This week (13 – 19 June 2021) is Loneliness Awareness Week. Hosted by Marmalade Trust, it is a campaign that raises awareness of loneliness and gets people talking about it.
We all feel lonely at times – it is a natural human emotion. Humans are social animals and so we are biologically wired for social contact. Loneliness is our signal that we need more of it. After a year of lockdowns, social distancing and restrictions, more people are experiencing loneliness than ever. This year, Marmalade Trust are encouraging people to see loneliness as an experience, not a condition. By building greater awareness and acceptance of loneliness, we can help ourselves and others manage the feeling.
Here are some ways to help manage loneliness.
Strengthen existing relationships
You may already have people in your life that you could get to know better. You might not feel close enough to them or that you aren’t receiving the care and attention you need. You could start off slow by talking to a supportive friend about your loneliness, or you could try to organise a day out with your family.
You could try:
- Sending a handwritten letter or postcard
- Calling someone on the telephone for a chat
- Try Facetime or Zoom so you can have a video conversation
- Post on social media and interact with other people’s posts
- Send a text message
Make new connections
Join a club or sports team, or take a class
Participating in a club, team or class is an excellent way of meeting like-minded individuals who share at least one of your interests. You could join an amateur sports team, take a gym class, or sign up for something that you’ve wanted to learn to do but haven’t been able to yet. Maybe it’s a language, or an art form, or cooking a certain cuisine. Websites like Meetup are great for finding clubs and meeting new people with shared interests.
If you are able, volunteer for a cause that you believe in. This can provide the same benefits as joining a club or taking a class: meeting others, being part of a group, and having new experiences. When you are passionate about something, and do it in a group, it is more likely that they will also be passionate about the same thing. Volunteering also has the added benefits of helping others, giving back to the community and give you a deeper sense of gratitude for what you have in your own life.
Do-it.org is a database of UK volunteering opportunities. You can search more than a million volunteering opportunities by interest, activity or location and then apply online.
Join a local online group
If you have access to the internet, one of the best ways to meet people online is through a Facebook group. You can use the search bar to find one that is local to your area, or even search for a group towards your particular interest. For example, there are plenty of jigsaw puzzle groups across the country who discuss puzzles, exchange them between themselves, and often arrange meet-ups. A local area group can often have community news and discussions too.
Do be careful about who you meet over the internet, and don’t give any personal information like your bank account number to people you don’t know. However, you can find real support, connection and lasting friendships with people you meet on the internet.
Look after yourself
Feeling lonely can be stressful and have a big impact on your general wellbeing, so it is important to take some actions that will impact how you feel.
Try to get enough sleep, eat regularly and keep your blood sugar levels stable, try to do some physical activity, spend some time outside or with animals, and practice self-care. Maybe give yourself a foot massage or take a bath, or watch your favourite TV show. Sip some chamomile tea or light a lavender scented candle to help you to relax. You could also try some meditation or yoga to practice mindfulness.
Finding ways to give yourself comfort, even when you are feeling lonely, can really help to improve your mental health. It is also really important to remember that loneliness is temporary, and practice self-compassion. Instead of pushing the feeling away and trying to resist it, accept it as a part of human nature and remember that your feelings will change.
Get help from a mental health charity
It can be beneficial to speak with a professional about your feelings and how you can develop positive ways of dealing with them. Sometimes, even if you have met people and established relationships with them, this isn’t enough and it is possible to still feel lonely even when you are with loved ones. This could be a sign of underlying mental health problems such as depression or anxiety and it may be a good idea to speak to someone about this.
If you or someone you know are struggling with mental health, you can find a list of mental health resources collated by the NHS here.
The national suicide prevention lifeline number is 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This is a free, confidential crisis hotline available to everyone, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. You can find more information about the work they do on their website here.
Play a Gibsons board game
Maybe you might feel that you have friends and family around you but that you aren’t sure of activities to do together. It’s difficult to play a board game alone. Game play can bring everybody together, whether they are strangers, old friends, colleagues, or close family. Playing a board game is the perfect way to spend time in nice company and strengthen bonds with others.
This Loneliness Awareness Week remember that loneliness is a natural emotion. If you know someone that may be struggling with loneliness, especially through the pandemic, why not give them a ring and check in with them? A simple phone call may mean more to them than you realise.
You can find out more information about Loneliness Awareness Week on Marmalade Trust’s website.