It’s a Friday night, you’ve come home from work and realised you’ve got no plans. So, a glass of wine and a Netflix binge is on the cards.
However, halfway through you realise you’re actually feeling a little bit lonely and start to crave the company of others as your social media feed fills up with images of after-work parties.
That isn’t loneliness, that is dreaded FOMO (fear of missing out) or we can even call this ‘aloneness’. Aloneness is something humans need to regroup and recharge, loneliness is much darker.
How do we define loneliness, let’s look at one definition below:
“Chronic loneliness is a term to describe loneliness that’s experienced over a long period of time. Isolation and loneliness often go hand in hand, and both can affect not only emotional health but also overall well-being.”
Statistics reveal that loneliness is real and something that 1 in 4 Australians genuinely feel. What is more alarming, is the fact that younger people have been more impacted and since the start of COVID-19 it will no doubt increase.
Loneliness can impact our mental health in so many ways physically and mentally, left unchecked it can lead to serious health complications.
What can loneliness do to you?
Let’s look at the cold hard facts, loneliness is not just mental, it can affect our bodies as well.
Researchers undertook studies on those who lived with heart failure and classed themselves as ‘socially isolated’.
The effects of that isolation led to an increased risk of death anywhere from 50-90%. Being socially disconnected also increases the risk of developing high blood pressure or inflammation and makes people more aggressive.
It’s scary to imagine the damage that long-term loneliness could have.
How do I overcome the feelings of loneliness?
There is no ‘one-size fits all’ approach to targeting the feelings of loneliness, for some it might be as simple as reaching out to your network and seeking connection, but for others loneliness could be driven by a fear of connection or social anxiety.
It’s important to seek professional help if you feel you are being held back by trauma or negative thoughts of connection.
Instant ways to boost your mood
Understanding simple strategies to boost your mood when you start to feel that your emotions are becoming overwhelming is a great way to keep your mental health in check.
We’ve listed some of our favourite, and simple ways, to give our minds a break.
Exercise is an amazing drug; it can help us feel better physically and mentally. It can boost all the chemicals in our body that helps lift our mood. Exercise can increase endorphins (our feel-good chemicals) and decreases stress hormones, including cortisol and adrenaline.
A quick run, a group exercise session or an afternoon in the garden can all play a key role in lifting our moods.
Meditation is so much more than sitting cross-legged on the floor and closing our eyes, it’s about giving ourselves time to stop and gather ourselves.
Even science proves it’s good for you, research has found that meditation can reduce anxiety and depression.
An Australian study also backed up these findings through analysing the use of mobile apps by university students. The research found that 10 minutes per day of meditation made uni students feel less depressed and more resilient.
Enjoy Mother Nature
Once again, if we were to look at scientifically proven ways to help boost our mood, enjoying the great outdoors is certainly a winner.
The Japanese have a name for this - shinrin-yoku or ‘forest bathing’ – which simply means enjoying time in nature and reconnecting with the sights and sounds you see.
Perhaps it’s time to consider that hike or drive to the coast you’ve been putting off?
If you do start to feel lonely, it’s important to understand what is driving these feelings and that’s where we can support you at Outred Psychology. We have the expertise to help guide you on the journey to better mental health.