nights or watching comedy shows can bring the smile back in life. The moment one thread of loneliness is broken, that’s the moment one can learn to let go of the web of isolation and be back to normal life. Acceptance, living in mindfulness and awareness are perhaps the most important aspects of saying goodbye to loneliness.
Make new friends
Sometimes just the sound of a warm voice can make one happy. Finding friends, even making new friends can help to ease off the feeling. Merry hearts make for merry emotions. Experts suggest getting out of the virtual world of Facebook posts and WhatsApp messages and moving into some real time with friends and people who make you happy. Sometimes talking to strangers also helps. “At times, a person may be overwhelmed with emotions which pose difficulty in understanding the problems. In such a situation, a stranger, even professional help may be useful,” says Dr Mittal.
To sum it up with an African proverb: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
This article was published in Femina, May 24, 2018