I'm a Lonely Millennial, but aren't we all?
Words: Izzy Stokes @isabellarosemari
I feel lonely quite often. But recently I have realised how physically alone I am right now. It’s quite painful actually. I have to keep reminding myself that I am lonely for important reasons right now, and that no one ever grows by staying the same, but I still wish I didn’t feel like this. I think the saddest thing is that I am not alone in this feeling, as 86% of millennials reported feelings of loneliness and depression in a recent study.
I think loneliness is more common than people think. At my age (18-21) your friends move away for university, or get involved in serious relationships, and your tight-knit bonds start to unravel as you pass through the years. I find losing these friendships the most painful, as there is never any closure, just emptiness.
Then you have those friendships that end in an explosive row, where you go from seeing someone everyday, to awkwardly avoiding eye contact with them at your local wetherspoons on a Friday night. Point being, there are 1001 ways for a friendship to end, but what really sucks is what the hell do you do after losing that special someone?
That’s the real challenge, because you will always have those fond memories of said person, but it’s coping with the never-ending ‘chilled’ Saturday nights, or having no after work plans, it’s the constant singular shadow and silence that follows you, eating you alive and you turn over in bed at night, trying to sleep while realising, ‘wow I haven’t had a proper conversation with another human being all day.’
After suffering with these feelings for a few months, I decided that I needed to embrace these feelings, so that I can actively work on feeling happier, with or without people surrounding me. So I have tested and compiled some ideas for battling loneliness, for all you people that are suffering in silence about this. (These also work when you’re going through a breakup, FYI.)
I focused on having an intentional morning routine that would give me a affirmative and positive headspace, as a bad morning can really throw you off guard and create a place for negative feelings and thoughts to flow. Lately, I have created a solid morning and evening routine which distracts me from the fact I woke up alone and I am sleeping alone (haha.) So in the morning, I shower straight away and then practise 10-15 minutes of yoga, I will then write out my intentions for the day and then have a coffee and food or whatever. Then I usually have to face the trauma of a daily commute through London, so I will always have my headphones on hand with me as I like to use this time to embrace being alone, and to let my thoughts wander, this also helps me in my creative work, as I start to plan ideas for future projects at this point.
Evenings can be a rough time for us all, especially if you’re coming back to an empty home, with no plans or any missed calls. This is where self care can really thrive in a (busy) daily routine, as you can harness this time and use it to nourish your body and mind. I like to start my evenings by getting straight out of my work clothes and putting something comforting on. I think taking the time to cook yourself something filling and healthy is extremely important and if possible you should try and do this regularly as it will build on your confidence too. After eating and prepping for the next day to avoid extra morning stress I will sit and do a piece of artwork (can be anything) while watching a movie or listening to a record. Really good distraction and time killer if you’re just waiting for an acceptable time to sleep.
I think it is so very easy to become stuck on the things in life that are upsetting you at the time, which is why I started filling in a gratitude journal, because I needed to remind myself that your life doesn’t end because you haven’t had a night out in a while, and that in fact, you have plenty of things to be happy and grateful for. *I highly recommend doing this regardless of how you’re feeling*. I think the continued practice of gratitude and mindfulness can shift your perspective on life in such an indescribable way. You can’t see the sky when you’re too busy being a shoe gazer, and this is something I still struggle with on a daily basis. So it is definitely not a quick fix to feeling empty or lonely, but instead it is a lifelong investment in to your personal development.
I found connecting with new people who share my interests online very cathartic, as I was able to chat about mutual interests or opinions with them, without the pressure of being in a social situation, where sometimes it feels like you can’t talk about your passions because it’s “boring” for others. Instagram is great for finding pals that like what you like. If you’re not on Instagram, try Facebook groups; there are so many groups for young creatives. I love “art babes” and “mental health talk”.
Now, going slightly back on my point,
Re-connecting with old friends can honestly make you realise that you aren’t actually going to rot alone in your bedroom. Just remember to make time to call them instead of just texting. Sometimes we don’t realise that we are also responsible for our own loneliness, and that we can push people away or neglect them without fully realising. If you miss a certain person, just call them, I’m sure they feel the same. I genuinely had this situation recently and I felt so ridiculous as I had been so self -pitying, when in reality I had been doing nothing to relieve my situation, such as making effort with the friends I already had.
Another thing that has very recently helped me in my search for social comfort is the fact that I now have a job. Now, I have had some terrible jobs, which isolated me even more as I didn’t bond with anyone on the job, mainly due to differences in age and interests. So for this my advice would definitely be to find a job that has a social life with it. If you can, try and work somewhere with other people your age, pubs are great for this. If pubs aren’t your thing, retail is great for socialising too. *Bonus points as you’ll have money to do whatever you like with, and less alone time!* I also appreciate that having a job gives me a reason to get up earlier in the mornings, and also pushes me to leave my house and walk, which is generally good mental wellbeing too. Speaking of exercise, If you can muster the strength to do it, go to your local gym, and yes, actually work out. This is not everyone’s cup of tea, but you can’t deny that the pure endorphins give you instant smiley face syndrome. But hey, if the gym isn’t for you, try running in a local park, or following a yoga video from the comfort of your own humble abode.
Of course, sometimes these things will not completely solve the problem. Loneliness is an incredibly layered issue, and there may be reasons behind your feelings that you do not understand, or aren’t ready to deal with alone. This is the point that I would suggest you go to your local GP, and request an online self-help course of therapy, or some sessions of CBT. There is no shame in working towards being a healthier and happier you, and luckily attitudes towards mental health are slowly improving.
Remember to be your own best friend!!
Samaritans: 116 123
MIND: 0300 123 3393