The week of the 9th of May is Mental Health Awareness Week. The theme for 2022 is loneliness.  
Loneliness has become an increasing concern recently, especially over the last couple of years during the COVID-19 pandemic. Social distancing and isolation rules meant that many people felt a sudden lack of social connection and intimacy. Loneliness is defined as a social pain, an unwanted lack of social connection but it's important to recognise that feeling lonely is not the same as being alone. We may feel lonely in a room full of people. This may be because we feel disconnected or excluded for a number of reasons. 

Why do we feel lonely?  Loneliness is a psychological mechanism which motivates people to seek social connections. Feelings of loneliness could be caused by certain life events, times of year or personal circumstances.  Certain life events may lead to feelings of loneliness. A few examples could be:  Grief or bereavement Starting university or a new job Birthdays Moving house Relationship breakups Falling out with a friend Retiring  Some people may be more vulnerable to loneliness than others. Some of these personal circumstances may be:  Caring for someone Having little money and not being able to afford to particpate in activities with others Having a heavy workload Having no friends Being estranged from family Experience discrimination and therefore isolation Have experienced abuse and find it harder to form close attachments Being in an abusive relationship Suffering with social anxiety/phobia Those who have mental health problems may experience increased loneliness   Certain times of year can also exasibate feelings of loneliness such as Christmas, birthdays or Valentine's Day.  Research has also shown that the COVID-19 pandemic has led to a rise in the number of people feeling lonely. According to a survey of UK adults which took place 9 months into COVID-19 restrictions (late November 2020) one in four (24%) adults in the UK said they had feelings of loneliness in the previous two weeks.  People who experience social anxiety (also known as social phobia) find it difficult to engage in everyday activities which involve other people. This could lead to a lack of social contact and therefore increased feelings of loneliness. Loneliness is not a mental health illness but it is associated with an increased risk of mental health issues such as: depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, insomnia and increased stress

How can we manage feelings of loneliness?  1. Meet new people  Meeting new people can be daunting. Taking it slow and making small steps will help. As a first step, attending online events might make things less intimidating. Other ways to meet new people could be:  Peer support through online communities (such as SanaMente's online Strive community) Trying something new - you could try joining a class or group to develop new skills and hobbies and meet like-minded people Volunteering Befriending services  2. Strengthen existing relationships  Opening up to our existing friends and family members can be a good way to manage feelings of loneliness. Often it can be the case that we have existing relationships with people but we don't feel close to them.   To combat this, telling our existing connections how we are feeling and becoming more vulnerable will help to build trust and intimacy and therefore strengthen the existing bond.  3. Be mindful of social media use  We all compare ourselves to others. Whilst it's something we all do, it is often damaging to us. Comparing our lives to other people's can lead to lower self-esteem which is linked to loneliness. Find out more about self-esteem below. 

People tend to share the highlights of their life on social media - what they want others to see. It's important to remember we don't know how people feel when they are offline and recognise a lot of these individuals are experiencing loneliness too. 
 
4. Be compassionate to yourself 
 
Loneliness can be a very distressing emotion at times and can have a big impact on your overall wellbeing. Self-care and self-compassion is massively important to improve mood, self-esteem and general wellbeing.  
5. Seek professional support 
 
Therapy or getting in touch with support services may help you if you feel you cannot manage the feelings of loneliness you are experience.  
Hypnotherapy can help people manage any overwhelming feelings they may be having. SanaMente offers hypnotherapy and membership to our online community - Strive. Book a free consulation with one of our clinical hypnotherapists or find out more about Strive today. 
Our Strive Online Community 
Our Strive Online Community 
If you are enjoying our information & advice and would like to access downloadable resources, interactive activities, live events, 1-2-1 support and more - Join our Strive community today. 
 
Our online platform will help you improve your wellbeing and mental health by guiding you through the 10 Keys of Happiness which you can work through at your own pace with content you can read, do, watch and listen to - whichever suits you! 
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