As human beings, we rely on a secure, safe, and predictable social environment to survive and succeed. When this reliance is somehow impaired, feelings of solitude and loneliness start to seep in, slowly taking over, completely covering our being.
Authors and researchers have written extensively how the feelings of loneliness and solitude affect us physically, psychologically, and emotionally. But before delving into that, let us take a step back and look at what solitude and loneliness mean because even though they are used interchangeably, they are related but distinct words.
Solitude is when you literally choose to be by yourself, with no one else around. Thus, it is a choice one personally and willingly makes, whenever and for whatever reason, one feels the need to do so.
In most writings, solitude usually denotes negativity being attributed feelings such as sadness and despair. Yet, these denote, as explained in detail by various academics and researchers, more traits of loneliness than solitude [Vosse, 2019]. Loneliness, on the other hand, occurs when you don’t choose to be alone but you are, it is somehow forced upon us, which is pretty much the situation the whole world is going through at this time.
Both the body and the brain are affected. The brain’s effects are at times imperceptible but the effects are then seen through the body releasing excess amounts of stress hormones. But let us go a bit deeper into the effects it has. Physically it effects at different levels. A research carried out by Prof. Stavros J. Bayolanis, Professor of Neurology at the Aristotelian University Thessaloniki, Greece found that the feeling of loneliness is directly related to an increase in physical illnesses, depressive symptoms and sleep deprivation.
The same research found also that there is an acceleration in physiological ageing and mortality. As already asserted, loneliness does not only impact physically but also impinges on one’s mental health and cognitive functioning. How? Loneliness leads to social isolation which in turn increases vigilance for perceiving threats and heightens the feeling of vulnerability.
This makes one see the world around them as a harmful place from which they expect more negative social interactions and remember more negative experiences. This enables one’s ability to regulate thoughts, to observe social norms and feelings clouding our ability to achieve goals set. It also increases stress levels, fear of negative evaluation, anxiety and anger, diminishing optimism and self-esteem.
As a way of supporting people who are feeling socially isolated and lonely, on the 23rd March 2020, YMCA launched its Loneliness Response Line service through which people who are feeling lonely can call for support. The service is run by various YMCA professional team members and volunteers and is available daily.
Below one can find the five most reoccurring reasons why people reached out to us in the past two months.
Reach out to us for a friendly chat on 9992 8625. Send a message or effect a missed call and one of our team members will call you back.
YMCA’s Wellbeing programme also provides free-of-charge psychotherapeutic services for those in financial difficulties and who therefore cannot afford private sessions. To learn more or to book a session, call YMCA on 27674278.