Loneliness can be a very distressing feeling, something that can come and go or become more persistent. Loneliness can be experienced throughout life, not just later life. If you have been feeling lonely for a while, a first step is to notice and identify this, even just to yourself. Everyone will have a different experience of loneliness and different reasons for why they are feeling this way.
There is no one way to effectively deal with loneliness but there are lots of different things that can, and do, help. Some people find that reaching out to connect with others is the best way to deal with their loneliness while others will feel that they prefer to deal with their loneliness alone.
Below are some suggested ways to help you deal with your feelings of loneliness.
Connecting with others
Catch up with old friends
Friendships are like plants that need water, you need to invest time in maintaining them. Reach out to your friends, by picking up the phone or contacting them through social media. You may feel that they are busy and won’t have time for you, but you may be surprised if you make an effort to connect.
Invest time in new connections
Joining groups based on your interests is one of the best ways of making new connections[i][ii]. Think about activities and hobbies you enjoy, or perhaps something you would like to learn, and see if there are any groups or classes in your area that cater to that interest. Volunteering is another excellent way to get involved.[iii] You can draw on skills or interests you have developed over your lifetime. Not only will you feel useful you will also meet new people. Volunteering Matters offers information about where you can volunteer.
Little things can make a difference
Having deep connections with close friends is important but brief exchanges with others can also have an impact on how you feel about yourself. Say hello to a neighbour, the shop keeper or person at the bus stop. Having good relations with those near you will make you feel more receptive to other, and possibly more, meaningful relationships. You can find out more about how to strike up a conversation here.
Technology is a great way to both stay in touch with friends and make new friends. There are many ways to keep in touch using technology: email, Facebook, messenger. It just takes a minute to reach out using these methods and can be a great way to feel connected to others. There are often free courses offered in libraries and in community centres to help improve your skills in this area. For instance, many local Age UK branches offer silver surfer classes.
Consider support and services
Don’t keep it to yourself
It’s tempting to think that loneliness is something you should keep to yourself, but opening up about how you feel might really help as you may find that other people have had similar experiences. Talking to someone about your feelings of loneliness and learning positive coping techniques can be a helpful way to deal with the negative emotions associated with loneliness. Access to talking therapies can be obtained from your GP, community supports and organisations or privately.
Find out what support is available in your neighbourhood
Some people may benefit from a more formal social arrangement such as befriending, where you are matched with a befriender who can either contact you via phone or in person. Charities such as Age UK, Independent Age and Sense offer these services. The Befriending Network has a directory of services in the UK. This can be a good option if you find leaving your home difficult. Community Connectors and Navigators can help you find local services, groups and activities that suit you. These may help you with your loneliness and improve your health and wellbeing more broadly. Talk to your GP about how to access these services. [iv]
Things you can do if you prefer to manage alone
Plan your week to do something you enjoy
Take time to plan ahead and include a pastime that makes you feel good. This can include doing something creative, going outside and walking, reading, gardening, or listening to music.
Spend time outdoors
Going outside regularly, be it in your garden or a walk to the park, library or a browse in charity shops, is a great way of feeling better and a part of the outside world. It can help you feel more connected to your neighbourhood and enjoy the natural world and your local environment.
Focus on the good things in life
When you’re feeling lonely you can sometimes get yourself in to a negative frame of mind. It can help to try and focus your thoughts on the good things in life. Remembering happy times such as a holiday and thinking about the good things in your life will help you to stay in a more positive place.
Look after yourself
Prioritise looking after yourself, making sure you are eating healthily, being as active as you can and sleeping well.
[i] 2019. Mansfield et al. A Conceptual Review of Loneliness Across the Adult Life course (16+ years). What Works Wellbeing.
[ii] 2019. Wills et al . Addressing older men’s experiences of loneliness and social isolation in later life. Bristol University Policy Report 51: April 2019.
[iii] 2018. Brown and Jopling. Age-friendly and inclusive volunteering: Review of community contributions in later life. Centre for Ageing Better.
[iv] 2017. Polley, M. et al. Making sense of social prescribing. University of Westminster.