Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted…

Lone­li­ness and the feel­ing of being unwant­ed is the most ter­ri­ble pover­ty. – Moth­er Tere­sa

Human beings by nature are social crea­tures and there is a ben­e­fit in ‘run­ning with a pack’, as being part of a group increas­es safe­ty and resources. Some peo­ple are per­fect­ly hap­py in their soli­tude and for oth­ers, they can be sur­round­ed by hun­dreds of peo­ple and still feel ter­ri­bly and painful­ly alone. Some researchers sug­gest that the pain felt from lone­li­ness is designed to make you seek out oth­ers, to increase your well­be­ing and min­imise the risk of being iso­lat­ed.

Peo­ple who expe­ri­ence lone­li­ness describe a sense of empti­ness, worth­less­ness and lack con­nec­tion to oth­ers and lone­li­ness is a risk fac­tor for var­i­ous men­tal and phys­i­cal health prob­lems such as depres­sion, anx­i­ety, drug and alco­hol addic­tions, sui­ci­dal thoughts and behav­iours as well as obe­si­ty, com­pro­mised immu­ni­ty and vas­cu­lar con­di­tions.

We heard recent­ly from our Pres­i­dent Alis­tair Cook, how the impor­tance of feel­ing part of our Club and the sup­port received from our mem­bers has been invalu­able to him­self and his fam­i­ly as he bat­tles his diag­no­sis of can­cer.  Social move­ments such as Act, Belong, Com­mit, recog­nise that social net­works such as clubs and com­mu­ni­ty groups, can pro­vide valu­able oppor­tu­ni­ties to con­nect with oth­ers and build mean­ing­ful rela­tion­ships. Clubs pro­vide the oppor­tu­ni­ty to con­nect with oth­ers who share sim­i­lar inter­ests. They also pro­vide the oppor­tu­ni­ty to make a con­nec­tion at times when con­nec­tions get lost, such as peo­ple mov­ing away from fam­i­lies and fam­i­ly break­downs; when lives are chang­ing for exam­ple, when becom­ing a par­ent for the first time, or when loved ones become ill. For oth­ers, clubs pro­vide an oppor­tu­ni­ty to give back and share a life­time of knowl­edge and expe­ri­ences when work lives come to an end.

How­ev­er, often with­in clubs, sub-groups exist, that is groups of peo­ple who form mini-groups with­in a main group. Whilst it is human nature to mix with those who share sim­i­lar likes and val­ues, the sub-group often unin­ten­tion­al­ly makes it dif­fi­cult for new­com­ers to feel wel­come and ‘fit-in’.  We have all expe­ri­enced what it is like to turn up some­where where you know no-one, yet it appears every­one knows every­body else. How dif­fi­cult it can be to pluck up the courage to turn up hop­ing that some­one will wel­come you and say ‘hi’.  For some, it is far more dif­fi­cult to take this risk than for oth­ers, and the fear or expe­ri­ence of rejec­tion means that they will nev­er return again, mean­ing that the oppor­tu­ni­ty to build a new friend­ship is lost for all.

So, as our sum­mer activ­i­ties come to an end and new oppor­tu­ni­ties such as Phat Chix, evening swim­ming train­ing etc., com­mence, take time to wel­come new peo­ple into these groups.  Sim­ply by stop­ping to intro­duce your­self, wel­come some­one into the group and tak­ing those first steps to build a new rela­tion­ship, you may actu­al­ly be pos­i­tive­ly con­tribut­ing to chang­ing their phys­i­cal health and well­be­ing and the feel-good feel­ing that you will get, actu­al­ly increas­es your health too!

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