Some ideas to manage loneliness
Loneliness can be one of the most painful human emotions, and it can feel all the more difficult at certain times of the year when we are constantly shown images of people surrounded by love, warmth, family, and friends. We can feel we are the only ones on our own, single, without family, or with fractured family relationships. Below are some ideas to help manage feelings of loneliness.
1. Create a self-soothe toolbox
Perhaps there are things you already do in your life that give you a sense of calmness and connectedness, whether that is playing an instrument, walking in nature, watching your favourite film or box set, speaking to a particular friend, or some other hobby. Continue doing these things and add to them. Brainstorm other things you can do that could give you a sense of calm (a bath, lavender cream, eating your favourite food, etc). Write a list of as many 'self -soothing' activities that you can think of. Cut them out and put them into a box. When you are feeling low, pull out an activity and do it.
2. Be with others
When we are feeling lonely, it can feel safer and easier to curl up at home and isolate ourselves. Sometimes this is what we need, but sometimes this can make us feel worse. Start brainstorming all the people near and far who you could be in contact with either over the phone or in-person (by call or text, or going for a coffee or a meal). A bit like the self-soothing box, this will give you a range of people you might be able to call on when you need. Set this up in advance and put things in the diary. If there is nobody in your life who you feel able to contact or call upon, get in touch with one of these services or charities;
- Campaign to End Loneliness
- Red Cross: Get Help With Loneliness
- The Great Get Together
- BBC Loneliness Links and Support
3. Be on your own
Being with others can go a long way in soothing feelings of loneliness. But it is also important that we learn how to be with ourselves in a way that feels okay and not too deeply lonely. Sometimes, being with others can perpetuate feelings of loneliness. Carve out time in the day for yourself, to self-soothe, take a walk, write in a journal, listen to music, or something else. It can be helpful to take some time to breathe and tune into your thoughts and feelings, to enable you to have perspective rather than being pulled into old feelings and habits. Try out some mindfulness on an app if you've not done it before.
While doing something for others might not be what we feel like doing, it can be a great way to get ourselves out of negative thinking patterns and feelings of isolation. Sometimes, it's not until we do something different that we start to feel the benefits of that action. There are plenty of organisations that need extra help at different times of the year, and you're likely to meet like-minded people.
5. Check your thoughts out
Remember, whilst everyone else could be surrounded by people, it is not necessarily the case. Often, we believe things that confirm our negative thoughts. For example, "everyone must be having a wonderful time and I must be the only person alone". We see people out together and they look so happy. They might be, but they might have their struggles with something. It is important to check out your automatic thoughts, and this can be helped by using mindfulness and talking to others.
6. Talk about your feelings
Talking about your feelings can be difficult and daunting, but it can often leave us feeling heard and connected. Make sure you talk to people who you feel will understand you and listen to you. Perhaps an old friend, someone in your family, or somebody you've met more recently. If you feel you have nobody to talk to, some services want to hear from you, such as;
- Mind - 0300 234 3393
- Samaritans - 116 123
Whilst it's an age-old piece of advice, it has a lot of truth in it. Whether it's a short walk in nature, a run, a visit to the gym, or a cycle ride, exercise is a brilliant way to boost your mood and also to meet others. You could join an exercise class, or a running or cycle club. MeetUp is a great way to find local walking groups.
8. Plan for the future
Take a look at your life and think about what you'd like to be different for the future. Make some concrete plans and goals for how you'd like things to be the same or different going forward. Re-connect with an old friend? Join a meditation group? Start therapy? Join a running club? Think about what you value and take action to do more things that align with your values. If you value kindness - volunteer. If you value laughter - join an improvisation class. If you value connection with others - pick up a hobby where you can meet like-minded people (for example).
What if the feeling of loneliness is too overwhelming?
If the feeling of loneliness is too overwhelming and you are questioning whether life is worth living, some organisations want to hear from you either over the phone or in person. These are not feelings you have to experience alone. There is always someone a phone call away who are there to hear and listen to you.