Do you feel lonely? The first thing for you to realise that, you’re not alone in this. Costa’s wife passed away last year, he’s had to get used to living on his own. “She left me a little bit out of my depth,” said Costa.
“My sons, they’re very good, they and their wives would come around and help me but to be perfectly honest, they’ve got their own lives to live,” said Costa whose kids live far away and can only visit on weekends.
Costa’s doctor then noticed that he was losing weight after his wife passed away. He advised Costa to join some local community groups and also get some help at home with things like meals and cleaning.
Not many would admit like Costa that they experience loneliness, but based on a report by the Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute, 35 per cent of men and 29 per cent of women actually suffer loneliness in their lives, and people living alone are one of the most at risk (ABS).
Those suffering from loneliness often live in a constant state of high alert, suffer anxiety and depression, and have a poorer sense of overall well-being.
Are you lonely? Here are a few things you can do to overcome loneliness from Psychotherapist, and Professional Trainer, Ross A. Rosenberg.
1. Don’t listen to your inner critic
Notice moments where your inner critic’s attempts to sabotage yourself with self-degrading thoughts like “Who would like me? I’m not fun and beautiful,” “I wish I were funnier and had interesting things to say,” or “People never seem to get me.”
2. Replace negativity with positivity
Swap negative self-talk with affirming messages, such as, “I am perfectly loveable just as I am,” and “I welcome love, friendship and support into my life.” Tara Collins, 65, sticks positive handwritten notes all over her house from the kitchen sink to her dressing table mirror as a way to remind her to be positive.
3. Say goodbye to toxic relationships
Some relationships are not worth the heartache. Weed out the relationships that cause you harm and grief and create space in your life for relationships that actually fuel your spirit.
4. Nurture your support network
Even if there is only one person to start with, you can build on it and don’t underestimate the importance of what you have to offer. Each person has something unique and special about them and so do you.
5. Expand your social network
There are many places you can meet people and to explore new hobbies and interests. For example, 62-year-old Elaine decided to play social golf. “In the beginning, I did feel a bit shy because I hadn’t played golf before and I also didn’t know anyone. But then I realised, everyone was just playing for fun and mainly wanted to make new friends,” said Elaine. She now plays every weekend and each game costs her $12 for hours of fun and connecting with friends. Most public and private clubs run social golf events which are participated by mainly over-60s. If golf is not your thing, many over-60s now also join health clubs where they can benefit from activities like yoga, pilates and Aqua Zumba. Try something new!
6. Open up
Open you self-up, take risks, and allow yourself to be vulnerable. Since loneliness results in isolation, experiment by sharing aspects of yourself, including experiences, feelings, memories, dreams, desires, etc. This will help you feel more known and understood.
7. Ask for help
Tell friends and family how they can help you to alleviate the loneliness. Friends respond to direct messages for help and support and don’t be afraid to give it a try. You will be surprised how many people are willing to help you.
8. Take action
Don’t wait for an invitation, do something about it now. Be willing to take a risk, be proactive and invite people to share in your life. Invite a friend for coffee or lunch, start a walking group or find one, or organise tea for friends your home.
9. Know the difference between alone and lonely
Being alone is not the same as being lonely. Some people enjoy the peace, quiet, freedom, space and the opportunity to connect with their deeper self and that can be healthy. Some people can be in the presence of other people and still feel lonely. It’s important to recognise the difference and when to act.
10. Consider therapy
Don’t be afraid or shy to seek counselling. It is something that is healthy and proactive that can help you overcome the self-defeating behaviours that make loneliness worse. With the support of a therapist, you can change your thinking and relationship patterns and achieve the life you want.
11. Fight the urge to isolate
Isolation validates your fears that you are not worthy of the love and support you absolutely deserve. Sometimes you have to force yourself to do exactly that which you are dreading — like putting yourself out there. If you are feeling alone and do not benefit from regular contact with family or friends, there are programs that can arranged for you to receive visitors or matched up with a friend.