It’s Mental Health Awareness Week 2022 and this year’s focus is on loneliness.
Loneliness is probably something we have all felt and suffered from at some point in our lives. Loneliness can be where we feel we have no one around us, no friends or company. But loneliness can also be a state of mind, where, for whatever reason, we feel isolated and alone.
Prolonged loneliness can have a profound effect on our mental health and wellbeing, which in turn could lead to more severe issues such as depression and anxiety.
Loneliness can often be the result of a mental health problem. For example, those who feel too anxious to go out and see people or those who suffer with low self-confidence/ find it hard to be in groups or around people, may all find themselves in a state of loneliness. This is largely due to lack of social contact and generally being in the outside world and mingling with people.
Feeling lonely is tough and people can often get stuck in this state and struggle to lift themselves out. There are some things we can do to try and deal with feeling this way.
Here are some tips for dealing with loneliness:
Join a club, class or online interest group – This is a great way of connecting with other people who have similar interests. This helps to give you a feeling of belonging and can be a place where you can make new friends. There are also some social activity groups on social media where people organise events for local people. Have a look and see if you fancy any of it.
Strengthen the relationships you have – Call on the people who are already supportive of you – this could be family or friends, try talking to them more, maybe arrange coffees, chats and more catch ups with them. Try and instigate a day or evening out even with just one friend. If this feels too much then start with sending some messages. Films nights and walks are a lovely way to strengthen relationships.
Adopt a pet – if you have the capacity and the right environment, why not adopt a pet. In particular, cats and dogs can be an excellent way of combating loneliness. And it's win-win, as the pet gets a devoted owner!
Get busy! - Sitting around all day with little to do could heighten feelings of loneliness. So… try and keep busy doing the things that you enjoy. Maybe take up that hobby that you have always wanted to do, look online for a course that interests you, have a declutter, maybe do a spring clean. Keeping your mind occupied will help keep feelings of loneliness away.
Take care of yourself – Especially in times of loneliness it is important to look after yourself both physically and mentally. Eating and sleeping well will help you feel better generally and sticking to a healthy and nutritious diet can really help with low moods. If you feel up to it, go for a jog or a long walk or join a running/walking club - you can get to meet new people too!
See a therapist – Sometimes if loneliness becomes unmanageable, it is helpful to see a therapist. This can help you talk through these feelings, identify where they have come from, and work on some strategies with the therapist to help you move forward. Sometimes just talking to someone can be helpful. If a therapist feels too formal, look up some online support that is more about chatting with like-minded people.
This content is general information only, not advice. If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health issue, please contact a mental health professional or contact the Samaritans.