Good morning

Beating the summer time blues

Good morning Angels!” chirped Lance on joining the call. “You sound very lively today,” Edith observed of Lance.

It’s August, pouring with rain and peak holiday time. You’re in a longer than normal airport queue. Heading abroad to a central or southern Europe heatwave, or have arrived and find yourself on full forest fire alert. Maybe it’s time to pack your wellies and waterproofs ready to huddle together at a UK resort. More like “Good morning campers!” perhaps.

For Lance, Edith and their telephone group friends a staycation is the routine. Holidays are things that happen for others now. And summertime, just as much as Christmas holidays, can amplify feelings of loneliness, summertime blues. . . unless of course you meet up regularly with friends in your telephone group.

Having the privilege to be a guest facilitator for this group I found myself on an entertaining journey as members exchanged life experiences. We went from Guyana to Gamages, London Eye to the Lyons Tea House and had croissants watching the women’s Tour de France (“I didn’t know they had a ladies’ tour until it went past my window.”). The hour whizzed by, just like the cyclists.

Our holiday was virtual. All in the mind. Happy times conjured up by telephone group participants’ conversations sparking off so many connected memories. A sense of belonging created. The worth of peer supporting telephone communities, for me, richly affirmed.

In the happy knowledge that Lance, Edith and the others will have their volunteer facilitator, Shani, back with them again later this month, I’m off now to pack my tent. I’ll be pitching this, weather permitting, whilst on holiday in the Wye Valley,. The campsite’s river is rising and I’ve been told there’s limited telephone reception. But don’t worry, I’ll be encouraging fellow campers to store memories to share with friends in future years . . . to share in telephone groups of course.

Staying connected over Easter

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Many people are looking forward to Easter, a long weekend and a chance to relax with friends and families. For others the idea of four days away from work and contact with colleagues can be daunting. If that sounds familiar we’ve put together a few things you might find helpful.

1. If you’ve not got anything planned ask around friends and family to see if they are free. We assume everyone is busy over Easter but more often than not people opt to stay at home or in the local area. They might be waiting for you to call.

2. If friends and family do turn out to be busy then find something you really fancy doing and treat yourself to a special day. This could be a trip to the cinema, a walk in the park, watching a football match or taking the time to sit down and read the book you’ve been looking forward to. Give yourself something to look forward to.

3. If you log on to social media sites such as Facebook or Instagram remember that people tend to post their pictures of their happy parts of the weekend. They don’t take photos of the boring bits we all have, and lots of people will be having ordinary days at home.

4. If you need to chat to someone over the bank holiday weekend there are people from all over the UK on the Loneliness Forum who are supportive, interesting and interested – pop by and say hello!

Myth busting loneliness – part one

Being lonely is not a character flaw

Man standing alone by a lake

I’ve spoken before about the stigma attached to loneliness. I keep coming back to it because this type of prejudice prevents people getting the support they need to feel connected again.

There is a persistent myth that stops people from saying “I’m lonely. It is a myth that assumes that if you are lonely it is your own fault – something you have done wrong, that you are not trying hard enough, not friendly enough or good enough.

However, feeling lonely is a big part of being human. Loneliness is designed to tell us we’ve become disconnected, that we need to find other humans who we can bond and share with. It is telling us to find our people.

The challenge often comes in finding those who can make us feel connected again. Perhaps this is why any list of tips for banishing loneliness (including ours) mentions volunteering. Doing something to help others has been shown to boost confidence and it gives you a chance to broaden your social circle. You might not meet your people on day one, but you might meet someone who will introduce you to someone else who will be the person you can share confidences with, celebrate successes and have a giggle.

There is no quick, one size fits all way to stop feeling lonely, but if you need a safe space to share with others we will try to help. If you would like to try out one of our Talking Communities drop us an email to info@community-network.org or call us on 020 7923 5250.

Online peer support for people experiencing loneliness this Christmas

This winter, the idea that hundreds of thousands of people, particularly the elderly will be affected by loneliness is getting a lot of media coverage. Rightly so; this is an issue that isn’t going away, nor will it disappear when we pack up the Christmas decorations and get back to day to day life. Loneliness can affect people at any age and any time and we need solutions throughout the year.

We are regularly asked for help by people under the age of 60. Requests come from those who are chronically lonely. They don’t have someone to talk to in the middle of the night, nor do they fall into a group for which there is an obvious form of support. They are not old or ill. They are simply lonely and unable to find the help they are seeking.

One of the things we have learnt through years supporting people out of loneliness is that human contact makes a real difference to those struggling to feel part of the world. Peer support, or people helping each other is one of the most effective means of enabling meaningful connections to be made between individuals and groups.

This week we are launching The Loneliness Forum, an online discussion group for adults at risk of, or experiencing loneliness to come together, share experiences and find ways of supporting each other. The Forum, a safe space for anyone 18+ will be moderated by friendly Community Guides who are there to make everyone feel welcome.

Christmas and New Year is a time when people feel lonelier and so we are launching this forum this month. If you are feeling lonely over the holidays, whether you are on your own or with family and friends, drop by the forum, say hello and share with like minded people.

Join the Loneliness Forum here.