What can we do about loneliness?

Loneliness is something that everyone experiences at some point in their lives. It can be fleeting and easy to shake off but for far too many people, loneliness becomes part of everyday life.

There is no magic wand to wave when feeling lonely but there are things you can try to help you feel more connected to others.

Here are some ideas that have worked for other people. We’d also love to hear from you about what has helped you when you are feeling lonely.

You are not alone in feeling lonely

We don’t talk much about loneliness but it is experienced by many people of all ages everyday. Figures tend to focus on older people with 1 in 10 feeling lonely all or most of the time but loneliness can come at anytime during life and be triggered by lots of different things. It can be difficult to remember that other people feel the way you do and many people who have felt lonely in the past will be able to understand how you are feeling.

Take smalls steps

If you are feeling very lonely it might feel difficult to expand your circle of friends. Start with people you are closest to such as family or old friends. Having a chat on the phone, meeting for coffee or just exchanging some messages online can make a big difference.

Saying hello

We live in an increasingly busy world where often we don’t have time to connect with those around us. Simple things like saying hello to neighbours, talking to people in shops, delivery people or chatting to acquaintances can help to give you a sense of others around you. For example, someone we spoke to lately said that just talking to people in queue for the doctors’ surgery had helped them to feel a sense of belonging.

Connecting with new people

Loneliness is a tricky thing. Sometimes we can be surround by others and still feel very lonely. Often this is because we feel disconnected from those around us. Meeting new people can help you to overcome feelings of loneliness. This may seem big and scary so start off by thinking about the things that you like to do, the values you hold and the things you like to speak about. For example, if you have an interest in local history or singing, politics etc. find out what’s available in your area. Meet up groups are also a great way to find people with similar interests who welcome new members.

Helping others

When you are at a low ebb helping others might be furthest from your mind but there’s a lot of research that shows that it can help to increase your confidence and make you feel valued again. Volunteering is a fantastic way of meeting new people and you can choose how much of your time to give.

Connecting online

The Internet can, for many be a source of staying in touch and meeting new people. There are lots of different social networking sites connecting up people and forums where you can share experiences, opinions and talk online to others about things that matter to you.

Whilst the Internet can be really helpful for lots of people, please remember to stay safe online. If you are on a public forum don’t give your personal details to anyone and if feel something is unsafe then look on the website for an email address to report it to. Most social networks and forums have someone you can raise concerns with.

Telephone Communities

For people who don’t have access to the Internet or choose not to connect with people online, Community Network’s Telephone Communities are a good way to safely talk to others. We using teleconferencing technology to let people chat together in a group telephone call. All group members need is access to a telephone, landline or mobile and there is always a trained facilitator on hand to make it easy for everyone to talk together on the phone.

Enjoying spending time alone

If you are someone who is used to having lots of people around you and are suddenly spending a lot of time alone this may lead to you feeling lonely. There can be lots of positive things about spending time on your own. It can allow you to pursue hobbies or do things you’ve always fancied and give you time to enjoy things you might otherwise not get a chance to do.

Peer support

Often people experience loneliness and feel alienated from others because of something that is happening in their lives such as managing a physical or mental health condition. There are many groups who about people in such circumstances helping each other. This is sometimes called peer support.

Other sources of help

Sometimes feeling lonely can cause you to become depressed. Being depressed can also make you feel lonely. If you are feeling depressed it is a good idea to visit your GP who can talk through what you are experiencing and the best way forward.

If you are experiencing distress, despair, feel you are not coping or having suicidal thoughts you can contact Samaritans on 08457 909090 or by emailing jo@samaritans.org

Useful Links

Mind, the mental health charity www.mind.org.uk

Elefriends, supportive online community from Mind www.elefriends.org.uk

Samaritans www.samaritans.org

Childline, support for children & young people www.childline.org.uk

The Silver Line Helpline, for older people www.thesilverline.org.uk

Do-it, volunteering opportunities www.do-it.org.uk

Meet up, website advertising events and activities for like minded people www.meetup.com