What is Loneliness?

What is Loneliness?

Family-Therapy’s founder, Nataxja Cini spoke to Lydia Di Francesco, host of Fit & Healthy 365 on CHIN Radio Ottawa 97.9FM about Loneliness and how to combat it.

Contrary to what many of us might think, loneliness is not synonymous with chosen isolation, living by yourself, being away from others, or solitude. Instead, loneliness is defined by an individual’s level of satisfaction with their connectedness, or their perceived social isolation.

People report experiencing increased levels of loneliness and isolation when they feel their relationships are not meaningful. They report feeling dissatisfied with their family, social and community life. While it’s very helpful to seek counselling, many individuals don’t reach out to therapists in Ottawa.

Ironically, loneliness can occur when people are surrounded by others—at work, in a classroom, or even with their spouses and children. As such, loneliness is something every single one of us is likely to deal with from time to time.

Loneliness can occur during many phases of transition through life, such as:

  • going away for college or university,
  • moving away from your parents or friends,
  • the death of a loved one,
  • a divorce, or 
  • starting a new job.

Generally, people who are more at risk of feeling lonely and isolated are:

  • caregivers
  • the elderly
  • new moms
  • people who experience racism or language barriers
  • hearing impaired
  • experiencing sudden lifestyle changes such as divorce, retirement, or death of a spouse
  • facing health issues

Effects of Loneliness and Isolation

There are significant health and mental health risks associated with loneliness. 

Loneliness can

  • raise your stress levels,
  • ruin your sleep,
  • harm your body through obesity,
  • cause high blood pressure,
  • lead to heart disease,
  • spur Type 2 diabetes
  • or cause overall body inflammation.

Loneliness can also push you further into depression or increase your anxiety. In fact, loneliness is associated with a 40 percent increase in a person’s risk of dementia.

Combating Loneliness

It is important to realize that being alone does not mean you are lonely. For everyone, engaging and getting involved with social groups can have positive mental health outcomes. When people get involved in activities, we see they have an increased interest in life and there is no decline in cognitive abilities. This applies to people of all ages and not just seniors. Well-connected and emotionally supported children have less health issues as they age.

It is important that people who are thinking about or approaching retirement think carefully about how they will remain connected with the outside world and their community. Retirees need to maintain their sense of purpose and belonging as well as maintain their quality of life and reduce the risk of premature death.

Be proactive and help your family and you to keep loneliness at bay.

  • Help teach your child how to make friends.
  • Get involved with your community – volunteer!
  • Join a group – book or gardening club, exercise group, or hobby club, new moms or toddler group.
  • Be aware that any life change can cause you to be lonely and you have the ability to control this by reaching out to friends, caring family members, or even seek counselling in Ottawa with a qualified therapist.
  • No matter what the weather or how lonely you might feel, take time to get out of the house and smile at other people. It’s amazing how a stranger’s smile can lift your mood!
  • Learn how to use technology so you can talk with family and friends and stay connected.
  • If you are a newcomer to Canada or have poor English skills, there are community resources available to help you get support and teach you English. Don’t let the language barrier cause you to be disconnected.
  • Ask for help from community resources if you are a caregiver or join a caregiver support group.
  • Introduce yourself to your neighbour. You’ll find comfort and peace of mind knowing that if you need help or face an emergency, you can reach out to someone right away.
  • Exercise is very important and helps you reduce stress hormones while releasing brain chemicals that leave you feeling positive – endorphins, dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine.  

Don’t Give Loneliness a Chance – You Deserve Better!

Think about the types of relationships you want. If you prefer talking with others in small groups, look for opportunities to meet people in smaller groups. If you’re looking for support and understanding, look for related groups or organizations that can address your concern. 

It takes time to build relationships. It can be a bit scary at first but try to initiate conversations or suggest opportunities to spend time with others. Don’t give up.  Not everyone will be your friend but don’t get discouraged. It takes time to develop meaningful relationships by finding people who share the same interests as you.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed or helpless and wondering, “What is loneliness? Am I lonely? Am I depressed?”, it’s time to reach out and consult a professional therapist in Ottawa. Contact us online to book counselling services in Ottawa at a Family Therapy location near you.