Coping with Loneliness – In Halal and Healthy Ways

Coping with Loneliness – In Halal and Healthy Ways

Part of this month’s Loneliness Series

Assalaamu ‘alaikum Chris – peace be with you


Loneliness has been the topic of the month and even though it is not exciting by any means, but it is a topic that requires attention and in-depth reflection. So, in this article, we would like to accumulate the different ways in which an individual can cope with feelings of loneliness using different tools at our disposal and our beautiful religion, Islam, in a halal and healthy way.

    1. Accept that you are lonely
      You can be the type of person who doesn’t like to socialise at large events, who is an independent self-reliant personality, or who has experienced trauma and prefers to stay alone. This is completely okay… Yes, it’s OK to be LONELY. However, we all feel the need to belong and connect with others – and when this need is not met we begin to experience the ache that is loneliness.

      Loneliness is a feeling, not a fact or a life-long certainty. By realising this and understanding how our brain computes feelings, we can move a step closer to accepting what we are experiencing. With true acceptance only can we then get into the right thinking-space to deal with it. Sometimes this true acceptance can mean facing your fears and stop running away from what we know deep down to be our true feelings.


  1. Notice your thought patterns
    Being aware of your thoughts that demonstrate loneliness is a great way to deal as you can respond to those thoughts and control that way of thinking, or stop yourself before you fall into those patterns again. It is common to create self-deflating and insecure thoughts about why we are alone, such as that there is something wrong with us, or we are too ugly/weird/crazy.

    Identifying and tracking such thought patterns, in a journal or notebook, can help you come back to it with a clear, positive mind and work through them – either yourself, or with someone else. You can also retrain your inner self-talk to be more positive, rational and conducive to your physical and mental wellbeing. Islam is a very strong advocate of being aware of your inner thinking processes, and there are very many verses of the Quran that ask us to ponder, reason and contemplate:

    “The likeness of the life of this world is just as the water which We send down from the sky, and the plants of the earth mingle with it whereof men and cattle eat, till when the earth takes its golden ornament and is embellished in beauty, and its people imagine that they have power over it, but suddenly Our command reaches it by night or by day, and We make it stubble, as if it had not flourished the day before! Thus, do We explain the Signs in detail for a people who reflect.”
    [Quran 10:24]

  2. Don’t fear reaching out
    When you are in a lonely state of mind, it can be painful, confusing and alienating – which can easily make you react by withdrawing further into yourself and repeating the cycle. Therefore, reaching out can enable you to gain perspective and help before the next cycle gets triggered. Cultivating new friendships, and getting in touch with family and old friends are some of the best tried and tested ways to combat loneliness. Nowadays, you don’t even need to physically move out of your comfort zone to talk to new people, there are so many people online who are looking for support, connections and lasting relationships. However, be careful of who you meet online and never give personal information that can enable someone else to steal your identity or more.

    Reaching out does not always have to be about meeting your own needs, but it could be about shifting your focus on others. Being there for others who need encouragement, understanding and support is a very compassionate thing to do. Plus, thinking about the needs and feelings of others takes your attention away from your personal lonely thoughts and feelings. Even Islam has emphasized helping others, with the reward that the Almighty (SWT) will in turn help us.

    “…And Allah (SWT) will aid His slave so long as he aids his brother.”

  3. Keep yourself busy
    There are numerous ways of keeping busy in your daily life to divert yourself from your lonely feelings. From volunteering for a cause that you believe in, to getting a pet or joining an art or exercise class, there is so much out there to pass your time and achieve productive, creative and beneficial results. You can even try one new thing each week or every other week that can help you cope and meet new people, like painting or yoga, going to the library, attending interesting events and workshops, and learning a new skill like self-defence or cooking.

    Certain instances may need you to recognize and fight the temptation you get to isolate yourself, and replace your go-to response (like staying in your bedroom) to going out with your friends. You can start small, like meeting for coffee or walking in the park. I know that it is easier said than done, and that our tendency to procrastinate and feel anxious can become overwhelming, but you need to take that first step.

  1. There is also the option of spending your time with others learning more about Islam and the Quran, and having thought-provoking discussions, which is an act filled with countless blessings:

    “No people gather together in one of the Houses of Allah, reciting the Book of Allah and studying it among themselves, except that sakeenah (tranquillity) descends upon them, and mercy envelops them, and the angels surround them, and Allah mentions them amongst those who are with Him.”

  2. Don’t let your loneliness drive your decisions
    Experiencing loneliness is very agonizing, and can push us to need a quick fix to take the edge off or numb the agony. This desire can be so strong that it damps down our voice of reason, and drives us to make reckless decisions. For example, when we are lonely we tend to compare ourselves to others. This is unavoidable as it is a natural human impulse (Festinger, 1954). What we need to do is try to be more careful when we are comparing ourselves to others; we can remind ourselves that we have no way of fully knowing what is happening in somebody else’s life, and that things may be vastly different behind the scenes.

    By exercising self-restraint and establishing good practice, we can make sure not to let our feelings of loneliness take the wheels of our life, and instead take the edge off using simple cost-free ways, such as talking to a family member or reconnecting with an old trusted friend, learning how to dismiss unpleasant or unwanted thoughts, and practicing meditation techniques like mindfulness and breathing exercises. In Islam, we know that attributes of the pious people are praying and fasting – which are forms of meditation. The Quran also says that other signs of such people are that they exercise self-control, and this is one such instance where we can try to practice this:

    “…Those who show patience, and truthfulness, and self-control, and those who spend (benevolently), and those who seek forgiveness before dawn.”
    [Quran 3:16-17]

  3. Consider other options
    Research has shown that loneliness and depression are inter-linked. Therefore, the lonelier one gets, the more depressed they feel, and vice versa. Additionally, at times even being with other people can tend to have an adverse effect and make a person feel more lonely. Considering this, it may be beneficial to try other options, such as psychology, counselling or psychotherapy. Therapy can also give you more ideas and skills training to help you manage your difficult experiences in a healthy and safe manner. Alternatively, you can also join support groups or approach related organisations to help you cope. A comprehensive list of useful organisations can be found on the Mind UK website.

    Most importantly, be persistent and if one method does not seem to be working for you then try another. Try and try again until you can rise above your feelings and fight back. There is always hope, and keeping faith and Allah (SWT) by your side can being miracles.


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Source: Coping with Loneliness – In Halal and Healthy Ways | Inspirited Minds

Other articles in the series



Mindfulness by itself won’t cure loneliness – ending austerity is key | Moya Sarner | Opinion | The Guardian

Are we living through an epidemic of loneliness? Well, it depends who you ask. One Red Cross study found that more than 9 million people in the UK – almost a fifth of the adult population – are often or always lonely, and in January Tracey Crouch was appointed the so-called “minister for loneliness” to tackle the problem.

But the experts can’t decide if things are actually getting worse. At Cheltenham science festival last week Aparna Shankar, from St George’s, University of London, described levels of loneliness in the UK as having been “fairly consistent” since the 1940s.

However, in her book iGen, the US academic Jean M Twenge cited studies showing that 31% more American teenagers felt lonely in 2015 than in 2011, which she attributes to the rise of the smartphone.

But this is the least interesting question to be asking. Interviewing experts in neuroscience, genomics, evolutionary biology, psychology, psychiatry and psychoanalysis has helped me understand something about what loneliness does to our brains, bodies and minds. These conversations introduced me to the theory that loneliness evolved as a biological warning sign, like hunger, thirst or pain, to tell us that isolation is a threat to our health, and we need to find some social nourishment.

You cannot simply cure loneliness by shoving a load of lonely people randomly in a room together, because loneliness is not defined by being alone, but by feeling alone even when surrounded by others; it is about the quality of the connection, not the number of our social relationships. Feeling lonely makes your sleep worse, and transforms your immune response. Greater loneliness means poorer outcomes for people with mental health problems.


Source: Mindfulness by itself won’t cure loneliness – ending austerity is key | Moya Sarner | Opinion | The Guardian

Loneliness: the second cruel stigma Britain inflicts on disabled people : The Guardian


The idea that we are different and don’t want to work, laugh in a pub, or go on a date is far too common. The result, for far too many, is stark isolation
A wheelchair-user using a ramp. ‘It’s still often impossible for us to get in a building.’ Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Increasingly, I feel lucky to leave the house. That’s a strange feeling for someone to have, particularly someone in their early 30s. As a millennial, I know I should be concerned with my nonexistent pension or ever diminishing chance of buying a home – and I am, really. But as a disabled person, I’m aware that nowadays even basic parts of a normal life can’t be taken for granted: going to the office, meeting friends in the pub, even regularly seeing another human being.

New research from the disability charity Scope has found almost half of working-age disabled people are chronically lonely, saying they “always or often” feel lonely. Staggeringly, that works out at about 3 million lonely disabled people in Britain.

The Office for National Statistics has described Britain as “the loneliness capital of Europe” – finding that we’re less likely to have strong friendships or know our neighbours than inhabitants of any other country in the EU. Young people are said to be particularly affected.

But the Scope research points to what can only be called an epidemic of loneliness for disabled people in this country. It’s possible, of course, to be surrounded by people and still be lonely – but break down this week’s study, and this is about stark isolation. On a typical day, one in eight disabled people have less than a half-hour’s interaction with other people.

We’re rightly increasingly aware of how old age can lead to severe isolation – a recent study by the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness found that almost three-quarters of older people in the UK are lonely – and the psychological and physical damage this can cause. However, we rarely talk about how, for a whole section of society, loneliness linked with disability and long-term health problems is a stain on decades of people’s lives. Perhaps one of the most disturbing findings of Scope’s research is how younger disabled people, like millennials generally, are affected: 85% of young disabled adults (classed as 18- to 34-year-olds) admit they feel lonely.

Beware of thinking that loneliness is some natural byproduct of disability. The strain of ill-health and disability can often lead someone to be isolated, but how society chooses to respond can either help fix it or compound it. I recently had a bad health spell that meant I was pretty much stuck in bed for two months. But even once I was better, I was very aware that – without support to leave the house or a relatively flexible job – I would still be in bed. These sorts of fears are even stronger at a time when the government is dramatically underfunding the social care system, and tightening eligibility on disability benefits.

I speak daily to disabled people who are essentially cut off from society – twentysomethings unable to go to university, and not because of health problems but because they don’t have a social care package that enables them to get to lectures. Others are forced to be “put to bed” at 8pm because their council has restricted their care slots.

Increasingly I hear from disabled readers who for years have used the Motability car scheme to do something as basic as go to the shops but who, in their tens of thousands, are now housebound after cuts saw this benefit taken away. Or wheelchair users who haven’t been outside for months because, stuck in inaccessible housing, they can’t get beyond their own front door.

Last week the Guardian’s Disability Diaries chronicled how wheelchair users have to turn down invitations to see friends because the pub or restaurant – or public transport – isn’t accessible. It isn’t exactly surprising that disabled people are isolated when it’s still often impossible for us to get in the building.

But attitudes towards disability are also powerful barriers. Two-thirds of the British public admit that they actually feel uncomfortable talking to disabled people, according to separate Scope research. Worryingly, millennials are twice as likely as older people to feel awkward around disabled people: a fifth of 18- to 34-year-olds have actually avoided talking to a disabled person because they are unsure “how to communicate with them” – as if having a disability makes us a separate species.

It’s well established that there’s a stigma around admitting to loneliness – but for disabled people, a stigma around disability is contributing to loneliness. Imagine how lonely day-to-day life can be when the majority of the public avoid talking to you.

Whether it’s government policy removing our social care packages or a stranger ignoring us in the street, tackling this persistent idea that a disabled person is somehow different to other people – that we don’t want to work, laugh in a pub or go on a date – is going to be a crucial part of ending disability’s chronic loneliness.

Britain has a problem with isolating disabled people. Acknowledging that this actually matters is perhaps the first place to start.

 Frances Ryan writes the Guardian’s Hardworking Britain series


Source : Loneliness: the second cruel stigma Britain inflicts on disabled people : The Guardian

The child abuse inquiry has been devastatingly inept – but it must go on | James Rhodes | Opinion | The Guardian

The key issue for me, and probably for most of the survivors who this inquiry was designed to give a voice to, is one of trust. Theresa May fought for this inquiry.She fought for us. Back in July 2014 when she announced it as home secretary, you could almost see the eye-rolling going on among certain Tory party members. Yet, to her immense credit, she persevered. And then came the catalogue of mistakes, disasters and obstructions that, to all but the most naive of us, simply scream cover-up.

Source: The child abuse inquiry has been devastatingly inept – but it must go on | James Rhodes | Opinion | The Guardian

Councils warn that loneliness is ‘a major public health concern’ | Care Industry News

Councils are warning that loneliness needs to be recognised as a major public health concern, with fears it could pile further strain on local services, unless

Source: Councils warn that loneliness is ‘a major public health concern’ | Care Industry News

Everyone should have friends and support – social care has a role in tackling isolation | Social care

Too many people are lonely. And isolation is very bad for our health and wellbeing. That’s according to experts and academics. With the recent John Lewis ‘man on the moon’ advert, we have also see

Source: Everyone should have friends and support – social care has a role in tackling isolation | Social care

Adult, Autistic and Ignored

Original post from NYTimes


TWO months before she died of pancreatic cancer in November 2010, my normally strong, stoical mother broke

Antoine Maillard
Antoine Maillard

down weeping in my arms over the fate of my autistic older brother.

Institutionalized for over 40 years, Joshua, then 55, was in a stable situation and seemed relatively happy. But my mother was undone by that fear that haunts all parents of disabled children: What will happen to them when I’m gone? Though I hastened to assure her that I would become his guardian and watch over him after her death, she was inconsolable.

In reality, given the nature of the bond between them, I shouldn’t have been surprised. As is often the case between mother and disabled child, the two early on formed a deep, exclusionary attachment that relegated the other members of our family to the outer boroughs of maternal attention. My brother’s marathon tantrums, his gory public (and private) displays of self-mutilation and his regular physical assaults on our mother left me balancing as a boy on a narrow emotional catwalk between instinctual love for my sibling and blind rage. But none of that altered the depth of her feeling for him in the least. He was her main passion in life, and would remain so till the very end.

After her death, as promised, I signed the guardianship papers and found myself suddenly a part-time resident in the island nation of adult autism in America. What I didn’t realize at the time was just how uncharted the waters around that island would turn out to be.

I knew plenty about childhood autism, of course. Who doesn’t? A malady sometimes described as a form of perceptual overload seems somehow a fitting response to today’s speeding, signal-clotted life. And the numbers are dizzying: From a reported incidence of one child in 150 with autism in the year 2000, the prevalence has now risen to one in 68.

Meanwhile, a vast autism infrastructure has grown up around these numbers, with an array of new schools, websites, activist organizations, support and advocacy social networks, and eloquent voices at the very highest cultural and political levels of our society speaking of the rights of those with autism. Researchers are currently backdating the history of autism by reclaiming previously mysterious events — the holy fools of Russia, the so-called feral children of early modern Europe — as potentially having autism at their root. And the recent lumping of the Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis and a variety of related childhood disorders under the rubric of “autism spectrum disorder,” or A.S.D., has produced “sufferers” of autism so high-functioning they often regard their autism as a gift or visionary complement to life. This aggregate “big tent” approach to autism also partly explains the rise in the sheer numbers of children given that diagnosis.

But children eventually grow up. And children with autism have been growing up for over 50 years. Roughly 500,000 children with autism will become adults over the next 10 years, and as they step through the door of age 21, they’ll find themselves inheritors of a sad paradox. The variety of federally mandated supports and services (under the aegis of the Department of Education) available to them until then will have expired; the source of their funding will switch to the far smaller pie of state-by-state money. These resources, along with Medicaid and Social Security, are more fragmented and difficult for families to navigate. So the financial support — used to train them for jobs, find housing, obtain therapy and counseling — will dwindle at the exact moment in time they need it most.

A 2011 study found that 39 percent of young people with autism in the United States received no services whatsoever after high school. Loneliness and social isolation are major issues. Unemployment among adults with autism — most of them higher functioning than my brother — is common. An estimated 90 percent of adults with autism are unemployed or underemployed.

State funding, it seems, remains keyed to the idea that the same maturational curve applies both to “neurotypicals” and those with disabilities, and apparently relies on a magical-thinking belief that these young adults will somehow smoothly make the transition into adulthood without special guidance. Some states now get matching federal funds, but the steep drop-off — and the steep challenge for parents and children — remains.

It’s part of a larger disconnect. There is virtually no current substantive national discussion on the fate of middle-aged or elderly autistic people like my brother, who are living in therapeutic communities, or with their aged parents or in group homes, or sometimes undiagnosed in mental hospitals. Little research money is spent on members of this demographic, and there is almost no public policy debate on how best to serve them. Not much is known of the particular health problems linked to their long-term care, or how their autism progresses and changes over time, or what the cumulative effects might be of the medication they take to render them tractable enough to live in social settings. As Dr. Joseph Piven, a professor of psychiatry, pediatrics and psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has put it, “There is almost no literature on older adults with autism in the field, so we have virtually no knowledge base.”

Joshua is fortunate. As the beneficiary of decades of the hard-working advocacy of my mother, he now resides in the social and medical equivalent of a perfect fit — a beautiful, well-staffed therapeutic community in central New Jersey. Retired from active daily work after a long career of doing things like busing tables at McDonald’s (too difficult); serving in a high school cafeteria (same) and working on the lawn crew of the large “farmstead” — a rural therapeutic community — where he spent many years (a job loathed but tackled with a certain grim tenacity), he was moved at age 57 from the main campus to another a few miles away, designed specifically for older residents.

But even this place grapples with the stark realities. I regularly receive terse calls from my brother announcing the departure of a care worker he’d grown attached to. Why? Because therapeutic communities and “congregate settings” for adults with autism suffer from a job turnover in direct care staff so high it can only be labeled a hemorrhage. Direct care workers, whom I’ve observed up close for 30 years, are the true unsung heroes of the mental healthuniverse, providing the stability and warmth of family when family is gone or far away. But poor pay (a 2009 study found the national average for an entry-level full-time direct care staffer to be less than $22,000 a year) virtually guarantees high turnover.

In terms of overall expenditure, government support for people with autism is considerable. The Combating Autism Act was passed under President George W. Bush in 2006 and authorized generous outlays for screening, early intervention, education and research. It was renewed in 2014 (its name was changed to the more palatable Autism Cares Act) under President Obama, and continues the disbursal of a large amount of money — about a quarter of a billion dollars a year — to a variety of federal, state and private initiatives. But a quick glance at the funding priorities shows little devoted to people my brother’s age.

While more funds would help, it’s not enough to throw money at adult autism. What’s needed instead is an intelligent, directed deployment of resources and a larger seat at the table of policy debate at both state and federal levels.

Karen Parenti, the vice president of community solutions for Bancroft, a large provider of services for individuals with developmental disabilities and brain injuries, which owns and oversees my brother’s residence, noted an urgent need for things like longitudinal studies on the long-term effects of medications used in autism care and financial support for lifelong learning programs and public education. To Louis F. Reichardt, the director of the Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative, distinguishing the needs of adults with autism from those of the younger population is paramount: We need to “identify what features these adults share or do not share with the pre-adult population, such as I.Q., verbal ability and social skills. This might tell us to what extent maturity and aging influence the severity of the deficits associated with autism,” he wrote in an email.

In truth, what’s simply needed is more of everything. And in the last several years there have, in fact, been a smattering of research initiatives into older adult autism. Much more is needed. But none of it will arrive in time to have an impact on the life of my brother.

On a recent visit to Joshua at his facility, the drill was the same as ever. My girlfriend and I greeted the affable staffers, and then took him out for a meal, where he defaulted to the same cycling, anxiety-fueled series of questions he does every time we’re together: “I’ve come a long way, haven’t I?” Or “are you happy I’m doing as well as I am while seeing you?” Or, repeatedly, “What time do I have to return home tomorrow?” We saw a movie in blessed conversational silence, stayed overnight in a hotel with him, in that way fulfilling his dream of getting off campus for at least a night, and the next day bid him a heartfelt goodbye.

When I was younger, these visits would shatter me, and I’d often drive home in tears. But such extremities of feeling are long behind me. I’m soothed by the thought that he seems reconciled with his destiny. It’s reassuring to know that my brother will continue to live out his life as he has for the last many years, his mind stabilized by powerful medications, his thoughts revolving around his next activity and meal, the legacy of my mother’s work visible in his neat, sunny room and sparkling surroundings.

Is ignorance a blessing? In certain circumstances, yes. Among the many things he’ll be unaware of, blessedly, is just how lucky he is.