Connection as a Pillar of Wellbeing

woman sitting on jetty feeling lonely

Humans are social beings, although some more so than others. However, loneliness is on the increase with an average of 7% of people in the UK reporting feeling lonely from November 2022 to February 2023 (from Campaign to End Loneliness). This percentage may seem low yet equates to 3.7 million people who feel alone. That is a lot of people. Also younger people in the age bracket 16-29 were the loneliest at an average of almost 10% which was much lower than the over 70s at nearly 4%.

Loneliness is defined as:

Loneliness is a subjective, unwelcome feeling of lack or loss of companionship, which happens when there is a mismatch between the quantity and quality of the social relationships that we have, and those that we want (Perlman and Peplau, 1981)

Loneliness we can experience:

  • Emotional – where we don’t have a close connection to another, be that a life partner or close family member or friend. As a wellbeing coach, how would you help someone to develop an emotional bond to another? This can appear quite hard as it takes time to deepen our bonds of trust with other people. Respect the time it can take and appreciate all small interactions as stepping stones to the deepening of a relationship. Time is important as people can often rush into a relationship to not feel lonely without truly knowing if the other person is an emotional match.

  • Social – when we don’t have a wider network to interact with. The ability to be able to interact with others is important, for if someone is unable to then they can feel lonely even in a large crowd of people. If we think of Love + Belonging from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, then we need to ask how can we help someone to belong? Is there a way to help someone find a group with common interests? Perhaps there is a confidence issue that needs to be addressed? How would we increase self-esteem and self-belief in an individual? It can be nerve-wracking to go join a group on your own so remember to be kind and celebrate whenever someone goes to a new class or group on their own.

Loneliness can be a passing feeling and vary in intensity, it can arise at certain occasions or it can be an overwhelming all consuming feeling. It is important to listen and to understand how loneliness shows up in somebody’s life, to remove the stigma and feelings of shame that can arise for feeling lonely.

Loneliness has been shown to be bad for your health with it linked to shortening life expectancy, increase in heart disease, high blood pressure, depression and cognitive decline. We need to understand the impact loneliness is having on the way somebody looks after themselves, on the emotions they experience and allow someone to open up to talk without judgement.

What we perhaps need to consider is what kind of relationships does somebody want in regard to quality and quantity? Can they reach out and deepen a connection they already have? Could they ignite a conversation with a stranger? What small challenges could somebody set themselves to interact with fellow humans? It is worth remembering, people usually like it when somebody reaches out to them to say “hello, I was thinking of you, would you like to meet up?”.

Are there certain activities which may be done alone without feeling lonely such as reading, painting or other creative pursuits, exercise, walking in nature, being with a pet?

Social media can be wonderful if it allows someone to reach out and find like-minded people and groups; to connect with friends and chat online or to feel a part of something. Yet social media can also be a trigger to loneliness if it leads to comparisons and judgements that other people are having more fun, a better life and the constant availability can lead to overwhelm. How then can we curate the media we consume? Or to limit exposure?

Loneliness can also be a factor to being stressed and vice versa; being stressed can cause loneliness, if the coping strategy is to withdraw. It is important then to ensure self-care is prioritised to enhance an individuals overall wellbeing (Click here for ideas for self-care).

There are many options to tackle loneliness, we need to acknowledge first how we feel, what we think, the behaviour we display and then find the best strategy to work for you.


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