This week is Loneliness awareness week set up by the Marmalade Trust. Loneliness and the devastating impact of it is something I am particularly interested in as obviously as a therapist I see the devastating impact it can have on a person’s wellbeing and because I have always had an interest in what makes us happy and I know feeling connected to others is key to this. Research has likened loneliness as being as detrimental to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, yet unlike smoking it is something most of us are scared to admit to experiencing. There is still a stigma attached to admitting you are lonely but there shouldn’t be. What I always find interesting is that like most fears we have it is the fact we all have the same fears that makes us so similar when we are ironically feeling like the odd one out. Most of us will feel lonely at some point in our lives and so we can empathise and we all have the capacity to prevent others feeling that way.
As I have said before I volunteer for the wonderful North London Cares and their aim is to create cross generational friendships and they do this brilliantly. I have met some of my best friends through my volunteering and for that I will be eternally grateful. Last year I went to an exhibition with 2 of my best friends from there who are in their 70s and they were shocked to find out that it is now the 16 – 24 year olds who are the loneliest group. My favourite social club at NLC is North London Stories and whilst I may be biased as I now run it, I did attend as a regular for a couple of years prior to that and it has always been my favourite. This is a story telling club where we discuss a theme, such as our favourite song or school holiday memories. During my time there I have seen first hand the importance of being heard by others and how wonderful friendships form as a result. If you want a tonic I do suggest you listen to the podcast we make via https://soundcloud.com/northlondoncares which includes one we made over the phone at the start of lockdown and which I am particularly proud of as it felt like a love letter between the members and is really special and shows how similar we are as some of our ideal lockdown guests were the same despite the generation gap.
We have all heard about, and no doubt felt, how you can be lonely when you are surrounded by people as well as when you are on your own but I hope you have also experienced the joy of finding someone who you click with and can be completely yourself with and if you have yet to experience that please don’t give up hope and remember every new person we meet is a potential new friend.
We won’t always know when someone needs to be reminded that they are remembered and cared for or how something so seemingly simple can enhance someone’s day and that is certainly something lockdown has taught us. I hope we will all remember how lockdown is nothing new for some people perhaps due to poor health or simply their circumstances. There are so many simple things we can do to ease our own and other’s loneliness such as calling an old friend or sending them a letter and some photos from shared fun times or suggest reading the same book or watching something at the same time and discussing it. There are plenty of other ideas in the loneliness guide from the Marmalade Trust and you can find out more about it via https://marmaladetrust.org/LAW/
Since lockdown started I have written to some friends who don’t have access to the internet and so are more isolated which they have loved receiving, it makes a change from the usual bill or circular. I have also been making daily calls to some of my friends who live on their own and so are feeling lonelier than normal and I have been touched by some of the kind things they have said about our chats and feel privileged to have shared some fascinating conversations and laughs with them despite the dark times we have been living through.
Please let me know if you feel inspired to try and ease someone else’s loneliness (it often has the bonus of helping ease our own too) and if you are feeling lonely please don’t suffer in silence and reach out to me or contact the Samaritans. For more information see https://www.samaritans.org/how-we-can-help/contact-samaritan/
Take care and stay safe