‘Language...has created the word "loneliness" to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word "solitude" to express the glory of being alone.’ — Paul Johannes Tillich
What is loneliness?
Loneliness is a mismatch between the relationships we have and those we want. It is our internal trigger, letting us know it’s time to seek company, just as hunger lets us know it’s time to eat. Anyone at any age can be lonely — even busy people, even you — whether alone or in a group, at work or working from home, with or without family.
Loneliness is an internal warning sign that lets us know something needs to change. Loneliness can harm us as individuals and it harms our neighbourhoods and communities too.
Loneliness, like confidence and fragility, can come and go, often taking us by surprise. Many of us have found, with lockdowns and restrictions, that we have experienced loneliness, our skills in socialising and communicating have diminished.
When lonely people are often excluded from the opportunities many of us take for granted. They may find their self-worth, confidence and trust reduce, decreasing their access to new opportunities and to meeting new and different people in ordinary everyday situations. However 'ordinary' everyday situations are now few and far between, yet it is from these that we develop new relationships, experiences, insights, interests, hobbies and hopefully new friendships.
Home can be a lonely place. Neighbourhoods are where we have our homes and they affect how we feel. Our neighbours can be both a vital source of support, as many people have found throughout the pandemic they can also be a reminder of how lonely we are.
There are things we all can do within our neighbourhoods to enable ourselves and others to feel more supported and less alone:
- Start with your street — say hello when you see people and try to get to know your neighbours - keep in touch
- Take a look at the people around you where you live and work — what can you do to foster new friendships and be more inclusive?
- Hold a Big Lunch and start connecting neighbours where you live - around 50% of people who organize one say they feel less isolated as a result
- Start or join a social network for your area like Nextdoor.co.uk
- Share what you have –swapping, borrowing and sharing skills with people around you helps make new connections
- Local Trust have created a handbook full of tips, activities and inspiration all about a community response to loneliness. You can download it free here.
We will all know someone who is lonely or struggling; we may even be lonely or struggling ourselves. Too often we admit to neither and are unsure how to reconnect with the world. Building personal networks and stronger neighbourhoods and communities can, and will, make a difference.
What to remember if you're lonely
- Look after yourself, both physically and mentally
- Smile and say hello, even when it’s hard
- Create and safeguard your personal convoy: your friendships and social networks
- Ask for help from friends, family or professionals
- Talk about loneliness
- Don’t give up: if you can, get out, get involved
- Give the gift of time: give someone a little extra time
- You are not alone — anyone can be lonely
- Make every contact and conversation count
- Loneliness can aﬀect you, both physically and mentally
- Look out for opportunities to meet people and cultivate new friendships and social interactions
- Expect the best. Lonely people often expect rejection, so instead, focus on the positive
To mark #LonelinessAwarenessWeek this year, Tracey Robbins, our Head of UK Delivery, spoke to Amy Perrins, Founder of The Marmalade Trust and Loneliness Awareness Week. They explored the language of loneliness and the impact it has on our understanding of loneliness. You can watch the video below.