Overcoming loneliness in a new city

Overcoming Loneliness in a New City: Strategies & Tips

Overview:

Have you ever moved to a new city and felt lonely? You’re not alone. Moving to a new place can be an exciting adventure, but it can also be a lonely and overwhelming experience. 

Being someone who is usually surrounded by family and friends, it nearly killed me when I moved to Berlin a few months ago! Suddenly I am in Europe, surrounded by foreign people who speak a different language. 

“Feeling alone, far from your emotional and physical home can be overwhelming!”

Whether you’ve moved for a job, or to study, or just for a change of scenery, building a support system in a new city can be a challenge.

Are we in a loneliness pandemic?

Here are some surprising stats that would blow your minds:

  • In the United Kingdom, a 2018 report by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness found that more than 9 million adults in the country are often or always lonely. 
  • According to a 2018 survey by Cigna, nearly half of Americans report sometimes or always feeling alone or left out. (Source: Cigna)
  • In a 2020 study of older adults in the United States, 28% reported feeling socially isolated, and 46% reported feeling lonely. (Source: National Institute on Aging)

When people who live at home in their natural habitat with their family and close circle feel lonely, why wouldn’t we?

Challenges of moving to a new city:

  • Adjusting to the new environment mentally and physically: Our brains need time to adapt and adjust to the new environment and routine!
  • Lack of familiar faces: We live so far away from our family and friends that we could feel overwhelmed just missing them. Our brains need time to detach from your past support system and build a new one at the same time
  • Difficulty making new friends: It can be challenging to make new friends in a new city, especially if the person is introverted or has a demanding work schedule.
  • Language barriers: Moving to a new city where the language is different from what someone is used to can be overwhelming, making it challenging to build relationships.
  • Cultural differences: Different cultures have unique social norms, and navigating these can be difficult for someone new to the city.

Understanding loneliness: 

We all know what loneliness is and how loneliness feels! It is a void inside of us, a sense of emptiness and isolation that leaves us craving for connection with others. 

But how does loneliness affect us? What impact does it have on our physical and mental health?

Types of loneliness: 

Explore the different types of loneliness, such as social, emotional, and cultural loneliness. Keywords: social loneliness, emotional loneliness, cultural loneliness.

  • Situational loneliness: This type of loneliness is caused by a particular situation or event, such as a breakup, relocation, or job loss. It is usually temporary and can be resolved once the situation changes.
  • Developmental loneliness: This type of loneliness is associated with certain life stages or transitions, such as adolescence, retirement, or becoming a parent. It may arise due to changes in social roles and relationships.
  • Internal loneliness: This type of loneliness is caused by internal factors, such as low self-esteem, negative thinking patterns, or social anxiety. It may be difficult to address as it is rooted in an individual’s thoughts and feelings.
  • Relational loneliness: This type of loneliness is caused by a lack of close or meaningful relationships, such as friendships or romantic partnerships. It may arise due to social isolation, difficulty forming connections, or a lack of opportunities for social interaction.
  • Collective loneliness: This type of loneliness is associated with feeling disconnected from a larger social group, such as a community or society. It may arise due to feelings of marginalization or lack of shared values and experiences.
  • Existential loneliness: This type of loneliness is related to a sense of existential isolation or disconnection from the larger universe or purpose. It may arise due to philosophical or spiritual concerns about the meaning of life.

Effects of Loneliness:

Physical health:

  • Increased risk of heart disease: According to a meta-analysis of 23 studies involving more than 180,000 participants, loneliness was found to be associated with a 29% increased risk of developing coronary heart disease (Holt-Lunstad, 2015).
  • Weakened immune system: Chronic loneliness has been linked to weaker immune function, which can increase the risk of infections and chronic diseases. According to a study by Kiecolt-Glaser et al. (2015), loneliness can affect the immune system in ways that increase inflammation and decrease the production of natural killer cells, which are important for fighting cancer and viral infections.
  • Higher blood pressure: Loneliness has been associated with higher blood pressure, which can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. A study by Hawkley et al. (2010) found that loneliness was associated with higher systolic blood pressure among older adults.
  • Poorer sleep quality: Loneliness has been linked to poorer sleep quality, which can lead to a range of health problems, including increased risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. According to a study by Cacioppo et al. (2002), loneliness was associated with lower sleep efficiency, longer sleep onset latency
  • Increased risk of obesity: Lonely individuals are more likely to be overweight or obese than those who are socially connected. One study found that loneliness was associated with a 40% increased risk of obesity. (Hawkley et al., 2010)
  • High blood pressure: Loneliness has been linked to higher blood pressure levels, which can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. One study found that lonely individuals had systolic blood pressure levels that were 14.4 mmHg higher on average than those who were not lonely. (Hawkley et al., 2010)
  • Decreased lifespan: Loneliness has been linked to a higher risk of mortality. A meta-analysis of 148 studies found that loneliness was associated with a 26% increased risk of death. (Holt-Lunstad et al., 2015)

Mental Health:

  • Increased risk of depression: Loneliness has been linked to an increased risk of depression. One study found that loneliness was associated with a 26% increased risk of developing depression. (Cacioppo et al., 2010)
  • Higher levels of anxiety: Lonely individuals may experience higher levels of anxiety and stress, which can have negative effects on mental health. One study found that lonely individuals had higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol than those who were not lonely. (Adam et al., 2006)
  • Decreased cognitive functioning: Loneliness has been linked to decreased cognitive functioning, including impaired memory and concentration. One study found that lonely individuals had a 20% increased risk of cognitive decline. (Wilson et al., 2007)
  • Higher risk of substance abuse: Lonely individuals may be more likely to engage in substance abuse as a way to cope with their feelings of isolation and loneliness. One study found that lonely individuals were more likely to smoke, drink, and use drugs. (Russell et al., 2012)
  • Increased risk of suicide: Loneliness has been linked to an increased risk of suicide. One study found that loneliness was a significant predictor of suicidal ideation and behavior. (Cacioppo et al., 2010)
  • Decreased overall well-being: Loneliness can have a negative impact on overall well-being and life satisfaction. One study found that loneliness was associated with lower levels of happiness, life satisfaction, and subjective well-being. (Dykstra & Fokkema, 2007)

So it is clear that being lonely is not good for us mentally and physically. As someone who has experienced these effects first hand, I strongly urge you to follow some of the strategies to build a support system and be mentally healthier.

Trust me, mental health disorders can skew your perception of the amazing life we’re given and pushes us deep into darkness which can be really hard to recover from.

Strategies for building a support system:

I have read numerous blogs and watched endless videos about overcoming loneliness. Information gathering and having the knowledge of how to escape something is not going to help anyone. 

Only action helps!

One can find a million methods online to build a support system but unless you act on it immediately, it will not help. Depending on what mental state you are in and how affected you are, different strategies need to be used to address your situation.

  1. Self Awareness: One needs to be aware of their desires, fears and interests in order to build a community of like minded people who we can connect with. Meaningless friendships may not really help with our situation.
  2. Join social groups or clubs: Joining social groups or clubs based on personal interests or hobbies can provide opportunities to meet new people and connect with others who share similar interests.
  3. Volunteer: Volunteering can be a great way to meet new people and engage in meaningful activities that benefit others. It can also provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
  4. Attend community events: Attending community events, such as festivals or concerts, can provide opportunities to meet new people and connect with others in a relaxed and social setting.
  5. Practice self-care: Taking care of oneself is important for overall well-being and can help individuals feel more confident and positive about themselves. Engaging in activities that promote self-care, such as exercise, meditation, or creative pursuits, can improve mental health and provide a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
  6. Use technology to connect: Technology can provide opportunities to connect with others, even when face-to-face interaction is not possible. Using social media, video calls, or online forums can help individuals maintain social connections and reduce feelings of isolation.
  7. Reach out to others: Reaching out to friends or family members and sharing feelings of loneliness can be helpful. It can also provide opportunities to strengthen relationships and build social connections.

Online resources: 

There are numerous online resources to help people build a community of like minded people to help deal with loneliness.

  1. Meetup: Meetup is an online platform that helps individuals connect with others who share similar interests and hobbies. Users can join groups and attend events in their local area, providing opportunities to meet new people and build social connections.
  2. Bumble BFF: Bumble BFF is a feature on the dating app Bumble that allows individuals to find friends and build social connections. Users can swipe through potential friends and message those they are interested in meeting.
  3. Quarantine Buddy: Quarantine Buddy is a website that pairs individuals with a quarantine buddy for social support during the COVID-19 pandemic. Users can connect with others based on shared interests and engage in virtual activities together.
  4. 7 Cups: 7 Cups is an online therapy and counseling service that provides support and guidance for a range of mental health concerns. Users can connect with trained listeners and licensed therapists for confidential and non-judgmental support.
  5. Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA): The DBSA is a nonprofit organization that provides education, support, and advocacy for individuals living with depression and bipolar disorder. The organization offers in-person and online support groups, educational resources, and a helpline for those in need.
  6. TalkLife: TalkLife is an online community that provides support for individuals struggling with mental health issues, including loneliness. Users can connect with others for peer support and share their own experiences in a safe and supportive environment.

Seeking professional help: 

If loneliness is causing significant distress or impacting daily life, seeking the help of a mental health professional can be beneficial. A therapist can help individuals develop coping strategies, improve communication skills, and address underlying mental health issues.

FAQ:

What is loneliness?

Loneliness is the feeling of being alone or isolated from others. It can be caused by a lack of social connections, the absence of meaningful relationships, or feeling disconnected from others.

What causes loneliness?

Loneliness can be caused by a variety of factors, including social isolation, major life changes such as a move or job loss, lack of social skills or confidence, mental health issues, and physical health problems.

Is loneliness a mental health issue?

While loneliness is not considered a mental health disorder in itself, it can be a symptom of underlying mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, or social anxiety disorder.

Can loneliness be harmful to health?

Yes, loneliness can have negative effects on physical and mental health. It has been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, depression, anxiety, and other health problems.

What are some strategies for coping with loneliness?

Strategies for coping with loneliness include building social connections, seeking professional help if needed, practicing self-care, and using technology to connect with others.

What are the different types of loneliness?

The different types of loneliness include situational loneliness, developmental loneliness, internal loneliness, and social loneliness.

How can I help a friend who is lonely?

You can help a friend who is lonely by reaching out and spending time with them, encouraging them to join social groups or activities, and offering support and empathy. You can also suggest they seek professional help if needed.

AUTHOR SECTION

Sai Subramaniam The digital Hope

Written by Sai Subramaniam

Sai has over 5 years of experience writing about mental health and productivity. He shares his thoughts about love, life, and business in this blog. His goal is to help people become the best version of themselves and is guided by experts in the psychology and mental health field to help educate everyone about lifestyle and productivity

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *