sadness because one has no friends or company.
"feelings of depression and loneliness"
synonyms:isolation, friendlessness, lack of friends/companions, forsakenness, abandonment, rejection;
(of a place) the quality of being unfrequented and remote; isolation.
"the loneliness of the farm"
10% of Britain's regularly feel lonely.
For some loneliness can be a call to action. It can be the call to go out and do some socialising with a friend you haven't caught up with for years. It can be a driver of positive change in your life.
For others it can be crippling.
For many of us the image of loneliness is someone single, often widowed, very old and it's one of the saddest images I can possiblly muster of an old lady, who, unable to get out of the house due to whatever issue spends weeks on end without seeing people.
This is absolutely heartbreaking.
Luckily this issue of loneliness in older ages seems to be being talked about more just as mental illness in young people both male and female is becoming okay to talk about in person, in online forums and in everyday life.
But what about loneliness in young people?
What about loneliness in:
Single young people?
Stay-at-home mums or dad's who stay in all day and only have their 4 year old child as company all the time?
Care-workers who only spend time with people who they can't communicate with in a what they'd usually communicate with their friends?
And countless other populations I'm too stupid to remember?
I have spoken in front of and performed in front of large crowds as a Personal Trainer, Bodybuilder and Powerlifter. All of which was moderately stressful. But how would that compare to telling someone I am close to I felt lonely?
It's not even close!
I am in the extremely lucky position where I work around friends, I have great clients, a wonderful partner I get to work with, two wonderful (at times) step-children who are healthy, an extremely supportive family and a great gym to work out of, I pay the bills on time every month (when I'm not trying to go to every single really expensive metal gig I can) and I never have to starve beyond the times when I'm choosing to diet.
I am very rarely in a position to be lonely.
But if I was I'd find it incredibly hard to talk to someone about it until very recently. I didn't even realize I should have been speaking about it until the other day!
I have been lonely in the past and it was one the saddest parts of my life.
I'd split up with my girlfriend of 18 months, this isn't a long time by any means but it was my longest relationship up to that point.. We weren't a good fit and that was the best decision I ever made but I was in the house alone all of a sudden. I was deep into a bodybuilding prep where I was trying to "eat clean."
I look back and shudder when I think about the dietary approach but it was what it was.
Because of this I didn't have any control when eating out or in the pub (or in the house alone now I think about it) and I'd get crazy guilt feelings if i deviated from my diet at all.
So I told my friends I was prepping for a bodybuilding show so they kindly stopped inviting me out to events knowing that I couldn't cope with them.
I can't remember what days off I had in those days but I came to dread them. The endless hours of playing xbox while starving and obsessing about food (how awful right!?)
The finding of excuses to go and work at the gym so I was having no time off to recover. The longing to just spend time with people I enjoyed speaking with.
Did I contact ANYONE and tell them I was struggling?
Of course not.
Like an ostrich I buried my head in the sand.
I DIDN'T WANT TO SEEM WEAK.
So me, a natural people pleaser and attention seeker who has seemingly genetic low self-esteem and constantly needs the approval of at least one other person (my mum and grandma don't count as I could murder 17 people and they'd still be proud of me in some way) was stuck in the house not reaching out to anyone and feeling incredibly lonely.
No wonder that bodybuilding prep was one of the most mentally challenging parts of my life.
I still had a wonderful job and still got to spend time around great people but when I was alone on those days off I find it hard to find the exact words to describe just how lonely I felt.
I wanted to give it all up.
I wanted to spend time with friends and peers.
I wanted a partner who loved me.
I was lonely and couldn't reach out to anyone.
This time for me has passed and I'm even in a position where I can consider doing a bodybuilding prep again and have no worries about whether I'll feel like that because I won't but that insight into loneliness showed me the very personal suffering that must be happening across the world.
The personal nuances and details can't be expressed in studies or in writing. But I'm sure many readers will have experienced similar feelings at the death of a loved one or when a dear friend moves away or when your great love leaves you for the milkman.
IT FUCKING SUCKS AND PEOPLE FIND IT HARD TO TALK ABOUT.
Should they shut up and stop being so soft?
That kind of thinking doesn't deal with the problem and alienates people further.
Because you talk about loneliness doesn't make you weak, it makes you able to reach out and deal with a problem quickly so it can easily be dealt with in future.
Having a coping strategy isn't weak it is being prepared.
How does this relate to the gym?
Not only does training at a gym get you out of the house that can feel like a prison but you are going there to spend time away from work or family or whatever is making you feel lonely.
You actually see other people all working on similar goals or problems.
You get to work on yourself.
You get to feel good.
And because of human contact (whether you actually speak to people or not,) the gym can be a great way to take any feelings of loneliness away and you'll probably feel better for training.
This is why I think everyone should engage in some kind of gym based training 2-4 times a week with that number being higher or lower depending on your needs, desires and life/lifestyle.
Is it okay that your only goal in the gym is maintaining mental health?
Studies have shown that exercising regularly actually reduces the risk of GETTING depression as well as treating it.
Getting to the gym to do whatever, competing in something, training with a coach for an hour every week, or 3 times a week or just training by yourself.
It all helps!
Interacting with an online coach each week
Getting some Facetime with someone other than your 6 month old a couple of times a month.
It all helps!
And are all strategies to deal with loneliness.
Feelings of loneliness aren't something that will be alien to you. To use it as a call to action rather than the opposite (because loneliness counter-intuitively makes people retreat within themselves even more) takes being incredibly proactive.
Having a regular time you train can be one of the things that is both preventative and curative at the same time.
So if you do feel lonely:
Get a coach
Have a gym you regularly attend no matter what age or experience you have in the gym
Use loneliness as a call to action if you can
Help other people who feel lonely
Be okay talking about being lonely!
Let's end the stigma of talking about this stuff due to feeling weak.
Feeling lonely doesn't mean you are a delicate flower. Feelings of loneliness are perhaps one of the most human things that it is possible to experience.
And exercise and training can help you deal with it.
This, to me, was a huge realization.
Together, through training well, we can make the world a better place for ourselves and those around us and by doing that we can literally change the world one step at a time.
Chris is a Personal Trainer, Strength Coach, Writer and man of small stature and reader of The Discworld Series with a decade in the industry. He trains everyone from beginners to high level athletes. His favourite clients are people getting into the gym for the first time because they can make the biggest changes in their life.
You can reach me through the email address Chris@kershawstrength.com
My Instagram is Chris_Kershaw_Strength
Thank you for reading!