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What does it mean to feel lonely?

It’s the start of #LonelinessAwarenessWeek. The week that the entire UK is engaging in #Befriending projects to ease the pain of feeling lonely. The entire idea is to reduce loneliness and isolation and connect more with those in need of a shoulder or supporting hand.

We live in lonely times. The elderly are lonely. The teens are lonely. Both in cities and in rural areas, it’s now considered a public-health issue with physical health effects.

Sadly, 1 in every 10 of us Brits are lonely. More than half of folks over 75, live alone. Five million older people say the television is their main form of company.

Be it starting a new school, moving, divorce, separation, we all get lonely from time to time. Every so often, feeling lonely is situational and normal. But chronic loneliness harms us physically and mentally.  A recent study found that feelings of loneliness increase mortality risk by 26 percent.

Why do so many of us feel so lonely?

Even in the presence of other people you can still feel lonely.

Because loneliness is so common, it makes sense that there are also lots and lots of different reasons why people feel lonely. Here are a few of the main ones:

  • The Internet: Even as the internet can make us feel like we know more people, it can also leave us feeling lost and alone.
  • Feeling like an outcast. Perhaps we like different things than those around us. Being apart from the crowd, can make you feel even more lonely.
  • Being a carer. Looking after someone who is sick, disabled, or elderly can be a tremendous weight on your shoulders. Most people won’t know what you’re going through, so you may feel like you really can’t talk to anyone.
  • Mental Health. A lot of mental illnesses like bipolar, anxiety and depression can make people feel very lonely.
  • Disability. A range of physical disabilities, from blindness to being wheelchair bound, can sometimes make people feel like a burden or that no one around them cares.

How can you stop feeling lonely?

Loneliness can feel endless. You can often be surrounded by friends and family and still feel cut off from everyone around you. But you don’t have to struggle alone.

GET OUT: Go out. Somewhere, anywhere, it matters not. The first step in conquering loneliness is to take the first step to being around more people. Isolation is not your friend. Know that loneliness is not permanent, even though it may take some time to completely change your situation.

Even small steps in meeting people and interacting with others can help. Volunteer. Join a club. Say yes more often to invites. All of these are great for making friends but are also important to staving off loneliness for good.

YOU can help people (as well as your self) suffering from loneliness by reaching out.

You can also take part by using the #LetsTalkLoneliness hashtag to reduce stigma. It’s okay to feel lonely, loneliness is very common, ask around.

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