I'm on a mission to figure out how to overcome chronic loneliness (chronic means 'long term' not short periods of time). It's one of the main causes of early death, increases the risk of developing dementia, heart problems and affects your mental health. Yet very few people in the wellness industry are talking about it. Is it because it's rare at a 'young' age? Or is it because it's not easy to fix or 'sell' a solution?
Before I begin, there is a big difference between the 'feeling' of being lonely and physically being socially isolated. If you do have regular contact with other people, yet feel lonely, this could be a sign you need to do some work on your mental wellbeing. The feeling of loneliness when you have regular human connection could be a sign of depression - if you are concerned, speak to a Doctor to find further support and begin your self care journey.
As a deeply spiritual person, I also know that we are never alone. We are all connected. And I am fortunate to feel that divinity most days. However, we are spiritual beings here to have a human experience. For that reason, social isolation cannot be resolved from knowing spiritual truths. Isolation can be classed as traumatic and one of the worst ways to suffer as a human being. There have been many studies around the effects of isolation on health and it isn't pretty.
I've always taken my health seriously and know when I need to consider changes. Well I am going to be completely honest with you here...I myself am struggling with chronic loneliness and social isolation. I know and feel it is really starting to affect my mental and emotional wellbeing. I don't have an answer right now to figure out how to make changes but I am open to exploring.
In 2011 I went through life changing health challenges that did change my social situation. I was working full time in a busy and vibrant office, commuting by train packed out with other people, playing team sports, going to group gym classes and socialising every single weekend. Pretty much overnight this stopped. So I had to dig really deep on my self care journey to find peace in a life that doesn't suit my personality. As the years went by, I became more and more socially isolated. Due to a complex nuero condition that I manage holistically (which I am very proud of by the way!), I have limited energy. Considering what I live with, I do amazing and that's through mind, body, soul balance. I spent a few years using 'positive mindset', affirmations and healing to 'fight' my condition. I found this made my condition worse and it appeared that 'acceptance' and self compassion were my path to a healing break through (we all have different paths and lessons). The downside to that is having to accept and adapt to a life where I can't do a lot of the things I would love to do but, I have found amazing ways to live with purpose and do things I'd never envisaged!. I now focus on gratitude for what I have, the new things I have learnt, the new life I live and my strengths.
I don't think I could write down in one blog all of the things I've done, studied, invested in, spent time on, worked through to find peace with my quiet life. It has taken a lot of work - yet if I'm honest, because I never got the the point of 'self destruction' or creating havoc in other people's lives through my own pain, the hard work I've put in goes unnoticed. But I'm doing it for me. So that doesn't matter. But that doesn't mean I don't still have the odd day I struggle. You see, that's how grief works. And that is what I went through emotionally - a form of grief. I am human after all!
These are just a few things I did to combat the initial period of social isolation following my life change:
- Focused on healthy activities
- Spent time getting to know myself from a soul level
- Coming out of my spiritual closet and exploring my own truths deeper
- Positive affirmations
- Gratitude. This is a big one. I am so grateful for all I have and gratitude has really helped me and my mindset going through such a journey.
- Acceptance and finding peace with my new way of living. In fact, I was definitely born to be on this path and to help others.
- Connecting with my Angel and spirt guides through meditation
- Spending time outdoors in nature
- With limited energy to expend, looking at ways to get involved with activities and people that really light me up. Spending that limited time doing things I don't enjoy adds a level of sadness to the situation.
- Created a community (my road had a great community vibe and we even have a WhatsApp group)
- Increased my self compassion (a big one for me!)
- Connecting with others as much as I can. But I've learnt it's really important to connect with people that light you up!
- Being present 100% when I do get to spend time with my husband or friends and family
- Started a walking group
So, here we are in 2020. Every single one of us has now had reduced social connection. I empathise with everyone. At the start of lockdown I felt I was coming out of isolation. My husband was home, friends wanted to actually talk on the phone as they had time, Zoom became an exciting thing. I was buzzing! I had not known regular contact like that for so long. Then it stopped. Life starting moving again, hubby went back to work and everyone went off to enjoy their lives (and so they should!). To put things into perspective, this is what social isolation looks like for me:
- Home alone all day. My hubby is out before I even wake and back late. We spend time together over dinner (which I am super grateful for), but then he's working on his laptop or the gram and falls asleep really early as he's so exhausted.
- No work colleagues to talk to or bounce off
- Despite being super busy in my own work and studying (I have a lot to do - this isn't a case of me trying to find more ways to be busy), it is all done alone.
- I walk alone most days (I am grateful to the few people I have managed to get a short walk in with)
- No kids
- No bubble
- There are many days I don't have a single conversation
Whilst I am very lucky to have a hubby - he is the only thing that's keeping me from being completely socially isolated. I feel lucky to have him, but right now it's very very limited companionship. I'm alone more than I have connection and whilst I have always been comfortable with spending time by myself and being very independent, I've reached a crescendo where my health is starting to decline. I can feel it within myself. So I'm back to my quest - how to combat chronic loneliness and social isolation? I don't have the answer right now but I'm going to find some creative ways to do so...
...or maybe this is part of my spiritual path? My equivalent of sitting alone in a cave for years to become fully 'enlightened'? 🤣