We are still in Mental Health Awareness Week and this years focus is loneliness. How can we hold out your hand to others, share some happiness? Over the last few years, we as a collective have been through a great deal of change. Covid brought us restrictions, isolation, fear and worry. On the flip side we also had great excuses to be at home, to spend more time outside than maybe we would have done, and time to reconnect to ourselves.
For some of us that might have been the silver lining in it all. For me as an introvert I didn’t mind being at home, not being able to see anyone. And then choosing who to spend time with for walks once we were ‘allowed out!’.
However, for those in our communities that already lived on their own and relied on the company of their neighbours, work colleagues, meet up groups, church etc, the lockdowns were quite detrimental.
And we are still seeing the fallout from this and will continue to do so for a while. We are generally sociable creatures, even us introverts. Naturally we belong in a community, there is safety in numbers. It goes back to our primal instincts to survive, and if we are deprived of that for too long, our mental health can certainly suffer. If our need for basic safety in numbers is threatened, then our cortisol levels rise and tend to stay high until you are back with your tribe so to speak.
What is loneliness?
According to the Marmalade Trust there are many different types of loneliness.
“Emotional loneliness – When someone you were very close with is no longer there. This could be a partner or a close friend.
Social loneliness – When you feel like you’re lacking a wider social network of friends, neighbours, or colleagues.
Transient loneliness – A feeling that comes and goes.
Situational loneliness – Loneliness which you only feel at certain times like Sundays, bank holidays or Christmas.
Chronic loneliness – When you feel lonely all or most of the time.”
It is likely that we will all have experienced one of many of these different types of loneliness in our lives. But to experience all of these or any one for a prolonged period of time can have an effect on our health.
Fortunately there has been a lot of research on the effects of loneliness, but the results aren’t positive. Loneliness is now linked to early deaths, increased risk of stroke, heart disease, depression, poor sleep, cognitive decline and different forms of dementia.
How can share some happiness?
If you are feeling lonely or suspect that your friends or a member of your family is, please reach out to them.
Make that phone call, write an email, send a text or better still write a letter. It’s wonderful to receive that in the post! Maybe send some flowers. Drop in for a cup of tea, arrange to meet them for a walk. It will all be appreciated, and remember every action has that rippling effect……and this effect is a very positive one, and we really need that right now!
For more information please contact your doctor if you you need more help. Or reach out to a local charity. If you are local to me in Hampshire contact www.easthantsmind.org