With Loneliness Awareness Week just around the corner we’re looking at how you can feel less isolated and alone, not only for your mental wellbeing but for your overall health as well.
Because loneliness has been shown to be as damaging to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day and unfortunately it’s a rising epidemic.
So whether you feel alone all the time or have fleeting moments of disconnection here are some ways to handle it.
It might sound obvious but if you’re lonely do your best not to be alone all the time. If you are able to get out and about even if it is by yourself, do it. Take a walk, ride your bike, go to a cafe with community tables, but don’t sit home alone if you can help it.
Wallowing in your loneliness will only make it worse. Although it can be incredibly tough to muster up the energy and the nerve to get out and do something, keeping busy will take your mind off your lonely feelings. If you’re able to join a group you find interesting – book clubs, gardening or whatever takes your fancy – you’ll be mingling with people who have a shared interest and you’ll automatically have a connection with those people.
Opening up and just admitting you’re lonely is a big step. Many people might not even realise you’re feeling this way because loneliness comes in so many forms. But finding someone, a relative, friend or a therapist who you can say “I’m lonely” to will automatically relieve some of the angst. It’s also an opportunity for that person to remind you that you’re worthy and give your self-image a boost.
Doing something good instantly lifts your mood and releases those happy endorphins. Volunteering at a charity is a great way to not only meet people but to make you feel more uplifted. If this isn’t an option for you then instead make it your mission to offer a random act of kindness to someone every day, even if it’s only a offering a smile.
Bizarrely as the world becomes more connected through technology many more people feel alone. Checking someone’s Facebook page can put you under the illusion that you’ve been in touch, but just because you can see what they’re up to on social media doesn’t mean you’ve necessarily been in touch.
Make a point of picking up the phone or meeting a friend face to face on a regular basis. Always have something in your diary, even if it’s for 3 months away and stick to it. It’ll also give you something to look forward to.
The buddy scheme is fantastic for older isolated people. There are volunteers set up around the country who ‘buddy up’ with an elderly person to discover their interests and connect them with community activities in their area which would suit them.
If you don’t have the confidence, knowledge or motivation to get out the buddy is there to help. The Marmalade Trust is just one charity who has buddy volunteers.
Immerse yourself in a good fiction book and escape your own realities for a little bit. Take your book to a public park where you’ll not only be benefiting from being outside but you’ll be surrounded by people too.
When you’re fit you feel better about yourself. Exercising releases feel good endorphins and your body will reap the rewards of being active both physically and mentally.
By joining a gym, a fitness class or a walking group you can better your health and meet other people at the same time.
If you’ve tried everything but you simple can’t escape your loneliness then professional help is at hand. Therapy is nothing to be ashamed of and sometimes you need to get to the root of the problem before you’re able to deal with it properly.
You can get more information and help on loneliness at www.mind.org.uk