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What is loneliness? It is not about being on your own. Many people enjoy being on their own and would choose this for themselves for at lest part of the time. They enjoy having their own space. They do not feel the need to have other people around all of the time to validate them or make them feel more comfortable. If someone experiences feelings of loneliness; it is usually not influenced solely by where they are or whether other people are around. It is possible to be in a room full of people and still feel very much alone. You can be part of a social gathering and feel lonely as you are on the periphery and not fully involved with what is going on.

This suggests that loneliness is a state of mind. It is tied up with how you feel about yourself. When we have a low self esteem, we have a choice about whether to change this or not. The prospect of change can be daunting. The challenge of embracing this is however very worthwhile, with rewards not only in terms of how you feel about yourself but also in the quality of your life. The first task in changing our self esteem is to alter the way in which we view ourselves.

1. Instead of bombarding ourselves with an onslaught of negative comments, try to focus on the more positive aspects about yourself. This could include, physical, practical, personal, emotional, attributes or things you are good at, personal achievements.

2. Try asking members of your family, colleagues, friends, how they would describe you. This may reveal a number of positive statements about you which are surprising and/or uplifting. (Note of caution, choose wisely!)

3. Write down positive affirmations about yourself.

4. Pay more attention to your thoughts and feelings. when you are aware of these being critical, try challenging them or using thought stopping techniques.

5. Practice seeing yourself in particular situations when you feel confident and good about who you are and the circumstances you are in. you are feeling comfortable. Feedback from others is positive. People are paying attention to you. You are maintaining good eye contact. Feed as much information into this exercise as possible. Pay attention to your body language and how you converse. Make sure you choose clothes to make the most of your physical attributes and feel confident in them. Do you feel better wearing make up and perfume? (A question for the girls!) Remember how it feels to have a stronger sense of self worth, to get positive feedback from others and from your own reaction.

6. You can proceed to use the lessons learnt from this exercise to go into the situation for real. You can enter it from a more confident and less threatened stance.

7. Try not to leave a situation because of feelings of discomfort or anxiety. This will only increase your fear of a situation at a higher level and give yourself negative feedback. This can be difficult to do. It may be helpful to remember that if you suffer from any symptoms of anxiety these are only an exaggerated form of how we all feel from time to time.They cause discomfort but are not life threatening. Placed in a difficult situation, your symptoms any increase but it will reach a peak and come down again. Try not to be afraid of this feeling and run away from the situation. If you need to, use breathing exercises to take control of the situation. If you manage your situation effectively in this way, you will get positive feedback from the experience resulting in you being less fearful in the future. Alternatively, plan ahead. Think of what would make you feel more comfortable by rehearsing the situation in your head.This may alert you to any possible difficulties. It is then your task to generate ways of overcoming these difficulties. It can be useful to decide beforehand that you are only going to stay somewhere for an hour. Giving yourself a time limit may make it easier for you to relax and stay in a situation. Even if you are enjoying yourself, it still makes sense to leave at the time you promised yourself and when things are going well. This will ensure you achieve positive feedback.

8. Remember how you felt when you last heard a friend say something positive about you or when they did something which made you feel appreciated and liked. Spend less time concentrating on negative thoughts about you. Instead be more focussed on others. Do or say things to others which will make them feel good. You will in turn get positive feedback from this boosting your self esteem. Try bringing in your neighbor's wheelie bin, buying someone flowers, pay someone a compliment, invite someone to lunch, simply say thank you more often!

9. Put more fun into your life, e.g., share a joke. Try recalling something which has made you laugh heartily. Watch a good comedy. Get out some old photographs. It is even better if you can share the experience with a friend. Share the laughter!

10. Get involved in some type of activity which will raise your confidence. People often resist the suggestion to attend a confidence building class. There is a place for them but it is perhaps not the best or the healthiest option, to put people together with others who have the same difficulty. Instead, try one of the following:

Join a drama, music, art, singing or art class, take up a contact sport, challenge yourself by commencing, rock climbing, canoeing, diving, etc.

You will benefit from having set yourself a goal or challenge and by the opportunity to express yourself in a different way. You will definitely have something new and interesting to talk about.

If you have a family, you may choose an activity which you can do together such as cycling.dance has the added benefit of being good fun and brings you into contact with other people. Skipping can help increase bone density so is great for all of us over 40. Beware you are more likely to do this on your own. You could however go for a really nice walk somewhere and have your ropes in your pocket.

If you find it difficult to fit exercise into your day: Try walking instead of using transport. If you must drive, park a little way from your place of work. If you take a bus, get off a few stops from where you need to. Use stairs not the lift. If you have a sedentary job, make a point of getting out of your chair regularly and take a walk in the building. Have a brisk twenty minute walk at lunch time. Try to get others roped in too!

This will offer opportunity to make a new group of friends.You will have a new shared interest and a sense of camaraderie. You may need to trust and be trusted by others.You will have the opportunity to give and receive positive feedback and have fun!

11. Exercise is useful in enhancing self esteem and will also benefit you by lowering your state of arousal. This means that more stress will be required for you to be affected by it. Increased muscle tone can help you feel more confident with how you look. Pick an exercise to meet your specific needs.

12. Stop comparing yourself with others. You will only come out of this disfavorably.

13. Stop judging others. More importantly -- Stop judging yourself!
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