Activity: The Answer to Loneliness
You may find that you are alone by choice, or that distance or the passing of a loved one has left you by yourself. You may also discover, despite having some company, and activity, that you are still encountering moments of loneliness. In its more severe forms, loneliness can manifest itself as a symptom of depression and may begin to negatively impact your day-to-day life and function. It can be a frightening thing and may lead to reduced levels of motivation and willingness to engage with and overcome our own issues.
Overcoming depression and loneliness starts with accepting ourselves on a fundamental level; in understanding ourselves as independent but social creatures. We require contact with other humans, and while life has both happy and sad moments, the downs should never inhibit the ups. Being lonely is occasionally a normal part of ageing, often triggered by moving to a new place or losing a partner, friend, or family member. These changes may influence our own financial decisions, leading to us feeling as if we lack control. However, these feelings can be overcome and are easily addressed.
Knowing why you are lonely is the best place to start; is it an anniversary of a moment of loss or grief? Is the weather poor? Have you been unable to catch up with friends due to health or financial restraints? Find what it is at the heart of your loneliness – only then can you begin to address the source and resolve the issue. The next thing you can do to combat loneliness and depression is to get out. Even going to pick up groceries, or going to the mall, having a walk around town, riding public transport, or taking yourself out to tea.
You simply need to get out and be amongst other people. Even if you are living alone, that should not stop you from doing and pursuing what you love. There is a cliché little sign that says, “don’t be afraid of getting older be afraid of getting boring”. The message is delivered en-masse, but it is an important one. Boredom leads to loneliness, and loneliness can breed depression. If you find yourself alone, it is important to see such solitude as an opportunity to pursue your own passions. You are not limited by your alone time. Try something new. Take up an instrument or learn a language, bake, draw, start a new hobby or resume an old one.
Simply get moving. Physical activity, even gentle walking, will assist in the production of endorphins. These ‘feel good’ hormones will assist with a more positive mood and sensation of being in control. Not only does activity give your mind a break, but it helps your body support your emotional states. Take a look and ask around, see if there are any group activities in your area such as Tai-Chi, a walking group, swimming clubs, or cycling activities. Another thing you can do to combat feelings of loneliness is to eat well. This goes hand in hand with physical activity; good food and good exercise assist good minds.
Take some time to prioritize a healthy diet, reduce any alcohol or tobacco intake, and drink more water. Treat yourself from time to time and build a well-balanced diet into your life in order to bring out the best in your mind. Sporting groups are a good place to start, but if you are no longer physically capable of active exercise then there are plenty of other options. You could volunteer at a local hospital or op-shop, take up painting, baking, or flower arranging, get involved at a local sports club to help organize and support members or even start up your own club for like-minded people in your area.
If you are alone because you are far from family or have sustained a loss, then there are ways to improve your social circle. When you are feeling lonely then it is easy to withdraw from the world. Instead, try stepping up and find someone who you can share your thoughts with. If this means making a phone call, then do so. If it means organizing a coffee date with friends, then organize it. You may even find that your local area offers social activities for seniors, or that younger groups would love to have you around.
Try offering to read at local junior schools or help in a tuck-shop. Maybe try checking out a pet-shelter, or even offer to do some gardening work at your local park. It is crucial that you find and take part in a community that helps you combat your loneliness by offering not only a social activity but support and care as well. Signs of depression often appear as a feeling of helplessness and loneliness. This negative mindset will reduce your motivation to socialize, so it is important that when these feelings come up that you are prepared and able to deflect them. If you begin to feel the onset of a bad day; heavy heart, loss of emotional control, lack of motivation…whatever it is for you, recognize it and do something else to help you get out of your slump before you really fall into it. Begin with a positive attitude and look at all the good things life has given you. Gratitude and kindness will go a long way, and your activity and self-care work well in conjunction with these things. If you begin to feel down, pick yourself up with a small activity, a favourite TV show, or a nice little treat. Do something other than feeling down and staying alone. You do not have to be lonely. You will feel loneliness at one point or another, but the emotion is fleeting and one that is well managed. Take steps toward a more positive mindset and look after your head, your body, and your heart.
Australian Over 50s Living & Lifestyle Guide