This time of year means people spend more time with friends, family and loved ones as they gather to celebrate the festive season together. Unfortunately, not everyone has such a network and it can be an incredibly isolating time- especially for the elderly. Charity Age UK suggests more than 200,00 elderly people spend Christmas alone. Thankfully, more is being done to tackle this problem (just this week the Duke & Duchess of Sussex pledged to help tackle this by supporting relevant charities over the festive period.)
Yet, research has identified loneliness isn’t a trait only confined to those later in life and that we are all susceptible to experiencing it at some point.
So what are the different types of loneliness and what can you do if you are experiencing it?
The ‘Four Types’
‘Loneliness’ doesn’t necessarily mean physically being alone- it is more emotion, a state of being. People surrounded by friends and family can still feel isolated as can those in abusive or controlling relationships. Leading psychologists have identified 4 different types of loneliness: emotional, social, situational and chronic. Which one you are experiencing will be determined by different factors and each will have challenges in how you approach them.
Emotional loneliness can be hard to understand. Just like those who are feeling depressed or anxious it can be difficult to interpret why you a feeling so isolated and how to address these feelings. Therapy may be effective in helping process emotional loneliness- especially a CBT based approach which will help develop learned strategies to deal with these emotions when they do arise.
If you are naturally introverted, social situations can be tough. Forget public speaking, for those who are shy or awkward making friends, being seen in public and engaging in conversation can be a daily struggle. Although it is tough, we recommend working on building your self-esteem first- focus on a hobby or build a relationship with a supportive online community who can help arrange small, safe gatherings.
Has your situation increased loneliness? Do you work remotely with long periods of social isolation? Do you partake in regular solo travel? Do you stay at home whilst your spouse works? All of these factors can increase feelings of being alone and make socialising more troubling. If you are experiencing this, make an extra effort to create new friendships in your surroundings. Be proactive- strike up a conversation in your local coffee shop, join local reading groups, learn a new language, keep active in the gym. Even just having a conversation with one or two people can be the start of building a supportive network and help reduce feelings of isolation.
Perhaps the most difficult type is chronic loneliness- something that has become a way of life for people who have experienced it for a long time. Just like addiction, it is hard to break the cycle when it has become a part of the everyday lifestyle. The elderly are more prone to this, although people who are in a controlling relationship can also struggle. In this scenario, it is important to reach out and ask for help- or to offer that support or companionship to those who are experiencing it. It is unlikely this is a form of loneliness that can be tackled without some sort of outside, professional help.
If you are experiencing loneliness and isolation and would like some support, why not contact us. Our Choices Personalized Retreats Program carried out in a beautiful boutique style retreat resort accommodation can be of great help. We can support by using an intensive evidence-based cognitive behavioural therapy method that incorporates mindfulness practices within a holistic framework: