“Why am I lonely?” 6 triggers and what to do about them
Why do we feel loneliness, why is it dangerous and what to do with it? Olga Kitaina , a practicing psychologist, founder of the service for the selection of psychologists Alter , talks about this .
Olga’s webinar – with clear theory, statistics and useful tips – can be viewed on our online course “Between Us. Basic module” (it is already underway, but you can choose a tariff without feedback or subscribe to a notification about the next stream). In the meantime, we share a small part of the expert’s speech.
Causes and negative consequences
First, let’s define what loneliness is. This is an emotional state, how we perceive the level of social support. It manifests itself in a feeling of lack of communication and contact, a feeling that you are “excluded”, that there are no people to whom you can turn with your experiences. It is important to remember that being physically alone or not having a partner is not loneliness.
Where did this state come from? The answer is evolution. Man has developed as a social being. And collaboration – the ability to negotiate with others and act together – helped him survive. For our ancestors, the opportunity to be in a group meant that they would not have to starve and escape predators alone. Isolation was equated with death (it is no coincidence that expulsion from the tribe was the worst punishment). The ability to feel alone is an evolutionary mechanism that alerts us to danger. This happens at the physical level: the body begins to produce the stress hormone cortisol. When this happens, we need to pay more attention to the need to be together with others.
Everyone experiences loneliness from time to time. There is nothing terrible or shameful in this.
You need to worry when this condition rolls more than once a week. Many experts are sounding the alarm: more and more people feel lonely. This is dangerous, because the stress they experience increases the incidence of disease and mortality. The risk of developing addictions, depression and suicide is also on the rise.
Statistics and trends
In Russia, a large-scale study of the topic of loneliness has not been carried out, but there are still some figures. According to the Federal State Statistics Service, 30.2% of women said they feel lonely. Among men such only 18.3%. At the same time, the proportion of respondents who feel lonely increases with age. That is, up to 30 years old, this is no more than 18% of participants, over 50 – already 25.6%, over 60 years old – 37.5%. The results differed significantly depending on the level of income: most often loneliness was experienced by participants in the survey with low earnings.
Experts say that statistics should be treated critically. For example, we see that women experience more loneliness than men. At the same time, Russia is the world leader in the number of male suicides per capita, and these are related things.
Factors that cause loneliness
Where does loneliness come from today? Here are 6 factors that provoke it.
1. Lack of emotional, mental, financial resources to satisfy their social needs (or lack of social circle).
2. Negative childhood experience. People whose childhoods were filled with rejection, emotional coldness, unavailability of significant adults, and criticism tend to experience loneliness as adults. Their experience contributes to the development of cognitive distortions, in which neutral social situations are read as situations of rejection and neglect.
3. Social change: moving, divorce, loss.
4. Low self-esteem. A person who is not confident in himself is less eager to present himself to the world, communicate, expand social ties, speak in public, make new acquaintances. This boomerang returns in a sense of loneliness.
5. Diseases, disability, forced social isolation.
6. Life in cities. City dwellers create families later, more often replace face-to-face meetings with offline communication, are more busy with their careers, get tired of choices, and are at a great distance from each other.
What can be done?
What can we do about loneliness ourselves? Here are a few steps to get you started.
1. Recognize the problem. While you are thinking “loneliness is not about me, leave me alone…”, nothing can be done about it. First you need to recognize it, imagine that this is a sign – you just have a need to build closer relationships. Your body tells you this – and great! Try to find an opportunity to somehow change your social structure.
2. Prioritize: Close contacts and quality communication are important. There is a theory that says that we can only form meaningful connections with 150 people, and only 5 people can be the closest. A close circle should be perceived as your favorite garden, which needs to be taken care of. Ensure that all parties meet the emotional needs of the relationship.
3. Develop relationship building skills. Everyone wants to feel seen, heard, valued, and that’s why it’s important to focus on the quality of communication. Learn to listen, pay attention to empathy.
4. Maintain relationships in real life. Online communication still provokes a feeling of loneliness. Go where you can have conversations on topics that interest you, and with those people with whom you can potentially develop quality communication, feel unity.
Build a community or join those communities that already exist.
5. Become a volunteer and help others. Research suggests that the more people invest in helping others, the less alone they feel.
The quality of the relationship is something that is really worth striving for. The 80-year-long Harvard Happiness Study confirms this. Scientists have tried to determine what people who have lived happy lives have in common. It turned out that the only factor was the presence of close and supportive relationships.