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Is there a way to help with feelings of loneliness?

Oct 01, 2020 by Eileen Adler

Louise Hawkley, a senior research scientist the University of Chicago assures us that “Loneliness is a universal human experience” but human beings need to interact, engage with, share time with, commiserate with, and feel connected to, and when these opportunities are thwarted, “the consequences are very real in terms of mental and physical health.” Words are not spared here: loneliness is a killer; we don’t die from loneliness but from poor health behaviors associated with loneliness. 

Lonely or loneliness – are they the same? Being lonely has nothing to do with being alone because one can feel lonely surrounded by people. Loneliness is the perceived isolation, the feeling that relationships do not meet expectations. This perceived isolation may make us feel unhappy and unsafe, like we are in free-fall.

“It’s easier to stay home” may be the worst five words you can utter! “Loneliness is the discrepancy between what you want from your relationship and what you actually have,” observes Professor John Cacioppo who was the director of the Center for Cognitive and Social neuroscience at the University of Chicago and the author of Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection.

“The purpose of loneliness is like the purpose of hunger,” Dr. Cacioppo explained. “Hunger takes care of your physical body. Loneliness takes care of your social body, which you also need to survive and prosper. We’re a social species.” Hopefully, with either feelings, you will be able to get rid of that undesirable and unwanted state.

What might exacerbate feelings of loneliness? Moving away and adjusting to a new environment and expectations, feeling out of sync with the people around you (they like to hike, you’d rather swim), you don’t have a sweetheart or a BFF (best friend forever), living without a pet, the people you know appear friendly but are not interested in making friends, you have lost faith in your friends and are no longer able to share intimacies, for your reasons you’ve opted to live alone so there is no one to share a movie or a cup of tea with. Figuring out why you feel loneliness will help you resolve it and move to a healthier situation.

Is there a way to help with feelings of loneliness?

YES!!!  Giving of yourself benefits you and the receiver.

John Cacioppo uses the acronym EASE:

E = ease your way back in by extending yourself. Reach out and help someone, volunteer.

A = action plan -ask someone what activities they enjoy. Get them talking and get involved.

S = synergy by seeking common attributes, shared interests, activities, and values

E= expect the best because we get what we expect.