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August 11, 2008 | by  | in Opinion |
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Loneliness…Building Relationships

If you are experiencing loneliness – you are not alone!

A recent survey showed that 25% of all adults experience painful loneliness at least every few weeks. Incidence among secondary and tertiary students is even higher.

But loneliness is neither a permanent state nor ‘bad’ in itself – it is often a signal that some of your important needs are not being met. This article may help you to understand loneliness and what you can do to overcome it and regain a positive outlook.

What is loneliness?
Loneliness is the painful awareness of not feeling connected to others.

Loneliness is not necessarily being alone. We may be alone for long periods without feeling at all lonely. On the other hand we can feel our most lonely in a class with 300 other students or in the middle of a raging party.

Why we feel lonely . . .
There are many reasons why we experience loneliness: We’re alone and feel it wasn’t our choice We feel we’re lacking the loving secure environment we had in the past – when leaving home or after the break-up of a relationship.

We’re facing changes in our life – a new school, country, city, job.

We feel there’s no one in our lives with whom we can share our feelings and experiences.

We perceive ourselves as unacceptable, unlovable, not worthwhile.

How we make it worse . . .
When we feel lonely we are very susceptible to negative misconceptions about loneliness. Some of the classic things we tell ourselves are:

“Loneliness is a sign of weakness, or immaturity.”
“There’s something wrong with me if I’m lonely.”
“I’m the only one who feels this way.

None of these statements is true. Many of us think these things when we are lonely and, unfortunately, the more we think this way, the worse our loneliness becomes. We start to expect others to reject us and feel hesitant to assert ourselves and talk to people, either one-on-one or in group situations such as tutorial groups or at parties. We become easily discouraged, lose our motivation to socialise, and isolate ourselves further.

What to do about it . . .
Loneliness can be overcome – you can do something about it. You may find it difficult, especially if you’re shy, but remember even very small steps can be built on. There are many ways you can take action:

Get involved with shared activities you are genuinely interested in, such as a cultural group, hobby, sports team, or a part-time job. Being with people who are focusing on an activity you all enjoy can quickly lead to close personal bonds being formed.

Seek out situations and be receptive to approaches which enable you to get involved with other students. For example, ask someone in your class to be your study or exercise partner. You may want to develop your social skills. Learning to be assertive will help. A smile or a nod or saying hello to a classmate can ease things! Get involved in class discussions.

Nurture environments in which you feel comfortable – have lunch with a friend, or meet with others at your children’s playgroup, Kohanga Reo or Pacific language group.

Volunteer work is a good way to learn about yourself and others, and can help to boost your self-esteem.

Look out for yourself . . .
Loneliness is something that can be changed: Value all your friendships and their unique characteristics rather than believing that only a romantic relationship will relieve your loneliness. Intimate friendships usually develop gradually as people learn to share their inner feelings.

Learn to admire and accept the differences in people. Give your lecturers, tutors, classmates and peers a chance, and try to get to know them. Finding friends and developing relationships can take time.

Use your time alone to enjoy yourself. By learning to enjoy and value your own company, you’ll find that others do too.

Now is your chance to do new things you may have always wanted to try.

Get involved in things that excite your interest – music, art, sport.

Eat properly, get regular exercise, and enough sleep.

Don’t try to define yourself as a lonely person. No matter how bad you feel, loneliness will diminish or even disappear if you feel active and involved.

How to find out more At Victoria University there are many people you can talk to – counsellors, learning support staff, student health advisors, and/or, if you are Maori, Pacific Islander or an international student, people who are aware of your specific cultural needs… check out the Student Services Website.

The Counselling Service is running ‘Increase your Self Confidence & Assertiveness’ programmes over 4 Mondays starting Monday 21 July 12:30-2:30pm & Monday 1st September 12:30-2:30pm. Sign up! Contact the Counselling Service 463 5310.

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