As humans, many of us will experience periods in our lives when we feel lonely, we are social animals and contact with others is one of our basic needs. We can start to develop feelings of loneliness when those social connections are missing or when they do not meet our expectations. This also helps explain why we can feel lonely even when we are not alone, you can be surrounded by others but still experience feelings of loneliness.
We are also continuing to emerge from one of the most isolating experiences many of us have gone through in our lives and in addition we are spending more and more of our time on line, connecting digitally rather than face to face. Whilst digital connections and digital “friends” go some way to fill the gap when we feel lonely, they can also be incredibly damaging. We scroll through endless posts and photos from friends and strangers who appear to have the most fulfilled lives imaginable and it is hard not to fall for the illusion that is being carefully curated.
The theme of this year’s Mental Health Awareness week is loneliness so here are 5 ideas you may want to consider if you are feeling lonely. We are also sharing 5 things you could do if you know someone who is experiencing loneliness at the moment. We hope they help but if your feelings of loneliness are overwhelming then we have included contact details of organisations who can provide expert support to help you through.
If You Are Feeling Lonely
Acknowledge and accept how you feel – there are many reasons why we feel lonely at certain times in our lives, moving home, loss of a loved one, going away to study, starting a new job, becoming a parent or retiring. Acknowledging you feel lonely and accepting that is a good first step.
Establish routines – having structure in our lives and a purpose can help with feelings of loneliness so consider establishing a morning and evening routine. Here are some ideas to get you started;
- Set a positive intention for the day, it doesn’t have to be big, small is great
- Write down your thoughts and feelings for 5 minutes when you get up to clear your mind of any unhelpful thoughts you may be holding onto
- Do a few minutes of gentle exercise to get the blood flowing and your body moving. Pop on a favourite tune and have a dance or head outside and walk
- End the day recalling what you were grateful for or congratulating yourself on what you achieved
- Think about meditating for 10 minutes to calm your thoughts or pick up a good book
- Plan what you are going to do the next day
Consider volunteering – think about all the great skills you have that you could share with others and as a result you may make some new connections and develop friendships with people who share similar passions. We don’t often recognise our own talents but someone else may benefit hugely from them.
Head outside – if you are able to, spending time outside connecting with the natural world that we are all part of provides a natural lift. Sit and listen to the birds for a while or simply sit back and breathe deeply. If you can’t get outside then sit by the window and look out as that is also beneficial.
Be kind to yourself – we are our harshest critic so be mindful of the messages you give to yourself and start the day giving yourself a hug. Wrap you arms around yourself and squeeze, it will release Oxytocin, a feel good hormone in the body.
If Someone You Know Is Feeling Lonely
Make contact – it is a simple but important first step. Saying hello and asking how someone is can make a huge difference.
Invite them along – if you have plans then think about inviting someone along to join you, it doesn’t matter if they can’t make it, the act of inviting someone has the potential to make someone feel cared for.
Be true to your word – this is so important, if you offer to help then make sure you follow through, you can cause more hurt if you agree to help and then fail to deliver.
Notice behaviours – if you are expecting to hear from someone but you don’t then get in touch with them to see if everything is OK.
Do you need help? – If you have a job that needs doing, perhaps that person can help you and it will make them feel wanted if they can put their talents to good use.
Sometimes making some changes to our lives ourselves is not quite enough and we need more support so here are a couple of the many organisations that can offer help;
Samaritans 116 123 open 24/ 7
Mind Charity 0300 123 3393 open Mon – Fri 9am – 6pm