The Experience of Loneliness – Mental Health Awareness Week 

*Free Resource Included!*

There’s a difference between being alone and feeling lonely. This is the idea that loneliness is an experience, not a circumstance. Let that concept sit with you for a minute. What are your reactions to it? How interlinked are solitude and loneliness in your life? 

What causes loneliness and what this term actually means is tricky to decipher. I read the quote ‘find people who have the same outlook on life as you’ recently. It made me realise that the moments where I feel lonely are normally where I feel that my loved ones and peers won’t share my excitement over certain things. Naturally, part of one’s human experience is wanting to share it with others. 

There are lots of aspects of my personality but they all desire space to be heard and, more so, welcomed and reciprocated by other people. I’m aware that each of my friends supports a different facet of me: the ‘sit down and chat’, the ‘get out and do’, the ‘child’, the ‘adult’, the same taste in comedic TV series… I don’t feel lonely most of the time because I am satisfied that my relationships, in culmination, reflect all of me. I haven’t manufactured my relationships to be this way, but it is on reflection that I can see why exactly we need each other. 

I really value my irl (in real life) social circle because it is something tangible and honest, no filter. However, they don’t offer me absolutely everything that I need to feel heard. When I obsess over certain artists’ music for example, I turn to the online community and feel genuinely satisfied from their response over my excitement. I don’t expect to know people in person who satisfy every single aspect of what makes up ‘Natalie’, so I look down different routes to cover all the bases. I’m sure I would feel lonely if the only people who I could relate to were those online, however. There’s a fine line between feeling connected and disconnected to people in the virtual world. We all have to find our own balances with this. 

Whilst there is a common association between being alone and feeling lonely, we also know that we can feel lonely amongst the company of others or be “lonely in a crowd”. 

Being amongst the company of others means being in the physical presence of other people. Again, relating back to that idea of circumstance versus experience, maybe we blame loneliness on a lack of physical presence from others but that the actual cause is a lack of emotional presence. In many things in life – most often when we try to work through things by ourselves – we can misinterpret our feelings or situations and draw incorrect conclusions. For example, someone who doesn’t particularly enjoy working from home and feels lonely might think that they simply just need to be working in an office with their colleagues. Say they end up working in an office together, but it turns out this person doesn’t relate to their colleagues in any way and feels just as disconnected from them regardless of circumstance. Are there people in your life who don’t offer you the emotional receptacle you desire? 

A lot of people experience loneliness. According to the Mental Health Foundation, 1 in 4 adults in the UK feel lonely some or all of the time. This is millions of people, yet how often does someone reach out to you to let you know they feel this way? Your answer to this question may well emphasise still how little people discuss their mental health. Discussions around mental health as a topic have increased hugely and there is so much more information out there but, on a personal level, I think a lot of us have still got some hang-ups around opening up.  

I bet that almost everyone has got at least one person in their life who would put the time aside to listen, understand and be keen to offer their continuous help. Who is someone who has your trust and would give you a safe space to air everything you’ve been keeping to yourself? There is no shame in this situation – nothing about the conversation leaves you feeling embarrassed or regretful. In our current day and age, I think that most feelings of “vulnerability” or “shame” are self-imposed. From your point of view, you might feel like you’re admitting to a struggle and opening yourself up as a target by talking about the less positive things in your life. From the outside however, you’re getting some things off your chest; someone else is offering their comfort and help, and everyone is in a better place as a result. Try not to inflict non-existent worries onto yourself – you might find that actually talking is easier than the build-up in your head to it. 🙂 

In support of Mental Health Awareness Week, with the theme of loneliness (9-15 May 2022) we are offering a free resource in today’s blog. This is a downloadable document that you can type directly into, guiding your self-reflection with some questions. We call this a silent coaching activity. Click on the ‘Download’ button below for your free resource! 



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