What does it mean to be lonely?
The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) gives us 3 descriptors for the term loneliness.
- sadness because one has no friends or company
- the fact of being without company (solitariness)
- the quality of being unfrequented or remote (isolation)
Is that really the whole story?
Personally, I think that human loneliness is a combination of all 3. Of course, we can be sad if we have no friends or company, but we can also be isolated and solitary in a crowd. Equally, we sometimes crave being solitary or isolated. The bottom line is, we shouldn’t shoehorn people into one of the 3 OED descriptors, provide a solution to that problem and think everything is better. In other words, one size doesn’t fit all.
The mental health charity Mind have a great piece on loneliness and it is definitely worth a read https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/loneliness/#.XPeUlIhKjD4
It is really important to realise is that feeling lonely isn’t in itself a mental health problem. Being alone, doesn’t mean we are lonely. However, having a mental health problem increases your chance of feeling lonely, and feeling lonely can have a negative impact on your mental health.
What can you do?
Mind have provided a great list of tips and tricks to help you cope with loneliness. They include getting enough sleep, taking care of your diet and taking things slowly. They also suggest making new connections and getting more exercise.
As an FLexercise teacher, I know that exercise and being part of a friendly group is a really excellent way of helping with loneliness. People who come to our classes are always amazed at how friendly and caring class members are. For that short time in their week, they can be part of a group. Part of something good and positive. Consequently, I see people blossom and regain their confidence and self-esteem. It is a powerful thing.
Loneliness and the power of exercise
Now I know some of you will think this is a flagrant piece of advertising for the benefits of FLexercise classes. And yes, to a degree it is. However, as someone whose mental health has been markedly improved by joining an FLexercise class and then training to be a teacher and tutor, I can honestly say it has been a game changer.
I suffered from postnatal depression. There were many complex reasons for my depression, but a large contributor was loneliness. I went from running a busy chemotherapy unit to being a stay at home mum. Because I lived miles away from where I worked, I had very few local friends. My fellow mums from the postnatal group would meet and compare baby notes like badges of honour. No one ever admitted to struggling with motherhood. There was a veneer of happiness that very clearly wasn’t true. Sadly, I had little in common with the group and I was alone in a crowd. I had lost my self-esteem and my confidence. It was a time of such loneliness.
Finally, I told my Health Visitor how miserable I was. She told me I needed to get out and do some exercise and that the local class was on that night. Whilst it was a bit autocratic, I did exactly what she suggested and loved it. For the first time in months, I felt me. I was welcomed into the group, I was cared for and nurtured. And that was all down to the teacher and the FLexercise system.
Eventually, I gained enough self-confidence to train as a teacher and a tutor and now I care for and nurture my own class members.
So remember, attending an exercise class is only part of the solution to loneliness, but it is a really good start.
If you are suffering from loneliness in one of its many forms, please don’t suffer in silence. Check out the Mind help page and talk to someone who understands.
I wish you the very best of luck. x