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Loneliness: Causes and Remedies

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Without healthy relationships, people might hoard things. For comfort.

I was strolling in one of the older neighbourhoods in Singapore and was admiring the low-rise HDBs and its architecture. Not common in new estates but iconic in these neighbourhoods, are first-floor units built with a short stairway that leads to the door. 

As I was passing by, I noticed a pudgy white cat sleeping soundly on an antique furniture at the foot of a stairway. This view of serenity was quickly shattered by the next unit. A mountain of cardboard boxes littered with random household appliances and whatnots. In a glance, this unit seemed strangely different. I turned to my friend who grew up in that neighbourhood and asked, “Where is this unit’s door?” He said, “Hidden under all that clutter.” A careful look and I started to make out the railings of the stairway, and the door which I wasn’t sure was opened or closed because everything was piled up one on top of the other. Then suddenly, a frail, silver-haired lady emerged out of nowhere from the mess, reaching tediously for something. My friend then shared that she has a son that moved out and ever since, she started hoarding obsessively. 

A 2018 study revealed that those with an anxious attachment style are inclined to grow attached to material goods, 
and may humanise inanimate objects, and thus are potential hoarders.

Perhaps you do not have clutter that jams up the entire entrance of your house but might have certain objects of value that you keep in your possession.  It is perfectly normal to consider some items to be of sentimental value (eg. a vintage brooch from your grandmother). 

Consumerism and retail therapy has become commonplace and we might fill up our homes or closets with many items, some of which we use, others which we might just leave there collecting dust. These habits do not necessarily indicate that we are lonely. But I wonder, in our never-ending purchases or collection of products, how much of it was done because we were seeking comfort in having or buying these new goods? Is it still healthy when we seek objects to fulfil our social needs? Hoarding could be a manifestation of loneliness, but everyone experiences loneliness differently. 

Loneliness is the mental or emotional discomfort from either being physically alone or 
feeling alone even if not physically so.

Causes of Loneliness

We all experience loneliness for different reasons. One could experience loneliness as a result of living alone, working alone, being single, being new to a community, being a minority, retirement, death or loss of a family member/partner/friend, illness, disability, the isolation caused by the recent Covid pandemic, and the list goes on. 

Any life event that facilitates physical isolation could potentially lead to loneliness, depending on our social needs. However, even when surrounded with people, if you lack a connection with any of them and feel different, irrelevant, misunderstood, neglected or ignored, feelings of loneliness can also creep in. 

Loneliness also happens when we are too caught up with the past or future. Missing someone from before, going through memories of the past, or having regrets of what might have been. Our minds are also inclined to worrying about the future, desiring, longing, or wanting someone or something we don’t have, wanting this person or thing to fill that emptiness that we might feel within. With these thoughts about the past or future, the space that is felt within ourselves gets amplified, making the feelings of loneliness even stronger or at times unbearable. 

Christmas is coming. Holiday seasons are another time where some people feel especially lonely. For some it is about donning the christmas tree in the presence of family and friends. For others, the feeling of loneliness intensifies and can cause much distress or worsen into a mental or physical health issue. Before it gets chronic, let’s see what is within our control when it comes to loneliness.

Remedies for Loneliness

Mindfulness and Meditation

Loneliness is like a gap within ourselves that we are not comfortable facing. The feeling of such emptiness is one that we naturally reject. 

Yet mindfulness is about being aware and sitting with these uncomfortable emotions, learning about them, being curious about them, instead of simply being preoccupied and rejecting them. Being mindful helps us stay grounded in the present instead of contemplating about the past or the future, which are the very things that may cause our loneliness. Mindfulness also allows us to cultivate a better relationship with ourselves through offering kindness and patience to ourselves. Mindfulness can be practised with or without meditation, but meditation can enhance the experience. 

Volunteer

Going out there to meet and help others is a great way to reduce feelings of loneliness. In fact, helping a cause that you believe in or can relate to will make your time spent even more  meaningful, and may even help you find a deeper sense of purpose in life. 

Volunteering allows us to shift the focus away from our own troubles, to others and their issues. Such interaction not only serves as a temporary distraction but learning about others’ hardships and broadening our worldview, often shed light on our own situations. When we focus on helping others, it diminishes your preoccupation with your own problems, and frees your mind to gain fresher perspectives, which may help with combating loneliness. 

Rethinking Loneliness

Perhaps loneliness need not be a feeling that we should urgently try to get rid of because this loneliness is like a feedback from you to you. It holds valuable information about yourself – why are you lonely, when are you lonely, where do you feel lonely at, with whom or without whom do you feel lonely. Answering these questions might enlighten you, help you find your own voice, rediscover your identity, and even make you feel less lonely once you figure out certain things. Being in solitude need not always breed loneliness; in fact you could see it as a form of uninterrupted serenity or freedom from peer pressure and societal influence. 

Speak to a Therapist

If you are still feeling entangled or bogged down by your thoughts and feelings of loneliness, it could be time to speak to a therapist, especially if you are struggling with other mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. 

A Kind Place supports and welcomes everyone from all walks of life, gender identity, orientation, and backgrounds. We offer free 15-minutes consultation for you to meet with your choice of therapist / psychologist / counsellor to support you on your journey of mental wellness. Bookings for consultation or services can be done here. For any enquiries, Whatsapp us or send them to hello@akindplace.co. Reach out to us today!