We all feel lonely from time to time. Feelings of loneliness are personal, so everyone's experience of loneliness will be different.One common description of loneliness is the feeling we get when our need for rewarding social contact and relationships is not met. But loneliness is not always the same as being alone.
Feeling lonely can have a negative impact on your mental health, especially if these feelings have lasted a long time. Some research suggests that loneliness is associated with an increased risk of certain mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, sleep problems and increased stress.
Causes of loneliness
Loneliness has many different causes, which vary from person to person. We don't always understand what it is about an experience that makes us feel lonely. For some people, certain life events may mean they feel lonely, such as:
- experiencing a bereavement
- going through a relationship break-up/changes
- retiring and losing the social contact you had at work
- changing jobs and feeling isolated from your co-workers
- moving to a new area or country without family, friends or community networks.
Some people experience loneliness occasionally, perhaps only at certain times, like Sundays or Christmas.
Thinking about what is making you feel lonely may help you find a way of feeling better. Take a look at some of our tips below to help manage loneliness.
Here is some practical advice on ways to cope with loneliness for you or someone you are helping to lift out of loneliness.
Keep in touch with people
It might sound simple but regular chats with friends and family can help to combat loneliness. Just talking to someone in that moment can really help when you feel alone – and help the person you contact.
Try to do this regularly, as most of us love hearing from others, plus being more sociable might make it easier to reach out when you notice any signs of loneliness. Messaging old friends and colleagues or creating a group chat on apps like WhatsApp or Messenger are good ways to feel more connected.
Do things you enjoy
Filling your time doing things you like might be a way to stop you from focusing on your loneliness, which can improve your wellbeing.
Spending time outdoors in green spaces, exercise or sport, reading, and listening to podcasts and radio shows are great ways to boost your mood and occupy your mind.
Make new connections
Being part of a group or club is a great way to connect with and meet people. Look for groups to join in person or online that focus on things you like or activities you would like to try.
If you're in a group, remember to always welcome others and involve them, as it can really help anyone who might be shy or lack confidence when meeting new people.
Keep to a routine
Try to keep to a regular routine as much as possible. Start each day with a plan of a few things that you will do. You might want to keep a daily diary about how you are feeling and what you are doing, or you might want to make yourself a timetable of activities.
Do something meaningful
If you’re stuck inside, you might find that you have too much free time. Why not pick up that book you’ve been meaning to finish, that instrument you’ve been meaning to learn how to play, or that recipe you’ve been itching to try? Filling your time with different activities will help to distract you from feelings of loneliness and boost your mood. Try to plan something every day to look forward to.
Find sources of comfort
Finding ways to give yourself comfort even when you are feeling lonely can help to improve your mental health. Here are some ideas:
- Giving yourself a foot massage or using a foot spa
- Taking a bath
- Focusing on your pet
- Cooking healthy comfort food
- Watching favourite TV shows or reading favourite books
- Having a cup of herbal tea (chamomile will help you to relax)
- Lighting scented candles (lavender will help to reduce stress)
Most importantly, practise self-compassion during this time. If you find yourself saying things like "I shouldn't be feeling this way" or pushing away difficult emotions, this will only make your loneliness persist. Instead of resisting your feelings, find ways to be accepting of them as coming and going. This helps to take away their power and ease your unhappiness. Remember that your feelings will change. If you are still struggling, try practicing guided meditation following an app, podcast, or YouTube video.
- Nextdoor, the social media platform that connects neighbours, can be a great resource if you need help with errands, groceries deliveries, and packages that need to be picked up. (Be sure to follow guidelines for safety to avoid scams and protect yourself.)
- NHS Volunteer Responder service can help arrange a friendly call with a volunteer. They can also help with things like collecting shopping, medicines and prescriptions. Call 0808 196 3646 (8am to 8pm every day) to arrange help.
If you are struggling, remember that mental health support can be accessed online or over the phone. A number of charities have phone lines and online support groups where you can talk to someone about how you are feeling:
- Samaritans provides confidential support for those experiencing distress or despair.
- The Mind Infoline offers information of mental health support and signposts services
- Side by Side is an online supportive community where you can connect with others who understand what you are going through. The community is available to all, 24 hours a day. It is moderated daily from 8:30am to midnight.
Take a self-assessment questionnaire
If you are unsure about needing further support, you might want to complete the self-assessment questionnaires to find out more about your symptoms, click below.