Lonely needing some love

Added: Deisy Harness - Date: 09.05.2022 00:30 - Views: 46242 - Clicks: 2570

When the BBC launched the Loneliness Experiment on Valentine's Day a staggering 55, people from around the world completed the survey, making it the largest study of loneliness yet. Claudia Hammond, who instigated the project, looks at the findings and spoke to three people about their experiences of loneliness. If you have a good piece of news or a bad piece of news, it's not having that person to tell about it. Lacking those people in your life can be really hard. Michelle Lloyd is 33 and lives in London. She is friendly and chatty and enjoys her job - she seems to have everything going for her, but she feels lonely.

She has lived in a few different cities so her friends are spread around the country and tend to be busy with their children at weekends. She does go for drinks with colleagues after work, but tells me it's the deeper relationships she misses. Ever since I was a teenager, I've always felt a little bit different and separate from large groups of friends, but in the last five years it's crept in more. Michelle has experienced anxiety and depression which she finds can amplify her loneliness because she finds it hard to articulate negative emotions.

Lonely needing some love

It's almost like an out-of-body experience because I can hear myself saying these positive things, when I'm thinking about how I struggled to get out bed yesterday. It's the loneliness of knowing how you feel in your own head and never being able to tell people.

There is a common stereotype that loneliness mainly strikes older, isolated people - and of course it can, and does. But the BBC survey found even higher levels of loneliness among younger people, and this pattern was the same in every country. The survey was conducted online, which might have deterred some older people, or attracted people who feel lonely.

But this is not the first study to see high rates of loneliness reported by young people: research conducted earlier in by the Office for National Statistics on paper as well as online with a smaller, but more representative sample also found more loneliness among the young. It's tempting to conclude that something about modern life is putting young people at a higher risk of loneliness, but when we asked older people in our survey about the loneliest times in their lives, they also said it was when they were young.

There are several reasons why younger people might feel lonelier. The years between 16 and 24 are often a time of transition where people move home, build their identities and try to find new friends. Michelle has been open about her loneliness and her mental health, even blogging about them.

This is not something everyone feels they can do. The survey suggested that younger people felt more able to tell others about their loneliness than older people, but still many young people who feel lonely told us they felt ashamed about it. Were older people afraid to tell us how they really felt or had they found a way of coping? The online survey was created by three leading academics in the field of loneliness research.

But what the do suggest is that loneliness matters at all ages. When loneliness becomes chronic it can have a serious impact on both health and well-being. To try to pin down why some feel so lonely, we looked at the differences between people. Those who told us they always or often felt lonely had lower levels of trust in others.

The survey was a snapshot in time, so we can't tell where this lack of trust in others came from, but there is some evidence from research that if people feel chronically lonely they can become more sensitive to rejection. Imagine you start a conversation with someone in a shop and they don't respond - if you're feeling desperately lonely, then you might feel rejected and wonder if it's something about you. Michelle recognises some of this in herself. You are dealing with so many things alone that when people do take an interest you can be quite defensive sometimes.

It can be incredibly debilitating being lonely. A third did say that being alone makes them feel lonely and in some cases isolation is clearly at the root of their loneliness. Jack King is 96 and lives alone in Eastbourne, on the south coast of England, after losing his wife in On his windowsill sits the tennis-ball-sized rock that hit him, leaving a hole in his forehead, when he spent more than three years as a Japanese POW during World War Two.

Today, he says, the days feel very long, but to distract himself from his loneliness he fills his time writing novels and poetry, playing music and painting. I'm creative, it's a curse," he says. It was his creativity which kept him going when he was held captive all those decades ago.

He would write comic plays and perform them for the other prisoners, fashioning stage curtains out of rice sacks. After the war he was on a train which was just pulling out of the station when a young woman on the platform shouted to him that he could take her to the pictures if he liked. At first he thought she didn't mean it, but he did notice her beautiful head of hair.

They did go on a date and married the same year. After 65 years of happy marriage she had a stroke, followed by another, developed dementia and eventually died. This is when his feelings of loneliness began. We took delight in the simple things in life, like walks. We used to go time after time to watch the cloud shadows on the sea at Seven Sisters. And that's what I miss - that type of companionship that is so close and so intense.

Jack has found some solace in his computer. Now that he's too frail to leave the house very often, he says it's opened up the world. When we examined the use of social media in the survey, we found that people who feel lonely use Facebook differently, using it more for entertainment and to connect with people.

They have fewer friends who overlap with real life, and more online-only friends. Social media might heighten feelings of loneliness, but it can also help connect people. Michelle has found it both helps and hinders. Celebrities are trying to be a bit more honest about the less glamorous sides of their lives, but there's a long way to go. The survey also found that people who feel discriminated against for any reason - like their sexuality or a disability - were more likely to feel lonely. Megan Paul is Like Jack and Michelle, she's very sociable and lively.

She is blind and looks back now on a very lonely time at school, set apart by her disability and even more so by others' reactions to it. I loved my books and animals, so I didn't have the same interests. I couldn't talk about whether boys were cute, so there was that natural growing apart.

Lonely needing some love

In lessons pupils would often work in pairs. When the teacher asked the whole class who wanted to work with Megan, there would be an awkward silence until eventually the teacher paired up with her. Sometimes she felt the staff set a bad example.

Lonely needing some love

Pupils learn a lot from adult role models at that age and they saw that the teachers didn't know what to do with me," Megan says. My mental health was the worst it's ever been. I wanted to die rather than be at school. Then in Year 11 they agreed that I could do a lot of my work at home. I found that was much better than being stressed out at school and it taught me great study skills.

Lonely needing some love

Now Megan is studying for a master's degree and life has become easier, but she says that there are still aspects of her disability which can make her feel lonely. If someone who can see comes into a room they will gravitate towards someone who smiles at them. I'm not smiling until I know that they are there, so they don't get any feedback from me. It does mean the friends I have are really special though, because they're the kind of people who persevered.

I appreciate the friends I have so much more because I don't have many of them. When Megan first got an assistance dog, knowing how many people love dogs, she wondered whether the dog might draw people in to talk to her, but she's found that's not always the case.

Sometimes I feel I'm overshadowed by my dog. I know I'm not cute and furry but I do have something to offer. I asked Megan whether she has tried ing any clubs or schemes deed to alleviate loneliness. She would like to, but finds access can be a problem. I recently tried to a walking group with my dog, but they wrote back and said I needed to find a group that walks slowly. I'm a fast walker. They should decide how fast we walk together. If I do go to a group, I'm in the corner and everyone swirls around me.

But the more groups I couldthe better. As time goes on Megan has found that one solution is to turn to her phone. If I feel really bad, now I drop people a message. I don't tell them I'm feeling bad, I'm just making connections and reaching out, so I can work through that feeling. With the high levels of loneliness among young people, a blog Megan wrote might be particularly useful for those with disabilities at school today.

Lonely needing some love

She includes tips, such as holding the door open for people in order to start a conversation. A lot of people walked through without noticing, but even if you got a 'Thank you' or a 'Hello' at least it was an interaction. I wasn't able to go up to people and say 'Hi' because I didn't know where they were. So it's one way of getting noticed. It's nice to be seen as helpful rather than 'Here's the weird blind girl again. Another of Megan's tips is to talk to teachers as if they're real people, and not just your teachers. I remember talking to a teacher who told me her cat had had kittens.

Afterwards I thought, 'That's one less break time spent alone. Megan says she believes not being able to see has made her kinder to others. It's possible that loneliness has made her kinder too. We found that people who say they often feel lonely score higher on average for social empathy. They are better at spotting when someone else is feeling rejected or excluded, probably because they have experienced it themselves. But when it comes to trust, the findings are very different.

Although they may be more understanding of other people's emotional pain, on average people who say they often feel lonely had lower levels of trust in others and higher levels of anxiety, both of which can make it harder to make friends. Michelle can relate to this.

I do have trust issues and I think they stem from my anxiety. I think when you become lonely you do start to look inward and question people's motives. You find yourself wondering whether people spend time with me because they want to, or because they feel guilty. Sometimes it's suggested that people experiencing loneliness need to learn the social skills that would help them to make friends, but we found that people who felt lonely had social skills that were just as high as everyone else's. So instead, perhaps what's needed are strategies to help deal with the anxiety of meeting new people.

Both Jack and Michelle find weekends the hardest. Michelle would like to go out for brunch, but has no-one to go with. You see people sitting outside laughing and joking and I think how I want to be part of that.

It's not the most healthy or practical way of dealing with loneliness, but it's about being around people and it's great because you can lose yourself in the crowd. So what might help? We asked people which solutions to loneliness they had found helpful. At one was distracting yourself by dedicating time to work, study or hobbies. Next was ing a social club, but this also appeared in the list of the top three unhelpful things that other people suggest. If you feel isolated then ing a club might help, but if you find it hard to trust people, you might still feel lonely in a crowd. three was trying to change your thinking to make it more positive.

This is easier said than done, but there are cognitive behavioural strategies which could help people to trust others. For example, if someone snubs you, you might assume it's because they don't like you, but if you ask yourself honestly what evidence you have for that, you might find there isn't any. Instead you can learn to put forward alternative explanations - that they were tired or busy or preoccupied. The next most common suggestions were to start a conversation with anyone, talk to friends and family about your feelings and to look for the good in every person you meet.

People told us the most unhelpful suggestion that other people make is to go on dates. Michelle says she does feel lonelier now she's not in relationship, but knows that that meeting someone new wouldn't solve everything. Jack still misses his late wife desperately. I asked him whether he would consider sharing a house so that he had company, but he says he's too set in his ways. He wouldn't want to move to a residential home with other older people because then he'd lack the space to paint and write.

So, too frail to leave the house, he called the charity The Silver Line, who arranged for a volunteer to phone him every Sunday for a long chat. His three children live a couple of hours away, but they all phone frequently and he has someone who comes in for two hours on weekdays to help out.

Lonely needing some love

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