Things to do when you’re feeling lonely – 5 top tips
Human beings are social creatures, and when there is a discrepancy between the social connections we want or need and those that we actually have, it can leave us feeling lonely. Loneliness can result in many different emotions, from stress and anger to anxiety and depression, and in the long term feeling lonely most or all of the time can have a significant, negative impact on both our mental and our physical wellbeing.
Here we share our top 5 tips for what to do if you’re affected by loneliness.
Don’t suffer in silence
People often feel ashamed or embarrassed about feeling lonely, especially if outwardly they seem to have lots of friends or people around them. But loneliness doesn’t discriminate, it can affect anyone, whether they’re alone or not, and the most important thing is to talk about it. Sometimes just voicing how you’re feeling to another person can help to reduce your loneliness.
If you don’t feel comfortable opening up to a friend or family member, you could try contacting a charity or local support group, speaking to a colleague or your workplace’s Mental Health First Aider, or getting in touch with your Employee Assistance Programme.
Understand what’s causing your loneliness
There are so many things that can cause loneliness, from specific life events (such as the death of a loved one, a relationship breakdown or moving away from home or family) to our circumstances (for example being part of a minority group or living with a disability or long-term health problem), to simply how we feel about ourselves. Understanding why you’re feeling lonely will help you decide what steps to take next. Is it because you have few opportunities to socialise? Or do you struggle to form and maintain close or fulfilling relationships, or feel disconnected from or left out by your community or the friends you do have? Once you work out the root cause of your loneliness, it will be much easier to tackle it.
Stop comparing yourself to others
Often, loneliness can stem from a lack of self-esteem or self-confidence or feeling like we aren’t valued. It’s important not to compare yourself to other people who appear to have more or closer friendships than you. Instead, focus on your situation and all the positives you already have in your life, rather than dwelling on the negatives. Talking therapies like cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be really effective for helping us to change the way we think about ourselves and about the problems we are facing and develop the tools to cope with them better.
Try to get yourself out and about, rather than hibernating at home. Join a local club or social event or sign up to volunteer with a charity or community group. As well as gaining new skills and experiences you will likely meet other people with shared interests or going through similar experiences to you. If you aren’t able to join in person, see if there are any online groups you can join instead, or consider signing up to a befriending service that puts you in touch with volunteers who a trained to provide support and companionship, either over the phone or through regular visits.
Take small steps
Pushing yourself out of your comfort zone to meet and talk to new people can be hard, so don’t worry if you’re not quite ready yet. You may find it easier to start by joining an online peer support group or community of people who share your circumstances or interests, where there is less pressure to talk and you can interact on your own terms. If you can afford to and are in a position to look after an animal, you may also want to consider adopting a four-legged or feathered friend. Pets can make great companions and getting out to take them for a walk or to go and buy their food and supplies can open up opportunities for social connection. At home, try putting the radio on or listening to an audiobook or podcast during the day or watching live television in the evening. Having the sound of other people’s voices in the house can help to break the silence and reduce feelings of isolation.
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