How to deal with loneliness
Loneliness isn’t just about being alone. In fact, many people enjoy spending time by themselves without feeling lonesome. Everyone experiences loneliness differently, and it’s possible to feel lonely even when you’re surrounded by your friends and family.
When you feel lonely, it’s because your social and relationship needs aren’t being met. Loneliness and mental health conditions are strongly linked, and loneliness in society is growing due to the isolation of working from home and vulnerable people still opting for restricted social contact due to the pandemic.
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, we’ve dedicated this guide to helping you, or perhaps someone you know, to not only deal with loneliness, but to break the cycle between poor mental health and the feeling of loneliness.
What causes loneliness?
Loneliness refers to the desire for social contact, but you can feel lonely around other people, too, especially if you don’t feel understood and cared for. The modern world allows us to be continuously connected through our devices, but this can make many people feel disconnected, and by extension, lonely.
It’s common for people to compare themselves to others on social media, and you may place your worth on how many friends you have or if you have a partner. This can make us feel unmotivated and withdraw within ourselves if we aren’t living up to these expectations.
There are other reasons why a person may feel lonely, such as:
- Living or working alone
- Moving to a new area without social support
- Having a baby
- A bereavement
- A relationship break-up
- Starting a new job
- Going to university
- Mental health problems, like social anxiety and depression
- Having no friends or family
- Estranged from family
- Holidays such as Christmas
There doesn’t always need to be a reason for a person to feel lonely. Some people may experience a deep-rooted, constant feeling of loneliness that doesn’t disappear, regardless of their personal situation.
Is loneliness a mental health problem?
No, loneliness itself isn’t a mental health problem, but the two are connected. If you’re struggling from a mental health problem, such as depression and anxiety, or you’re dealing with low self-esteem and sleep problems, you’re more likely to experience loneliness.
People who have social phobia, otherwise known as social anxiety, may find it hard to get involved in everyday activities that involve other people. This can lead to them lacking meaningful social contact, causing them to feel lonely.
Loneliness and depression can present similar symptoms, such as changes in appetite and sleep patterns, to low mood and energy. Although they are different, research suggests that by preventing loneliness in society, we can actually reduce the amount of people suffering from depression.
How you can deal with loneliness
So, how can you deal with loneliness? It can be difficult to know where to begin in order to combat your loneliness, but just know you aren’t alone in this feeling. Keep reading to learn some of our helpful tips to improve your state of mind.
Get yourself out there
New, spontaneous social interaction can be daunting for some people, and you may not want to pluck up a conversation with the first person you see on the street!
Instead, think about what hobbies you have or what interests you. Find classes or volunteer opportunities to attend, either in person or online, and if you’re nervous, ask to watch for the first one to see if it’s right for you.
Spending time with like-minded people is a great way to form real connections and combat feelings of loneliness.
Talk about your feelings
If you feel lonely even when you’re surrounded by other people, the problem could be that you don’t feel close enough to them. It may be useful to talk about how you feel in order to forge a deeper connection.
Of course, you may not feel comfortable talking about your feelings to your friends or family. If this is the case, speak to your GP. They will recommend services that would enable you to talk about your feelings in a safe, secure environment.
Don’t compare yourself to others
In this digital age, we often spend more time glued to a screen than interacting with others in real life. It’s very easy to portray an idealised version of oneself on social media, but it’s important to remember that people only share the best bits of their life, the parts that they want others to see.
Comparing ourselves to others on social media is self-destructive, and it’s essential for us to learn that this portrayal isn’t the full picture. If this habit is inducing feelings of loneliness, it may be wise to unfollow certain people or take a break all together.
Take care of yourself
Feeling lonely can take a heavy toll on your general wellbeing, so it’s important that you take any needed steps to place you in a better, healthier state of mind. For example:
- Get enough sleep
- Eat healthily
- Spend time outside
- Spend time with animals
- Avoid drugs and alcohol
What to do if you think someone you know is lonely
Whether it’s the elderly neighbour who lives alone or a new colleague at work who isn’t from the area, if you think somebody is lonely, it’s a good idea to check in and see how they’re coping.
If someone is lonely, make it known that you’re there for them. You could invite them out for coffee or join them on a walk–whatever it is, letting somebody who is battling with loneliness know that you’re available to talk will not go unnoticed.
You could take this one step further by asking if you can help and how they’re feeling, but don’t push if they seem reluctant. They will likely open up when they’re ready.
Many of us will experience loneliness at some point in our lives, but for others, it can be profound and negatively impact their daily life. If you or somebody you know is struggling with loneliness, it’s important that you take the necessary steps to improve this state of mind.
Remember, just because you’re feeling lonely, it doesn’t mean you’re alone. Some people are battling loneliness silently, so reach out and make a change–it will mean more than you think. If you need any more advice on dealing with loneliness, visit the NHS or the Mental Health Foundation website.