Have you ever been surrounded by people but felt alone?

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Written by Sarah Davies

Posted: May 02 2022

It’s likely most of us have experienced loneliness, especially during the past few years, where we’ve been physically isolated from our family and friends, explains Sarah Davies, Psychologist.

Loneliness

Loneliness can even be experienced when you’re surrounded by other people, where you feel disconnected from them despite being in their presence. You may have a group of friends, yet feel as though you have no true connection with them.

Johann Hari, author of the best seller “Lost Connections”, writes about research that has found that loneliness causes cortisol levels to rise in the body and can actually cause as much stress as a punch from a stranger. The unease and anxiety experienced as part of loneliness is believed to be an evolutionary mechanism to help push us back to the safety of the group. For our cavemen ancestors, being separated from the tribe meant increased vulnerability to predators, and no one to help nurse them back to health if they were hurt. As humans we are wired for social connection for our survival.

Tips for better social connections

Being around other people is not enough to cure loneliness and there is no “one-size-fits all” prescription for authentic, deep, social connections. Sarah suggests experimenting with the following tips for social connection to see what works best for you:

  • Join a class or club to learn/develop a skill and meet new people.
  • Maintain open body language when interacting socially by unfolding your arms, giving eye contact and smiling.
  • Be aware of how much you may be using your phone as a way of coping with social anxiety. Challenge yourself to put your phone away for extended periods of time, so that you give people an opportunity to use this space to connect with you.
  • Consider the traits of friends that you would like to attract into your life and start emulating those very qualities yourself. For example, if you want to hang around people who value their fitness and health, start engaging in habits and activities that reflect this. If you want to connect with people who are kind, friendly, and trustworthy make sure you are showing up in this way as well. Like attracts like.

How to make the most of your alone time

Sarah also encourages you to consider making your alone time more meaningful, to shift from feeling lonely in your own company to feeling more fulfilled and connected to self. This might be by engaging in activities such as:

  • A new hobby
  • Reading a book
  • Meditation
  • Listening to music
  • Spending time exploring in nature
  • Taking yourself out for a coffee or movie

If you’re feeling prolonged negative feelings related to loneliness, you don’t need to suffer alone. Speak to your GP or mental health professional.

Margaret Check Your Cover

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Posted: May 02 2022

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