About Last Night: How can I stop feeling lonely and miserable?
Q: I’m 30, single, and live alone. My job brought me to Melbourne, where I don’t know many people. I mainly work from home and, when I do go into the office, people are friendly but much older than me. How can I stop feeling lonely and miserable?
A: In a recent article in Forbes magazine, Alice G. Walton wrote: “If you boil all the components, loneliness might emerge as one of the biggest threats to mental health there is. An increasing amount of research in the last few years has revealed exactly this. For instance, Americans who say they don’t have a single confidant has tripled in the last few decades. And a large-scale studyfrom the Kaiser Family Foundation … looked at loneliness patterns in the US, UK, and Japan. Two-thirds of people say they have just a few or no friends or relatives nearby to lend support. And two in 10 people said they felt alone much of the time or always.”
There have always been lonely people but they tended to be elderly or infirm. Today, increasing numbers of young people are finding it difficult to make social contact.
My disability makes meeting new people a challenge for me too, so I decided to attend an event called Curiously Social Creatures’ – curiouscreatures.biz/curiously-social-creatures1.html.
In groups of about five people, a game of Q&A creates a structured conversation in which everyone participates. As the organisers say: “It’s a bit like speed dating, except it’s not quick and nor is it about dating.”
It was a lot of fun and worth attending. There was a diverse crowd but I was surprised by how many younger people spoke of suffering crippling loneliness. One had even become an Uber driver in the hope that this would put them in contact with others.
Walton praises Britain for appointing a Minister for Loneliness to address what Theresa May described as the, “sad reality of modern life" for people of all ages. But she fails to see the irony that it was another female Tory PM, Margaret Thatcher, who once declared: “There is no such thing as society. There are individual men and women and there are families. And no governments can do anything except through people and people must look to themselves first.”
This ethos is great for business and a "Me" generation, equipped with "I" products emerged: iMac, iPod, iPad, and iPhone. There was even an iVibe range of sex toys. Today, we can communicate through social [sic] media, while being totally isolated.
Fewer households have a communal telephone and most have individual bathrooms. We rarely have to negotiate about using the family TV, computer, or car. Life is easier now that we all have our own stuff but are we losing valuable social skills such as negotiation, cooperation, compromise and consideration? Certainly, anti-social behaviours such as violent road rage seem to be on the rise.
We are also at risk of becoming a bit precious. Some of us have genuine dietary needs but sharing a meal is becoming a logistic nightmare – vegetarian, vegan, gluten intolerant, allergic, low carb and sugar-free or, as a Simpsons character said, “I only eat things that don’t cast a shadow”.
This focus on our individual needs and idiosyncrasies extends to all aspects of life but might we discover how much more flexible and adaptable we could be if we were forced into an emergency shelter, or refugee camp?
We no longer live in villages, families are scattered and many of us have rejected institutionalised religion, preferring to live by our own values, but all this individualism can be isolating. In Paul McCartney’s words, “And, in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make”.
If you wish someone would reach out to you, reach out to someone. If you feel invisible, let strangers know you see them. If you yearn to be heard, be a good listener. Meet-up groups, sporting clubs and study courses are great for meeting people but so is volunteering. Be the kind of friend you wish you had.
About Last Night
About Last Night Blogs are written by Maureen Mathews, published by Fairfax media. Maureen is the original owner of Bliss for Women. The current Bliss Team is excited to Maureen share her knowledge on our new site. It is fantastic to have Maureen as one of our regular expert contributors. If you wish to ask Maureen a question you can can send an email to email@example.com using About Last Night in the subject of the email.
Bliss is Australia’s longest running women’s focused sex shop. We were founded in 1996 by one of Australia’s most respected sex columnists, Maureen Matthews. She wanted to give women of Melbourne a place where they could explore pleasure and sexuality without the sleazy, without the gaze of the male-dominated sex industry of the time. Maureen’s determination for change despite the City Council of the time trying to stop her was inspirational. This drive for change continues today with the new generation at Bliss.
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