By Beth Wilson
Everyone in their lifetime has experienced some degree of loneliness, whether it was short-lived or over a longer period of time. And whilst it’s not something we want to experience and isn’t good for our mental health, loneliness is a common feeling to have, making life seem not so bright and radiant.
The inability to connect deeply with other people is often a common symptom of loneliness along with an overwhelming feeling of isolation no matter how many people are around.
Loneliness and mental health are co-dependent, often walking hand in hand so it's important to tackle feeling lonely to ensure it doesn’t worsen. One way to think about it is that you could be in a room full of people and feel like the loneliest person in the world but equally, you could be around only one person and feel content. So the key is to surround yourself with people who really care about you and who make you feel safe. One good friend is far more valuable than 5 bad ones. So to tackle loneliness it is quality of people over quantity.
With covid-19 we are unfortunately living in a time where becoming isolated can happen more easily; being less able to meet friends in indoor spaces and feeling scared and anxious to do so. But during times like these, it’s important that we look for the positives and consider what we can do / are in control of. For example, we can be grateful that rules are being lessened and plans put in place to make socialising more possible. Plus there are a plethora of activities to do regardless. Some ideas include:
Technology nowadays is wonderful at bringing people together so why not arrange a weekly catch up call or fun quiz with friends, family or colleagues? There are a variety of platforms such as zoom, facetime, skype, google hangouts, whatsapp or facebook video. You can even do dress up themed quizzes if you’re feeling adventurous!
Meet in parks, cafes, pubs and restaurants
Whilst it’s great we can make use of these places again, be sure to take it slow and do what you are comfortable with. A good starting point might be to meet just one person and in an open public place such as a park to ease the feelings of being lonely and build up your confidence around social interaction.
Whether it’s for fitness or for a hobby you enjoy, being part of a community is a great way to meet new people, step outside of your comfort zone and enjoy activities that make you happy. Volunteering is also a valuable way to do this; finding like-minded people who could become life-long friends.
Surround yourself with people who care for you and who you care for
This is arguably the most important one. We need to ensure our friendships and relationships are healthy, open, having a positive influence and effect on our lives and have mutual respect, kindness, trust and compassion. Why not reconnect with family or friends that you value but haven’t spoken to in a while?
Be open and honest
It’s really important that we don’t hide or mask our feelings, especially with those in our 'inner circle'. By being open with your challenges, it encourages them to do the same. And together you can work through it and support one another. The second part to this is to not compare ourselves to one another or judge others as each person’s situation is different and it’s likely we don’t know the full picture.
Tackling loneliness is a fine line of keeping ourselves busy and being proactive whilst also allowing time for ourselves to unwind, reflect and recharge.
You can find out more about loneliness here. If loneliness is impacting your life, be sure to contact a mental health helpline or contact your GP. Reaching out and talking to someone you trust is the first and most important step.