From the moment we start watching American teen films, we’re told this has to be the best season of our lives.
That means endless trips and days out with friends, travel, people to party with, being out in the sun, and a break from the stresses of life – all in the company of others.
With all the expectation – coupled with our performative actions on Instagram – summer can be a let down and it can be lonely.
Search for ‘summertime loneliness’ on TikTok and you’ll see a plethora of videos, mostly from Gen Z, sharing how lonely they feel when the weather warms up.
Loneliness can hit at any age and time, but it’s easy to forget how isolating those formative years can be when social media is full of images of friends at festivals and road trips, creating the idea that everyone else has life figured out, and foundational relationships sorted.
It’s a sad and bleak collection of videos, but a thread of comfort can be found in this raw and honest phenomena: it’s an incredibly common experience.
worst feeling #secretaccount #summer #lonley #foryou #fyp #relatable #mentalhealth #mentalhealthmatters
Dr Rina Bajaj says: ‘Humans are social beings and we thrive on connecting with others.
‘A large part of the way that we connect now is via technology. Through the perception of our social media feeds, it can become easier for us to compare ourselves and our lives to other people and their lives.
‘We can also feel the pressure to live up to the expectations of what we feel we “should” be doing or experience FOMO.’
The result of this is sadness and emotional lowness. It can escalate quickly, too.
Rina continues: ‘We can have negative thoughts associated with this, such as: “no one cares about me”, or, “everyone else’s life is better than mine.”
‘In this case, it’s important to remember that people do usually present the best versions of themselves and their lives online and just because you may not be as social, this doesn’t mean that you or your life is any less than other people’s.’
It’s important to accept that at some stages of our lives we will encounter loneliness – even the people who look like they’re always out having fun will experience it.
Rina says: ‘No emotions are good or bad – they all tell us something about how we are feeling, thinking and behaving. Feeling lonely at times is completely normal.
‘The way that loneliness feels to us will be subjective, so it is important for you to recognise your own signs that you may be feeling lonely, which will give you the opportunity to proactively address it as soon as you can.
‘As counter intuitive as it may seem, rather than avoiding the feeling, it can be useful to sit with and reflect on the feeling of loneliness.’
She says being present with your emotions helps to validate them and helps you to reconnect with yourself.
‘You can then find a safe way to express this feeling such as journaling, art, or talking to someone,’ Rina explains.
‘Remind yourself the this feeling is OK and that the intensity of this feeling will reduce, then you might want to distract yourself in that moment through engaging in healthier coping behaviours, such as listening to music or going out into nature. This will help to shift your mood.’
How to combat loneliness
These feelings can intensify in the summer because people tend to be more social and outdoorsy at this time of year, so any feelings of aloneness are confronted more directly.
This can even result in dread leading up to sunnier days, particularly for those in school (which some of Gen Z will be), as they’ll soon have lots of free time with potentially less to do.
Although, even a empty weekend at the end of the working week can be enough to trigger this emotion.
Remembering why I don’t like summer now #pain #lonely #idontwannadothisnomore
Rina says cultivating an attitude of gratitude is important and there are practical ways to boost this during challenging times.
‘When we feel lonely, it’s easy for our perspective to get skewed and for us to focus on what’s not going well or where we feel we are lacking,’ she says.
‘In this way, we can end up discounting the positive and this can spiral us down into more loneliness and low mood. So take time to focus on the following question: what are three good things in your life?
‘You can also visualise a happy place to boost your mood.
‘The interesting thing about visualisation is that our brain cannot tell the difference between what we imagine and what’s happening in the now.
‘Close your eyes and imagine a place or a time where you felt happy. Really feel the emotion in your body and tune in with all of your senses.
‘Open your eyes when you feel happier, emotionally safer and more relaxed.’
Building yourself up
Loneliness is can be a trigger point for self-criticism too, so Rina advises you practice self-compassion alongside this.
For example, write a list of positive things about you and all of your qualities. This can be useful to look back on when you may be feeling less confident or lonely.
Rina adds: ‘Limit social comparisons and increase your positive self talk.
‘This can include having positive statements about yourself and affirmations, such as: “I am good enough”.’
Get practical too by building in more activities you enjoy that create meaning and purpose – even if that means going outside of your comfort zone.
If you join a club or sport you’ll enjoy, not only will that bolster your sense of self, it’ll expose your social remit to a wider range people that you might click with.
Rina says: ‘Work on building a safe social support network.
‘Who do you feel safe and comfortable around? Who could you speak to about how you feel?
‘You can even think about therapy or online support groups as a neutral space to explore some of your feelings and thoughts. Focus on the quality of your relationships rather than the quantity.’
Nourishing and investing in yourself is one route to feeling more connected to others.
How can you boost serotonin?
Focus on the things that are more in your control. This can include:
- Exercise and focusing on your nutrition, particularly with foods that have tryptophan in them (eggs, cheese, chicken etc)
- Add in self-care related activities, whether this is a massage, meditation or reading a book.
- Limiting your social media intake.
- Spend some time in natural sunlight, which could include going out for a walk. You may also want to explore supplements, such as vitamin D.
Need support? Contact the Samaritans
For emotional support you can call the Samaritans 24-hour helpline on 116 123, email [email protected], visit a Samaritans branch in person or go to the Samaritans website.
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