What is Loneliness?
Loneliness can be thought of as "a subjective, unwelcome feeling of lack or loss of companionship." It is about developing and maintaining meaningful connections with others. Richard Bach writes, "The opposite of loneliness is not togetherness, it's intimacy." In other words, loneliness is a communal problem - so, what can we do about it?
What Can We Do About Loneliness?
Here are a few suggestions:
- Provide Volunteer Opportunities: Service lessens loneliness. Not only is there healing in serving a greater purpose, but helping others leads to belonging and to building relationships with like-minded people.
- Cultivate Spiritual Practices: Focusing on spiritual needs helps people to put their loneliness in perspective, as well as giving them tools to deal with its painful feelings.
- Give Hope: People in the depths of loneliness often despair that they will never leave that place. Let them know that they are loved, by the community and by God, and that their negative feelings are temporary.
Loneliness is not something we can eliminate overnight, so perhaps we also need a fresh take on it: "A lonely day is God's way of saying that he wants to spend some quality time with you." Developing and maintaining a close connection to God is key. In fact, it just might be the balm that people need to heal their loneliness.
Michelle Robichaud is a Master of Divinity student at the Atlantic School of Theology and a candidate for ordination with the United Church of Canada. As part of her degree, she is conducting a qualitative research study on the effects of loneliness on the spiritual lives of rural young adults. This article includes some of her preliminary findings.
 Statistics Canada, "Loneliness in Canada," accessed October 5, 2022, https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-627-m/11-627-m2021090-eng.htm.
 Statistics Canada, "Loneliness by Gender and Other Selected Sociodemographic Characteristics: Q1 2022," accessed September 30, 2022, https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/t1/tbl1/en/tv.action?pid=4510004901.
 Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, "A Connected Society: A Strategy for Tackling Loneliness – Laying the Foundations for Change," UK Government pdf (October 2018): 18-19. "Research shows that loneliness is associated with a greater risk of inactivity, smoking and risk-taking behaviour; increased risk of coronary heart disease and stroke; an increased risk of depression, low self-esteem, reported sleep problems and increased stress response; and with cognitive decline and an increased risk of Alzheimer's...It can increase social anxiety."
 Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, "A Connected Society," 18.
 Richard Bach, Goodreads, accessed January 11, 2023, https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/loneliness?page=7.
 Criss Jami, Goodreads, accessed January 11, 2023, https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/loneliness?page=7.