'Negative emotions like loneliness, envy and guilt have an important role to play in a happy life; They're big flashing signs that something needs to change'
I recently read an article about loneliness and how it's becoming a great concern for young people, and shouldn't be seen as something that is exclusive to the elderly anymore. Feeling isolated is often seen as a trait of growing older but now this 'epidemic of loneliness' sees that our 20's are riddled with late nights, lonely days, FOMO, stress, anxiety and maybe even depression. While I definitely don't have these feelings now, I have felt a sense of loneliness in the past during a certain period of time at university and the effect that loneliness, or a certain type of isolation, has on your mental health is striking. And even then I shouldn't really call my experience loneliness because all I had to do was Skype a friend, arrange a lunch date, a shopping trip, a walk in the park anything simply as a way to force myself out of the house. Sometimes that's all it takes - the effort to spend quality time in the presence of a friend or family member and more often than not this can be enough to banish the dull feeling of isolation and remind you that you have people, you are not alone.
But what happens if that isn't enough? What if you get to the point where you find that you have no real friendships, just mere acquaintances, no close family members, just mere relatives? Don't get me wrong, I think knowing how to enjoy your own company and how to spend time alone is an invaluable thing to learn and is often needed in a world of constant communication. Being surrounded with the wrong people in order to fill an empty void is just as bad on your mental health as feeling lonely in the first place. But being lonely for a prolonged period of time in a town, city, school, place of work or, even, the entire world, can seriously affect you mentally, physically and emotionally. And by being lonely I don't mean being single, I mean no close friends, no close family, no close...anyone. Maybe I'm over-thinking this but it's something I seriously worry about happening to me. I feel so incredibly grateful and lucky to be surrounded by loving, caring and happy friends and family that it's hard to imagine somebody not having the same. And sure, it is easy to blame things like social media because being connected in the digital world is no substitution for face to face communication, no matter how real it may be. But I think our 20's are filled with great change, growth and maturity which causes you, the people around you and your circumstances to change drastically, sometimes multiple times. Concentrating on education, work, romantic relationships or even starting your own family of course takes up our time and energy and if everyone of your friends are doing the same, it may feel like you're on your journey alone.
Some say loneliness is part of the human condition but, ultimately, we are social creatures - we crave community, intimacy and a sense of belonging. Maybe you had this in the past and don't have it any more, maybe you are still searching for your own community or maybe you have a great close group of people in your life right now. I'm happy that I can say that I have my own group and individuals who I know I can count on but wherever you are on your journey, if there is one thing I do know, it is that any feelings of loneliness need to be met by action - small steps to finding those that feel like family and more often than not, you won't have to look that far because great people can be found in great places.
What are your experiences with loneliness?
Check out my latest YouTube video: Thoughts on Letting Go