Last month I introduced the topic of loneliness and how it has become more commonplace in our lives as adults. I felt this subject is too important for just one article, and so Part 2 has developed out of a greater desire to help adults not only understand loneliness, but how we can turn adult loneliness into acts of loveliness.
Why adults feel alone even though we may be surrounded by family, colleagues and friends
Swinburne University in Melbourne and the Australian Psychological Society released findings in 2018 revealing that one in four adults feel lonely for at least three days every week. In addition, more than half of respondents found lonely at least one day in the previous week. One in 5 people say they can’t call on a relative often or at all.
If it hasn’t been you, there’s a good chance that someone you know, or love, is feeling isolated and lonely. The reasons for adult loneliness vary, from not having much in common with surrounding adults, to social anxiety or not having someone available to call on.
The loneliness mask – why it’s hard to notice adult loneliness
There are 7.7 billion people in the world, and over 24 million are right here in Australia. We are all generally in contact with at least one of the following: – family, neighbours, colleagues, children’s’ teachers and parents, the servo attendant, the supermarket assistant, the cafe barista…. and we’re also SMS’ing, tweeting, and messaging more and more with other people, so why are adults increasingly experiencing adult loneliness, and how can we tell?
Even though we may be physically in contact with another human, if our minds or hearts haven’t made a connection, then we will still feel isolated and lonely. Some people have genuine social anxiety or depression where connection is extremely challenging; others can’t find people who they can connect with in terms of humour, intellect or interests; and others just don’t know how to start a conversation with a stranger. Whatever the reason for adult loneliness, the outcome extends way beyond temporary feelings of being alone, and can impact health and wellbeing, and propel the cycle of loneliness. It can be masked by a smile, attendance at functions, busyness, parenting and even extroversion. It’s not always easy to know how adult loneliness is affecting those around us.
Turning loneliness into loveliness
There are two ways I recommend developing a connection with someone:
- Reconnect with someone you’ve already connected with; and
- Volunteer to be around likeminded people
In my last article, I set the challenge to reconnect with three people from the past. Sometimes we fall out of contact with people for a reason, but sometimes we just let the inconvenience or challenge of time or distance become reasons for not maintaining a friendship. What if they lived next door, would you cherish spending more time with them? If so, they are worth reconnecting with.
If you’d rather not revisit your past, then volunteering to make some else’s day brighter, can make yours brighter too. Whatever your interest or skill set, there’s sure to be a need for volunteers. It might be through event support, fundraising, caring for people or animals, or even administration, but whatever you choose, start with a simple online search or speak to a counsellor to open your mind to the possibilities. If formal volunteering isn’t possible or suitable, volunteer instead to add another coffee to your order and deliver it to the office manager at work or help someone carry their groceries to the car. Small acts of kindness and purposeful interactions with people can help facilitate the transition out of adult loneliness.