Loneliness is something that affects most people at some stage in their life.
However, it is often treated less seriously than other mental health issues like depression or anxiety. This is despite a lot of research showing there can be significant negative impacts on your physical health when you feel lonely.
It’s somewhat ironic — given it’s never been easier to connect — that loneliness is on the rise. Through mobile phones, social media and email, it seems like we have more contact with people than ever before, but it’s at a much shallower and less meaningful level. Technology means we substitute speaking to people face to face or over the phone with texts or messages on Facebook.
For people in the LGBTI community, loneliness can hit even harder.
Despite greater acceptance and more legal protection, being gay, lesbian, bi or trans can make you feel disconnected from mainstream society.
Your life takes a different path and things like finding a relationship often feel harder. This may especially be so if you don’t live in a big city with a large LGBTI community.
Digital Pride is the only global Pride dedicated to enabling everyone to be part of a Pride, whoever they are and wherever they live in the world. This year, we are focusing on tackling loneliness and isolation. It takes place on Gay Star News from 29 April to 5 May 2019. Find out more.
The first step to overcoming loneliness is truly accepting yourself and becoming more of the person you uniquely are, rather than trying to fit in or be somebody else.
As a life coach, this is often the starting point for the work I do with my clients. When you feel more like you and you like yourself better, confidence follows.
You’ll then find it much easier to find those authentic connections that make life more meaningful.
You can also try to follow these seven simple steps to curbing your feelings of loneliness and isolation.
1. Meet like-minded people
Nowadays there are clubs or groups for seemingly every interest around.
With the internet and sites like Meet-Up, it’s easy to find things nearby that you’re interested in. Anything from running clubs to book groups.
It’s much easier to bond and make a real connection when you have a shared passion. It could lead to new friendships or maybe a relationship, if that’s what you’re looking for.
2. Spend more time talking and less time texting
Make an effort to meet up with your friends or at least talk to them regularly by phone or FaceTime, instead of relying on texts or social media to stay in touch.
With instant messaging, we can easily know the events in people’s life, but it’s much harder to know how they feel.
Nothing beats a good verbal conversation.
3. Don’t use alcohol, drugs or chocolate to block out loneliness
They are a short-term fix so will only make you feel better in the short term.
Feelings of low self-worth often follow the next day, which only makes things worse. In addition to the long-term impacts on your health of bingeing on things that are bad for you.
4. Take a few minutes every day to feel gratitude for what you have
Loneliness is a feeling that something is missing from your life – a void or an emptiness.
To counter this, spend a few minutes each day focusing on the things you do have in your life. It could be your pet, a family member or even just a sunny day.
Really immerse yourself in what you feel grateful for. It’s impossible for your brain to feel gratitude and negativity at the same time.
5. Try a social media detox
People often use their Facebook or Instagram feeds like personal PR to present the amazing life they want others to think they have. The reality is often very different.
If you’re feeling vulnerable, this false version of other people’s lives can make us feel inadequate. Take some time away from social media, or at least apply a filter than not everything you see on social media is true!
6. Set boundaries and make more time for yourself
Technology and flexible ways of working were meant to make life easier, but they often mean we work longer hours and never switch off.
If you’re answering emails at all your waking hours, you’ll have much less time to do the things you enjoy, which often involve social interaction.
Have a set ‘turning off’ time and commit as much time to your personal life as you do your work life.
7. Ditch dating apps
Most people not in a relationship are looking for one.
Although people do find love using dating apps, they can become addictive and often lead to less interaction in the real world. Apps make contact with other people easier, but chats on Grindr or Her often lead nowhere, despite investing so much time on them.
Spend less time swiping left or right and more time meeting people face to face. Any social gathering could lead to a new friend or partner.
Chris Cooper is a gay life and career coach based in Manchester. He helps people work out what they want from life and supports them to achieve their potential. Chris coaches clients from across the UK and overseas by phone or video call. Visit his website to arrange a free telephone consultation.
Chris will be speaking at the 8th International Gay Coaches Conference in New York, from 2 May to 5 May. Check his website for more information.
What is Digital Pride?
Digital Pride is the online movement, by Gay Star News, so you can take part in Pride whoever and wherever you are. Even if you are from a country where being LGBTI is criminalized or leaves you in danger – it’s a Pride festival you can be a part of.
In 2019, Digital Pride is tackling loneliness and isolation with articles and videos connecting LGBTI people. Join us by reaching out to someone who needs it. The festival takes place on Gay Star News from 29 April to 5 May 2019. Find out more.
See more from #DigitalPride