Loneliness is the painful awareness of not feeling connected to others, rather than the state of merely being alone. We might be alone for long periods without feeling alone; conversely, we can feel loneliest when around groups of other people.
According to results from Australian Psychological Society’s 2016 ‘Compass for Life’ survey:
- Taking time to connect with close relationships is associated with improved wellbeing.
- Connections to community (being involved in a fitness club, contributing to the community and having a sense of belonging) is associated with improved wellbeing and sense of purpose.
- Constant social media engagement was associated with increased feelings of loneliness.
Experiencing loneliness can be a signal some of your most important needs aren’t being met. We might feel it’s not our choice. We might feel we’re lacking the secure environment of the past, facing major changes or feel we have no one we can share feelings and experiences with.
These feelings can make us feel weak, immature or unique in their experience, making loneliness even worse and leading to people becoming easily discouraged, losing motivation and isolating themselves.
Loneliness can be overcome, even with small steps. Some of the ways you can take action include:
- getting involved in shared activities such cultural groups, sports teams, or a part-time job
- seeking out situations enabling you to get involved with other students; try asking someone in your class to be your study or exercise partner
- developing your social skills. Even greeting a classmate or getting involved in class discussions can ease things
- finding nurturing environments in which you feel comfortable; try having lunch with a friend.
- trying volunteer work as a good way to learn about yourself and others, and help boost your self-esteem.
We’ve put together a selection of additional useful tips for overcoming loneliness:
- Value all your friendships and their unique characteristics rather than believing that only a romantic relationship will relieve your loneliness. Intimate friendships usually develop gradually as people learn to share their inner feelings.
- Learn to admire and accept the differences in people. Give your lecturers, tutors, classmates and peers a chance, and try to get to know them. Finding friends and developing relationships can take time.
- Use your time alone to enjoy yourself. By learning to enjoy and value your own company, you’ll find that others do too.
- Now is your chance to do new things you may have always wanted to try.
- Get involved in things that excite your interest; for example, music, art or sport.
- Eat properly; get regular exercise, and plenty of sleep.
- Don’t try to define yourself as a lonely person. No matter how bad you feel, loneliness will diminish or even disappear if you feel active and involved.
- You can always contact our own Counselling service.
Acknowledgement: This information was adapted with the permission of Victoria University of Wellington.
Australian Psychological Society (2016). Life Compass Survey. Retrieved from https://www.psychology.org.au/news/media_releases/6November2016/pw2