Have you ever felt an echoing silence within you amidst the bustling heartbeat of life? A loneliness that quietly creeps in, even amidst chaos?
The silent struggle with loneliness is far from an isolated experience. According to the Campaign to End Loneliness, in 2022, nearly half of UK adults, equating to 26 million people, confessed to feeling lonely at least occasionally. A staggering 3.8 million admitted to feeling lonely often or always.
My Journey Into Loneliness
I’m Eleni, a 40-year-old single mum navigating through the intricate path of dating and motherhood. Although I’ve been single for 3 years, it was only recently that I was struck by a true feeling of loneliness.
In a nutshell, my life unfolded as follows: After university, I met my ex and we were together for 15 years. Just a couple of months after separating, I threw myself into dating as a shield against loneliness, continuously chasing another relationship instead of tackling the problem head-on. Time and again, I’d book dates with the wrong men, just to spend the evening with someone.
For the past year, I’ve been seeing a therapist who has been absolutely wonderful. We’ve spoken about loneliness repeatedly and she’s posed questions that have allowed me to view situations differently.
“What’s the worst that can happen if you have a day out on your own?”
A friend also shared her wisdom: “Approach a day out as your opportunity to take yourself on a date.”
After months of building up the courage to take myself out, I started small, going for a coffee in a beautiful historic square. Armed with a copy of Vogue in case I felt overwhelmed, I genuinely enjoyed watching the world go by.
Since then, I’ve become comfortable taking myself out for group activities like white water rafting, a wellness festival and multiple dance classes. For me, this was a huge step in tackling my loneliness. I was finally able to fill a day without any anxiety or pressure. However, none of them were experiences that I’d truly done solo.
The Breakdown: A Turning Point
Upon reaching my first weekend with absolutely nothing booked in, loneliness hit me hard.
I laid alone, curled up on my bed, sobbing for what felt like hours.
My emotional journey reminds me of the Disney film ‘Inside Out’. We witness Riley’s emotions through animated characters, including Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness. Joy works her hardest to do everything in her power to stop Riley from feeling any sadness, which backfires after a rush of overpowering feelings. Poor Riley is beside herself. However, after a good cry, she’s able to happily continue with her day.
You might ask, why am I relating to a Disney movie? Because it’s so crucial to realise that it’s okay not to be okay. In fact, just saying, ‘I’m not okay’ is proven to do us some good!
In this Harvard Business Review, Dr. Zucker states, “Allowing yourself not to feel ok involves accepting all feelings, thoughts, or sensations and sitting with them until they pass. If you try to avoid, suppress, or ignore them, they will only grow stronger and leave you overwhelmed and believing that you cannot cope.”*
By having my breakdown, I was finally accepting how I was feeling. Afterwards, I made myself a cup of tea and gave myself a talking to. I couldn’t continue feeling like this, waiting for some mystery man to come along, just to give me the opportunity to fulfil my love of adventure and travel. I then spent the afternoon researching my first solo weekend in the UK. Within the week, I had an activity weekend booked and it truly was a transformational point for me.
Embracing Solitude: My First Solo Adventure
My first solo trip wasn’t just a physical journey but an emotional one. I worked through my fears, found new confidence and felt so empowered doing it solo! I truly loved every minute of it. Read Embarking on a Solo Adventure: Finding Myself on a Coastal Hike to learn more.
I’m now organising a 10-day tour of Jordan, upping the ante to tick off the international solo travel milestone!
Empowering Others: Why I’m Sharing My Story
By peeling back my layers and revealing my vulnerabilities, I want to reach others who are silently suffering, to say, ‘You are not alone’. Loneliness is a horrible, dark place, but you can get through this!
Recognise When Someone Needs Help
I was recently contacted by a lady who had lost all self-esteem and confidence after a failed relationship. She’s too afraid to do things on her own and was chasing a relationship she knew wasn’t good for her. Why? Because she preferred the idea of chasing a bad relationship rather than dealing with being on her own.
Does this sound like a friend or family member you know? Take a look at this article: How to help someone who is lonely and go and call them today. Have you heard of the ask twice campaign? It’s too easy to answer the question ‘how are you?’ with ‘I’m fine’ or ‘I’m okay’ but on asking again in a slightly different way, you can open the door.
Learn to Self-Love
Self-love isn’t just a trendy hashtag; it’s a journey of accepting, respecting, and cherishing oneself. The first step is to teach yourself the importance of putting yourself first.
When you treat yourself better, you’ll be happier! (It’s proven!) I love this article by Forbes, which provides tips on how to practice self-love. Their research-rich article is worth a read!
In the midst of my struggles with loneliness and navigating the path to self-love, I found unexpected allies: exercise and dance. Engaging in physical activity became more than just a means to stay fit; it evolved into a therapeutic outlet, a space where I could release pent-up emotions and momentarily escape the clutches of solitude. Dance, in particular, allowed me to express feelings that were too complex to put into words, providing a unique form of emotional release and often bringing moments of sheer joy amidst the pain.
Solo Date Ideas
Embarking on solo dates isn’t just about doing activities alone; it’s about learning to enjoy your own company. Here are some ideas to get you started on your solo adventures. Be sure to write your own goals and celebrate each milestone!
- Dress in something that makes you feel good and take yourself out for coffee. Grab a magazine or take a book if you feel uncomfortable as this will take your mind off things. Allow yourself to be at ease on your own, whilst you sip a coffee and watch the world go by.
- Take yourself out shopping and treat yourself to a nice lunch. Opt for a buzzing cafe over a restaurant.
- Plan a short hike – Take yourself out into the great outdoors and lose yourself for a few hours in a stunning setting.
- Organise your perfect ‘solo’ date. Mine was a dance class in London, followed by a walk around the city. This was a step too far for my first outing and I’d wished that I had organised to meet up with a group in the afternoon. You could use: The Meetup app or Get your Guide (Book a group tour around a choice of hundreds of attractions)
- Once you’ve tackled a solo day, start planning a solo weekend trip. Book a weekend that involves group and solo activities.
Join me on this journey of self-discovery and empowerment. Learning to love solo time takes time and courage, but I promise you, you’ll feel empowered and eager to push yourself more and more. You’ll love to enjoy your own time and never look back!
The staggering data from the Campaign to End Loneliness underscores the pervasive nature of loneliness, revealing that it is a battle fought by millions. I hope that by sharing my story I can give hope to those silently suffering. Embracing self love, acknowledging pain and stepping out of one’s comfort zone can pave the way towards a happier, healthier you.
Navigating through loneliness can be a daunting journey, but remember, support is available. Whether it’s connecting with others through Meet up Mondays or seeking a listening ear from The Samaritans, reach out when you need to.
Meet up Mondays
MeetUpMondays gives local businesses the chance to strengthen their community and show they care about ending loneliness. Find a location near you and pop along for a cuppa to meet other friendly faces.
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you just want to speak to someone, pick up the phone and call the Samaritans. Their helpline is open 24 hours a day and offers a no-judgment opportunity to help you through. Helpline: 116 123.
Marmalade Trust has some great loneliness guides on types, how to talk about it, and advice to support you further.
*Harvard Reference: It’s ok to not be ok.
Campaign to End Loneliness: Stats/ Guides