Let’s all tackle loneliness
Let’s all tackle loneliness
MindSpace volunteer Dominic Cerillo looks at what you can do if you’re feeling lonely…
During the pandemic’s lockdowns, we all missed talking to our families or friends in the flesh at some point. We all longed for a hug from that one person who makes us feel safe. We all longed for that freedom to do what we wanted to do. The isolation we all felt is something that can have a profound impact on our mental health and wellbeing.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, whose Mental Health Awareness Week earlier this year focused on the topic of loneliness: “One in four adults feel lonely some or all of the time. There’s no single cause and there’s no one solution. After all, we’re all different! But the longer we feel lonely, the more we are at risk of mental health problems. Some people are also at higher risk of feeling lonely than others.”
How does loneliness affect our mental health?
Loneliness can cause anxiety and depression, which can make the problem bigger. The more anxious we feel in social situations the more likely we are to avoid them, which only increases isolation and feelings of loneliness. Loneliness and social isolation have been associated with early mortality and feelings of suicide.
So how can we tackle feelings of loneliness?
Dealing with loneliness can be difficult. But there are things we can all do to cope with loneliness and prevent some of the negative feelings and mental health problems that can come with it. Here are some coping strategies that you might find useful.
Try to engage with the people you meet in your daily life
It can be hard to talk to others when you’re feeling lonely. However, trying to connect with the people you meet as you go about your day can be helpful. Even catching someone’s eye and saying “Hi” as you walk along can make you feel better. Or it could be about saying hello to the postwoman or postman or going to the shops and talking to the person at the checkout. By sharing a polite greeting, you might find you give someone else a positive lift too.
Find people who ‘get you’
It can be hard to connect with others when you’re feeling anxious and lonely. But there are great benefits in finding people who have been through similar experiences to you. Interacting with others who ‘get’ you can give you a sense of belonging that may be missing. People who have been there have found connections in local groups or social media.
Share your hobbies and interests with others
It can feel daunting to step out of your comfort zone and meet new people. But pursuing your own hobbies and interests, or taking up a new one, is a great way to do it because you’re guaranteed to have at least one thing in common with those you meet along the way. Anything from smaller sports and games, such as table tennis, darts, indoor bowls, chess or bridge, to craft activities such as knitting, pottery and painting, to collecting records, books or stamps, to metal detecting, fishing and bird watching. It doesn’t always have to be about joining a club. Try volunteering for something you have a passion for like the Forestry Commission, charities, food banks, Shelter, and so many more. And don’t forget to keep reading your local paper to see if you come across anything you’d like to get involved in.
Try to use social media in a positive way
Social media can help your mental health, but it can also affect it negatively. The key is to use it in a positive way. Finding digital communities, you share interests and passions with can help. Most importantly be aware of how you feel when you use social media and focus on topics and activities that work best for you.
Try to do some enjoyable things that will keep you busy
One way of trying to manage loneliness is by keeping busy and doing things we enjoy. This might be a hobby such as a bit of gardening, going to the gym or even sorting out your kitchen cupboards, jigsaws, puzzles or knitting. Small activities can give you energy and positive feelings. It’s important these things are fun or fulfilling. But be careful about working too hard or watching TV shows simply as a distraction. These can delay or suppress your feelings and could actually make your mental health worse.
Try to do things that stimulate your mind
Activities that occupy your mind can help with loneliness. This can include the benefits of taking courses or listening to podcasts on topics from comedy to fitness. This can be stimulating and something as simple as listening to the familiar voice of someone you like can help you feel less lonely.
Think about doing a physical activity
Physical exercise can help with loneliness. It can be as simple as having a walk in the park when you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed. Alternatively, you could listen to music and do a bit of dancing around your living room. (Be mindful of your neighbours though and don’t have the volume up too loud!)
Spend time with your pets
If you are lucky enough to have a pet, it can be a wonderful way of managing loneliness. Not only do animals provide us with unconditional love and support, but they also help to give structure to our days and even encourage us to get out and connect with others. Interaction with pets is also shown to help reduce stress levels.
How can you support other people who are feeling lonely?
Don’t judge or stigmatise
It’s important not to judge or stigmatise people who feel lonely. Stigma around loneliness is a huge barrier to the kind of open and genuine conversations that can help. It’s more important to be aware of just how common loneliness is. It’s a normal feeling that all of us are likely to experience at some time in our lives. Telling other people that their poor mental health is the reason why they are feeling lonely is really not helpful.
Try to make groups welcoming to other people
It can be difficult for people who are feeling lonely to join a group like a club. This might be because people are shy or feel nervous about existing relationships in the group which they don’t feel part of. It’s important to be aware of this and try to make groups be as welcoming as possible to newcomers. Flexibility around things like how often people attend is also important.
Try to listen and show understanding
A great way to help a friend or family member is simply to listen. People who have experienced loneliness relate how they valued friends who really considered what they might enjoy and were even willing to join them in some shared activities. Having an understanding and compassionate approach, and not ignoring the person’s experience, will help them to feel heard and understood.
If you’d like to talk to us about your experiences of loneliness phone 07563 385273, email
Other organisations that can help include:
24 hours a day, 7 days a week (emails: response in 24-hours)
The Samaritans are available day or night, for anyone who’s struggling to cope, who needs someone to listen without judgement or pressure. Free, one-to-one, always there.
(Leave a message and they will call you back as soon as possible.)
SANE‘s Caller Care service, led by professional staff, provides ongoing support to help people alleviate a crisis phase or get through difficult circumstances.
CALM – Campaign against living miserably
5pm to midnight, 365 days a year
The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is leading a movement against suicide. Offers a helpline and a webchat service.