Levels of Loneliness Are Rising Globally – Here’s How Counselling Can Help

If levels of loneliness rise does it mean that the quality of our relationships fall?

As human beings, we’re not built to live alone.

Levels of loneliness are rising around the world and the increasing trend towards individualistic societies in which people live alone, is playing a major part. 

Sure, sometimes it’s fun to live alone; maybe you’re fed-up of living with your parents, sick of saying ‘hello’ to a new housemate every three months or maybe you’re focused on your career and want your own space. 

There are certainly many perks to living alone. You can do the dishes tomorrow, you have full control over the TV, you can walk around in your birthday suit…the possibilities are endless! But living by yourself can come at a price. 

Single-person households have become increasingly common in many countries across the world 

Within the UK, almost 30% of people live alone. In the case of men aged between 45 and 64 years old, this figure rises to 72.1%; that’s almost three out of every four men! 

Incidentally, depression rates have increased globally and the World Health Organization points to social isolation as a likely cause. 

It has signalled that smaller countries with stronger family ties and economies that rely more on farming than industry have lower depression rates.

Generally, cultures that emphasize collectivism as opposed to individualism have lower rates of depression

Living in communities not only benefits our mental health, but our overall wellbeing and quality of life too. In his quest to discover the key to longevity, National Geographic fellow and multiple New York Times bestseller, Dan Buettner discovered five places in the world where people live the longest, and healthiest lives.

The 5 places of longest and heaviest life

These are:

· Okinawa, Japan;

· Sardinia, Italy;

· Nicoya, Costa Rica;

· Ikaria, Greece, and

· Loma Linda, California.

He termed these areas ‘blue zones’.

Whilst there is no one-size-fits-all lifestyle or diet that guarantees a healthier, longer life, Dan did find nine specific lifestyle factors that permeated the lifestyles of individuals living in these ‘blue zones’, which, combined provide the key to longevity.

Amongst these factors are ‘Tribe’, ‘Belonging’, and ‘Putting Loved ones first’; living in close communities appears to be a key contributor to enhancing both the quality and the duration of the lives of the elderly people living in blue zones. 

Building strong and meaningful relationships is vital for our happiness, our wellbeing, and our general health. Here is an impressive example from a community of Japanese women, whose mental and physical health deserves recognition. 

The Amas of Japan 

In certain coastal towns of Japan, becoming an Ama is what all the young girls in the town aspire to become. It’s an admirable tradition that has been passed down from one generation to another. From the age of eighteen and into their eighties, these women free-dive in the Pacific Ocean, wearing nothing but a wet-suit, goggles, and passion. 

They dive twice a day, once in the morning, and once in the afternoon. During a four-hour session, they dive around two-hundred times in search of abalone and turban snails to sell in the market. 

Their endurance, their resilience and their attitude is unparalleled by most people in the western-world. They’re breathtakingly impressive! 

On a documentary with Sue Perkins on Channel 4, the Amas explained their secret for a happy life: community. The sense of companionship and support, they said, was what kept them going; it’s the thing that makes them happy, keeps them healthy and strong. They value the little things in life; gossiping with their friends, sharing a meal together, and simply being accompanied. 

Build and Cherish Your Relationships

For thousands of years, humans have travelled in tribes and built communities that could only thrive with the support of the entire group. The human species has come to dominate above all others thanks to our ability to coordinate large groups, form governments, nations, hierarchies that enabled us to coexist in huge ‘tribes’.

People helped raised each other, provide protection, companionship, emotional support, entertainment; because we realized — we’re stronger together.

However, in more recent years, we’ve begun to prioritise individual success in favour of collective survival. It is sometimes easy to perceive individuals who are ‘successful’ as those who live in an amazing apartment, work in a shiny corner office with views over the city, and glow an aura so beautiful that one can look but not touch. 

Nurturing your relationships

We might feel a sense of pressure to prove ourselves – to be successful, to be different, and to make our own mark on the world. But we’re all inherently unique – by definition; it’s in our DNA. We don’t need to distance ourselves from others to prove we’re individuals, or to prove that we’re successful.

Leone Centre Counselling – Relationship is Everything

Whilst the benefits of companionship might seem obvious, taking the time to actively and consciously nourish our relationships is something that many of us fail to make a priority.  

At Leone Centre, we provide a range of services, including high quality couples counselling, marriage counselling, and online relationship counselling.

But perhaps most importantly, we know that in order to bring the best version of yourself into any relationship, you also need to nurture the relationship that you have with yourself.

That’s why we also offer a range of services to help you do just that. Leone Centre therapists can work with you through different challenges from stress management to addiction therapy, managing your anxiety, bereavement, supporting you in your relationships, self-esteem and become the best version of ‘you’. 

To learn more about our approach and perspective, visit our blog, and get in touch to learn about our relationship counselling service in Fulham, London and online.

Sources

Office of National Statistics (UK)

Our World in Data

World Health Organization

Bluezones Website

The 9 Lifestyle factors (Bluezones Website)

Sue Perkins: Travels in Japan

The Problem with “But” – Reframing Relationship Conflict

Most of us have been there – arguing with a partner who we feel misrepresents our feelings or thoughts, or simply misunderstands us.  Our interlocutor is angry or hurt and is expressing those feelings, possibly at great volume.  We may even agree with what’s being said, to a greater or lesser extent.  However, if we could just interject one small point.

Figure 1: You can improve your arguments and manage your relationship conflict

“I get what you’re saying but…”

As soon as “but” is uttered it slams down a wall on communication.  What this innocent-looking preposition does is express, to the angry person “you’ve had your say, now listen to my opinion”.  The seeming motive in using such a word is to ignore the emotional import of what’s just been said in favour of a lawyerly clarification.  Even if what follows the “but” is an attempt to offer helpful advice, this may not be what is required.  Two types of conflict are inherent in the problematic use of this word.

Empathic Failure

When someone is complaining vociferously about a wrong done to them, even if you are the source of that wrong, they are primarily asking you to understand how they feel.  If this is someone with whom you share intimacy, then mere sympathy won’t be enough.  In such cases, real empathy is required if there is any hope of de-escalating the fight. 

            The Cambridge Dictionary defines empathy as “the ability to share someone else’s feelings or experiences by imagining what it would be like to be in that person’s situation”.  Note that “what it would be like to be” takes empathy far beyond the external understanding of a sympathetic response.  

Here at the Leone Centre, we acknowledge that empathy is hard work, particularly when one feels under attack and when every animal instinct tends towards fight or flight.  Empathy is also necessary, if you want to move away from merely adversarial argument towards any kind of mutual understanding.

            When “but” is uttered, you ringfence the empathic response you began with.  You put any subsequent clause in opposition to that response.  You are effectively saying “I can allocate this much space for understanding”.  Laying down limits on empathy may invalidate the effort in the eyes of the person receiving that understanding.

Defence as Offence

What follows the “but” might be a counterargument, a clarification, or a seemingly innocuous suggestion.  The function of “but”, however, is a logical one.  It sets up an opposition to whatever has just been said.  Although oppositional, this is essentially a defensive strategy, an attempt to reframe oneself as the object of empathy.  But love is not chess.  What is required to end an argument is not any kind of “move” at all.  In a sense arguments are never won or lost, simply abandoned, because to win would imply that you have inflicted some kind of defeat upon the other party, and in an intimate relationship, this could breed resentment, anger and frustration.  

As Dale Carnegie famously put it:  “You can’t win an argument, because if you lose, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it. […] hurt his pride, insult his intelligence, his judgment, and his self-respect, and he’ll resent your triumph.”[1]

            Any defensiveness in a fight can be interpreted as an attack.  This is because what your loved one really wants is for you to understand their feelings and take responsibility for causing them.  When you divert attention to your own hurt, this move can be seen as an attempt to “guilt-trip” the other.  Does this mean you need roll over and surrender?  Not necessarily.  However, a first step towards peace is simply to jettison oppositional language, including logical constructs such as “but” which tend to reduce emotional harm to an intellectual puzzle that can be solved with disputation.

Figure 2: It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way

And not But

It may seem counter-intuitive and strange at first, but sometimes simply substituting “and” for “but” may be all that is required.  Compare the following two sentences:

“I understand that you’re hurt but I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“I understand that you’re hurt, and I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

The first sentence relates the loved one’s pain back to one’s one suffering.  It effectively says, “you wouldn’t feel so bad if you understood what I meant”.  The second sentence, which contains exactly the same two clauses, simply adds one truth to another.  It is far less objectionable because it isn’t oppositional at all.  It offers empathy and then invites it in return.

Figure 3: Reconciliation

In other circumstances, a straightforward linguistic substitution won’t work.  “I know I lost my temper with your mother but why must you always take her side?” can’t be fixed by substituting “and” for “but”.  Here the content of the second clause must be examined.  A criticism is being levelled at the interlocutor, in response to a received criticism.  An attack for an attack.   In this kind of tit-for-tat argument, the second clause is ALL “but”.  

If you cannot use “but” or “however” or any similar preposition, then a severe limitation is applied to your ability to be oppositional.  This becomes a handy brake to prevent runaway escalation.  

At the very least, you must pause and construct your next thought with care.  This gives you the chance to cool down a little and perhaps shelve the next argumentative utterance altogether.   Eventually, you may get to the point, in a “butless” conflict, where oppositional counterpoint is revealed as the fruitless strategy it really is. 

But What About Me?

It may seem like this article is advocating a sort of spineless subjugation, a refusal to fight back when under attack.  That’s really the opposite.  When one partner is hurt and angry, and the other can’t comprehend why, then what is required is more understanding, not better weapons.  

“But” is a shield, and shields are weapons too.  

            It can be all too easy to fall back upon unhelpful patterns of behaviour, and relationship conflict can be tough to talk about, even with your closest friends and family members.  

Here’s what Leone Centre integrative counsellor Chloe Hedley has to say on the subject of asking for help: Reaching Out and Counselling.

Bear in mind that your ultimate goal is a cessation of negative emotion for both parties and a return to mutual caring and empathy.  Thinking of relationship fights as if they were intellectual debates or fencing matches that can be won or lost is at best unhelpful and at worst, potentially disastrous.

Counselling and better ways of handling conflict

If you’re considering relationship counselling to look at better ways for handling conflict, here’s what the Leone Centre in London can offer you: CLICK HERE FOR MORE

Our associates relationship counsellors are available seven days a week, in person, with practices located in Fulham and very easily reachable from Belgravia and Putney, Battersea, Chelsea and Wimbledon

We also offer confidential and private relationship counselling online via the safe and secure Zoom platform.

Get in touch to start understanding and working with  your anxiety so that you can improve the quality of your life, today.

PICTURE CREDITS: 

Fig 2: “Korean Woman’s Fencing Team, 2012 Olympics”

(https://www.flickr.com/photos/koreanet/7730599288), used under Creative Commons License CC BY-SA 2.0: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Fig 3 “Couple” by Wyatt Fisher

(https://www.flickr.com/photos/130461777@N07/16488952635), used under Creative Commons License CC BY-SA 2.0: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/


[1] Carnegie, Dale, “How to Win Friends and Influence People” Simon & Schuster, 1936.

All You Need to Know About Relationship Counselling

Relationship counselling is no longer a taboo and, if you consider it awkward or unnecessary, you could choose to reconsider.

Relationships can be tricky, even with your lifelong neighbourhood friends not to mention romantic relationships. Relationships can be challenging. Even if the two of you mostly get along brilliantly, the stress in your daily lives can make even the simplest of conflicts seem insurmountable.

Stress in a romantic relationship can at times seem insurmountable.

There is a whole lot to gain from talking to a professional regarding your relationship.

Knowing the Signs

Not everybody needs relationship therapy; some couples get along well enough and manage to resolve their issues internally. However, this depends on both members of a relationship as individual people, as well as various outside influences.

The fact that you’re considering relationship therapy is a tell-tale sign that perhaps you could give it a go.

It is often true that the earlier you seek counselling, the better.

  • If you’re experiencing issues expressing your feelings to each other, you could consider relationship counselling
  • If contempt, withdrawal, or criticism become frequent visitors to your interactions as a couple, seeing a professional might be warranted
  • If there’s a seemingly unsolvable disagreement looming over the two of you, a relationship counsellor might help solve it. Not only that, but you might learn how to surmount other differences that arise in the future
  • If there was infidelity, abuse, or addiction involved, or a combination of all three, relationship counselling can help
  • If there was a stressful event that occurred in your lives (related or unrelated to your relationship), therapy can help
  • If the two of you are experiencing difficulty in making big decisions together, you might want to seek support from a relationship professional.

Giving attention to your communication skills, improving your overall happiness, and strengthening relationships are well-known potential benefits of couples’ therapy.

Premarital Counselling

If you are in a relationship and are getting ready to make a further commitment, relationship counselling can help you bridge any potential gaps and prepare you for what lies ahead. Strengthening your relationship before marriage can be of tremendous value in years to come.

Building a strong foundation is what makes a marriage loving, and affectionate. Which is precisely what premarital counselling focuses on – taking initial steps to strengthen the bond between the two of you before tying the knot.

Premarital counselling deals with various issues that may need addressing before marriage. Here are a few examples:

  • Different beliefs and values
  • Responsibilities and roles
  • Affection and sex
  • Communication
  • Parenting choices and beliefs
  • Family relationships
  • Finances
A couple at pre-marital counselling, preparing for their wedding

With premarital counselling, a realistic picture of expectations is established in couples therapy with the aim of getting the marriage off to a good start.

Online Relationship Counselling

Maybe the two of you are in a long-distance relationship or just too busy to take time to commute to a consulting room. Perhaps your work dictates that you’re often abroad. It could even be that you or your partner just aren’t that comfortable with traditional, face-to-face therapy and the online option seems more appealing.

Whatever the reason, online relationship counselling is a perfectly viable option. In this day and age, with quality web cameras, Zoom, Skype and strong internet connections, there are good reasons to consider online relationship counselling as a good alternative to face to face counselling.

Finding an Experienced Relationship Therapist

First of all, just because you’ve come across a professional who refers to themselves as a “marriage counsellor,” doesn’t mean that they won’t also help with other types of relationship issues.

But how do you find the right counsellor for you? Well, the obvious option would be Google, BACP, UKCP, the Counselling and other Directories. Search for a therapist with whom you feel you can connect with,  is the most appealing to you, read their therapeutic approach and so on.

Another way to find a therapist is by word of mouth. For relationship counselling, you could be on the lookout for references from others.

Curb Your Expectations

It’s important that you know what to expect. Don’t go in expecting immediate results after the first session.

The first few relationship counselling sessions will focus on your history as a couple, as well as on the problems that the two of you have had over the months / years you have been together. These will include any problems that you’ve managed to resolve with ease, and those that you’re still struggling with.

Remember also that your entire emotional and relational history is what has made you into the significant other you are to someone today.

Keep in mind that different therapists exercise different approaches and are from different schools of thought. This is characteristic to all branches of psychotherapy.

What You Can Do

Always remember that you’re investing time, emotions and you are paying for therapy. Dishonesty, avoidance of discomfort, not putting the time into it, and not listening will not help your issues. If you’re agreeing to couples’ therapy, make sure that you’re honest about it.

The Basics of Relationship Counselling

Whether you want to begin online relationship counselling or prefer to do it in person, you can rest assured that both methods are effective. It is important that you keep your mind open – don’t go into therapy thinking that it isn’t a good idea. Don’t forget, if your significant other feels they need relationship counselling, so do you.

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At Leone Centre, we offer online counselling as well as face to face at the Hurlingham Studios in Fulham, easily reachable from PutneyChelseaWimbledon and Victoria.

Whether you want to book an initial appointment or enquire with a free 10 minute consultation, contact us today.

Reaching Out and Counselling

What does Counselling have to do with your capacity to reach out? Getting in contact with a therapist in a moment of need takes some courage and willingness to self-care. When feeling under pressure with your relationships, mental health, work issues your personal relationship with “reaching out” will be instrumental in seeking help and support. 

Reach or Retreat: What’s your reaching out style?

We are social beings, neurobiologically wired for connection with others. Our survival and wellbeing depend on it. As babies, we are helpless; instinctually dependent on our caregivers to meet our every need from feeding, emotional soothing to protection from predators.

From the womb into the world we use preverbal communication to ‘reach out’ until we learn more sophisticated ways of connecting and communicating our needs. As we reach adulthood, our needs change. We become independent, though reaching out is integral to our wellbeing.

Don’t suffer alone, reach out today

We are socialised into the world through learned experiences, behaviours, habits, communication styles and ways of relating. How we learn to relate to ourselves, with others and to be in relationship is especially defined in our early years of development.

In the same vein cultural, social norms & values, rituals and narratives translate and evolve through generations. Likewise, traumas negotiate their way through generations.

The wiring of our brain, the ability to self-regulate our nervous system and unconscious and conscious understandings of ‘appropriate’ behaviour are all strongly influenced by our environment.

How we are in relationship to another literally shapes us physically and emotionally. We are all interconnected.

What’s your seeking help style?

Messages we received may have been explicit for example ‘its weak to reach out to others for support’ or ‘don’t trust anyone’.

Implicit messages might be, having an attentive and attuned caregiver so the learned life lesson translates into ‘there is point in reaching out and connecting, it helps me feel better when I’m distressed’. On the flip side, an emotionally unavailable caregiver might unintentionally give the message ‘there is no point in reaching out, no one cares or can or will help’

We might have tried to reach out once, been rejected, felt shame so avoided doing it ever again.

It’s never too late to make change, the only time is now

Nothing is set in stone…bringing the unconscious into our conscious awareness allows us to make active choices to change our patterns of relating to benefit our wellbeing. This is one of the ways counselling can help if you feel stuck when it comes to reaching out at work, at home, romantic or friendships.

Consider/reflect on the below:

When I feel stressed, distressed or upset I….

When other people know I am struggling I feel…. Why?

Is it okay to I cry in front of others? Why?

Who is ‘safe’ to reach out to and who isn’t? How come?

I make light of my situation/my feelings with friends when really I feel…

I trust that other people will support me in my distress

It is okay to ask for help

There is no right or wrong here, it’s about you understanding yourself in a way that is helpful to you in the here and now as well as in the long term so you can let in and give yourself the emotional and social nourishment needed to thrive.

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If you feel stuck and feel that it would be beneficial to reach out to a trained professional, get in touch with one of our team today who can confidentially guide you through the process.

Couples Counselling is a useful tool to help the ‘reaching out’ process in relationships. When reaching out and connection becomes conflict and power struggles, a trained professional can help get to the underlying need that is underneath and help understand where this pattern stems from.

If you are unsure – for any queries or questions, we offer a free 10 minute consultation so you can make the decision that feels right for you.

Leone Centre experienced counsellors and therapists are available for both online and face-to-face at our Fulham, Putney Bridge studios. For further information on Leone Centre Counselling, we are here to answer your questions at contact@leonecentre.com

At Leone Centre, your care is our highest concern. We are trusted providers of quality counselling & psychotherapy for over 12 years.

THINKING ABOUT GIVING RELATIONSHIP AND COUPLE COUNSELLING A GO?

“If we had the courage to love we would not so value these acts of war.” 
― Jeanette Winterson, The Passion

When is it time to reach out for help? And how do you know if you and your partner can benefit from couples counselling

Perhaps you have been brushing problems under the carpet in the hope that they are going away and you are now finding yourselves dealing with an overwhelming accumulation of frustrating cycles, resentment and emotional pain.

Maybe you have been stuck in a power struggle: all battles seemingly going round and round? Maybe you notice that you care less about your partner feelings or you have become their harshest judge.

Are you experiencing conflict and arguments that spin out of control, escalate in a matter of seconds, leaving you feeling hurt and misunderstood?

Does passion feel dismantled by the pressures and the juggling of everyday life, drown in the waters of functional routines? Have you become parents and forgotten how to be a couple, living parallel lives….slowly becoming strangers?

If you need help to understand and break harmful patterns of avoidance, if criticism prevails and is slowly killing joy and spontaneity, if you both feel confused about what you are really fighting about and only know that the status quo is eroding your relationship, if romance, emotional and sexual intimacy is depleted but still matters to you… then couple counselling can help!

It is often easy to forget that we all are in relationships for love, growing together and fun.  

Surely we enter a marriage hoping to find security, familiarity and joy as well as hoping to keep the attention, the romanticism and the sense of adventure that colours the sweet honeymoon phase, often permeated with excitement, mutual attraction and complicity. 

But what happens when things get tough? 

How do you deal with the loss of the ideal: the disillusionment and realisation that your partner is not who you think he/she is? Is that true that romantic relationships are the vehicle for personal growth and what does that even mean?

At Leone Centre our experienced couple therapists provide a supportive and caring environment where you can start disentangling your experienced issues and moving towards a more fulfilling and loving relationship.  From communication and conflict resolution, jealousy, recovering from an affair, returning to feel close and able to be emotionally intimate…

We do not judge but we do know that healthy and good quality relationships are essential for overall wellbeing and fulfilment in every aspect…and on this we base all that we do.

We offer online counselling as well as face to face at the Hurlingham Studios in Fulham, easily reachable from Putney, Chelsea, Wimbledon and Victoria.

Whether you want to book an initial appointment or enquire with a free 10 minute consultation, contact us today.

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