Loneliness isn’t a stranger to the agricultural industry.
The regular lone-working environment sets the perfect stage for loneliness to manifest. But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are steps that can be taken to ease these emotions.
What does loneliness mean? Generally, this is where our desire for social contact, virtually or physically, isn’t met.
However, you don’t have to be physically alone to feel lonely. You could also be surrounded by crowds of people and still feel lonely. It is very much a personal experience, everybody has a different standard. And that’s okay.
Over nine million people in the UK, across all adult ages, are either always or often lonely, according to a study by The Co-op and the British Red Cross.
More than ever, greater action needs to be taken to combat loneliness. So let’s get started…
1. Talk about it
Talking about how you feel can be difficult but it opens up many doors. As well as providing a platform to explore your own emotions; talking brings awareness to those around you, so they can offer support too.
Female farmers are said to make up 8% of the world's population with 11% being men. As a predominantly male-dominated industry, it’s even more concerning to learn that women statistically report feelings of loneliness more than men, according to the Office for National Statistics.
2. Understand your routine
Loneliness can often occur when your routine is disrupted, be it a pandemic or a vet cancellation, these things happen. At this stage, it’s vital to tell yourself you now have a new routine or plan and focus on that instead of what should or would be happening.
3. Practice positivity
I know what you’re thinking, “it’s not that easy” and we know that. But that’s why we say practice. Whilst it’s important to talk about your feelings, it’s equally important not to be consumed by them.
When you catch yourself digging deeper into the hole of negativity and upset, tell your mind to STOP. Realign your perspective and battle your negative thoughts by reminding yourself of what you’re grateful for. Taking the time to note down three positive things that happened during your day is a brilliant way to challenge your perception of a ‘bad’ day.
4. Listen to a podcast
Podcasts are an excellent way to get your conversational fix. Sports, comedy, agriculture, daily life - you can find most genres on a Podcast. You could even take it one step further and ask to be part of a Podcast you enjoy. We’re always looking for farmers to join ours!
5. Do some exercise
Fear not, we aren’t expecting anyone to come out with their own home work out series. And we know most farmers are on their feet all day.
But it’s important to know a little exercise, away from the farm, can go a long way. It’s a great way to boost serotonin and therefore mitigate negative emotions.
The BBC revealed: “A total of 1.2 million people reported their activity levels for a month and rated their mental wellbeing.
“People who exercised had 1.5 fewer ‘bad days’ a month than non-exercisers”.
Whether it’s an intense HIIT work out, a cycle, walk or run, investing in your physical health will better your mental health for the better too.
6. Be kind
Whilst feeling lonely is a personal emotion, an act of kindness can make you feel more connected than ever. A smile in the street, a thoughtful message, or an unexpected gift can simultaneously make someone else’s and your own day.
7. Find new ways to connect
The likes of Zoom, FaceTime and Messenger video chat are sweeping the nation with wholesome quiz nights and catch-ups. If you catch yourself in a moment where you’re feeling isolated, pick up the phone and call a friend or family member. And if that’s not possible, the Farming Community Network offers a helpline open daily 7am – 11pm or similarly, contact a Samaritan. A five-minute chat could be exactly what you wanted, without even knowing it.
8. Create a ‘happy’ playlist
There are few people that won’t shimmy their shoulders to the opening beat of Dancing in The Moonlight. Whether you’re tending to your livestock or you’re relaxing in the evening, creating a collection of songs that makes you feel genuinely happy is more than worth it. You could be dancing, singing or even taking yourself back to a happy memory - a happy playlist is a perfect obstacle to any feeling of sadness.
9. Try something new
Quite simply, doing nothing with no one can reinforce feelings of loneliness. But when you’re getting lost in an activity, you’ll find yourself happily distracted. Whether it’s painting, knitting, singing, cooking or making a TikTok - trying something new is an excellent way to stimulate your brain and have some fun.
10. Read happy content
More often than not, the news isn’t the happiest place to be. And depending on who you follow on social media, it can be much of the same.
Making a special effort to switch off from the content that makes you feel anxious or unhappy is so important. And that doesn’t mean you have to avoid the internet altogether, it just means using it in a way that benefits you.
A social media cull may be in order, unfollow the people that inflict negativity and introduce those who are promoters of positivity. And be sure to search a little harder for that positive content.
There are platforms dedicated to the promotion of positive content such as The Good News Network, the Uplifting Stories section on the BBC; Positive News and The Happy Newspaper. We’re using the hashtag #MegaPositivity, to promote positive posts for the Twitter community too.
Over to you…
Studies suggest loneliness, living alone and poor social connections are as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Let’s put loneliness in the ashtray and invest in our mental health right now.
Remember, you’re not alone. You are enough. And we’re all in this together.
Help us to spread positivity by sharing your successes and messages of happiness straight to our Facebook and Twitter channels - and don’t forget to use our hashtag #MegaPositivity.