We are living in the most connected time in human history and yet an unprecedented number, 1 in 4 of us in fact, feel lonely. Being lonely and being alone are very different things. The UK government website has reported that loneliness is higher for those who are:
And especially; women with experience economic hardship and conflictual paternal relationship. In the US 46% of the population feel lonely regularly and 25% of Americans said they had no one at all to confide to.
Netwomen.co was created to tackle loneliness head-on by providing a supportive place for all women and non-binary to share, collaborate and communicate with no judgement.
Our CEO and founder, Pinky, shares this on her own experience with loneliness:
“I was 30 when I first noticed that feeling of loneliness. I was married and pregnant with my only son. My marriage was failing with the recent knowledge of infidelity. As the loneliness was killing me inside I struggled to express this feeling until I separated from my husband when my son was a few weeks old.
Just when I needed my friends and family the most, I couldn’t talk about it and I hit rockbottom”.
Here are 4 things you should know about loneliness before this day is over so that you are prepped to challenge the loneliness epidemic in your own life and others :
Social neuroscientist, John Cacioppo, states that loneliness increases the chance of early death by 20%. Which is about the same effect as obesity and obesity does not make you as miserable as loneliness. He found that loneliness decreases the effectiveness of sleep and causes sleep fragmentation so that you always wake up tired. Over time, the wear and tear are greater if you are lonely than if you are not. He found links to heart disease, cancer and negative effects on the immune system. This highlights the urgent need to confront loneliness and shows prevalently just why loneliness is the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week.
Society can be set up to make us competitive and it praises self-reliance and independence. As Cappacio says ‘Loneliness is like an iceberg, we are conscious of the surface but there is a great deal more that is phylogenetically so deep that we cannot see it. This means that even though we think we would prefer to stay at home instead of going to see a friend or a social event, this might be counter productive for us. He suggests that kindness and collaboration is a great way to start to deal with loneliness. Volunteering or becoming a mentor to women (by joining netwomen!) can be a very rewarding experience socially. I have recently started volunteering at Brownies Girlguiding meetings on a Monday and helping them to connect to one another has definitely made me feel more connected.
Being in a relationship can actually make you feel more lonely at times because you’re spending so much time with one person yet you cant escape the feeling that you can still feel alone. If the relationship is going through a rough phase, these reminders that you both aren’t getting along can be constant therefore the feeling of loneliness is all the more present rather than if you were on your own. This is why it is important not to rush into a relationship because you feel lonely. We need to make sure that we have done the self work and reflected on how our deep wants and what it means for you to show up authentically in all your relationships.
It’s important to shatter the stigma around loneliness. It can affect anybody. Not just stereotypically the quiet and shy people but even the most beautiful, rich, powerful, outgoing and famous. Think of the classic case of a billionaire. They can see that most people want to be their friend, but in their eyes, none of these connections are real because they are seen as being motivated by financial gain. Keeping this in mind allows us to come from a place of empathy to everyone we come into contact with, which simultaneously makes us more open to social connection with the understanding that anyone can be going through secret inside battles.
we want to hear about your experience with loneliness. Comment on our loneliness posts and Get involved in the largest collective sharing of loneliness experiences and together let’s shatter the stigma around loneliness. Share your experiences and send a powerful message to others, using the hashtag #IveBeenThere and #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek.
By Farlan-netwomen ambassador