What is loneliness?
According to the Australian Psychological Society, loneliness is a negative feeling that a person can experience when their social relations are not how they would like. It is a personal feeling of social isolation.
Loneliness is not the same as being alone. You can spend time entirely on your own and not feel lonely. Equally, you can be surrounded by people at a party yet still feel completely isolated.
Loneliness affects many Australians, with 1 in 3 reporting feeling lonely and 1 in 6 experiencing severe loneliness.1
When we feel lonely, we may feel empty, unseen, sad, or worthless.
What can cause loneliness?
Loneliness can be caused by something you have experienced, or there might be more subtle changes. Below are a few causes of loneliness:
- A significant event has occurred. For example, the loss of a loved one, moving to a new town, a relationship breakup, becoming a parent, starting a new job, or retiring.
- Your current situation has made you lonely. For example, living alone, not speaking to your family, being a single parent, having a health condition, having few or no friends, or being a carer.
- Your mental health is increasing feelings of loneliness. For some people, having depression can make it hard to communicate and cause you to withdraw. For others, anxiety may cause you to avoid certain social situations.
If none of the above causes resonates with you, that’s OK. You don’t need a reason to feel lonely. It’s about how you feel – you are lonely if you feel lonely.
Help for loneliness
Here are some tips to help you manage your loneliness:
- Reach out to someone you already know to make an authentic connection. Re-establishing an old relationship is often easier than starting a new one. Most people appreciate it when someone reaches out to say hello.
- Prioritise spending time with people and plan social activities with your friends in advance so you have something to look forward to. Good relationships don’t happen by accident. We often have to put in the time to make meaningful connections.
- Join a local club to meet people who share similar interests to you. Your local council website, library, or Facebook are a few ways to find clubs or groups in your area.
- When you are around people, show an interest in them. Be curious, ask questions, and actively listen to what they are saying.
- If face-to-face connections are too overwhelming or difficult, look online instead. You can find niche online communities that share the same interests as you. For example, you can look for Facebook groups, online games, fitness apps, virtual book clubs, online classes, or forums.
- If you are spending a lot of time alone, you can plan to keep your mind engaged. You can try reading, gardening, listening to a podcast, going for a walk, cooking a meal, or being creative through art.