Overcome loneliness: 3 practical ways to change your life
Do you suffer from loneliness? Take heart, it is very common. Research suggests that levels of loneliness across the world are at epidemic proportions . It may seem strange that although people are increasingly connected in digital ways, loneliness seems to be increasing too . Yet if we consider the definition of loneliness as ‘perceived social isolation’ we can perhaps understand this better . Although people can find others to engage with at the push of a button, it is the deeper, more meaningful connections and sense of community that individuals are missing.
Although certain situations make loneliness more likely, such as being older, living alone or being housebound, loneliness doesn’t discriminate . Research conducted in the U.K. in 2010 suggested prevalence rates of up to 45% . To many people’s surprise, young adults suffer with loneliness too, even those who have friends on social media and in real life . You do not have to be alone, to be lonely.
The physical and mental health outcomes of loneliness are numerous and extensive. In brief, these can include: sleep issues, feelings of stress and overwhelm, heart problems, brain differences in function, poor decision-making, memory problems, and a higher risk of substance abuse .
So, what can you do to help ease the burden of loneliness? These 3 ideas may give you some inspiration.
Find your tribe
Research has suggested that if an individual feels that they belong to a community, they feel less lonely . There are so many types of groups or activities in which you could get involved. These include:
- Hobby groups – these cater for every type of interest, from historic re-enactments to board games groups. Details of the groups can often be found from a Google search or check out the noticeboard at your local library or coffee shop.
- Religious or spiritual groups – there are a variety of Churches in most areas of the U.K. ranging from the quiet Quakers to evangelical musical congregations.
- Fundraising or charitable groups – these groups are always looking for new members to help raise funds or do voluntary work. A word to the wise: don’t be disheartened if you don’t get a quick response. Due to the pressures on these organisations, they can be slow to respond but they normally do with enthusiasm.
Learn something new
Learning something new is a great way to increase your confidence and help ease your loneliness . There are a huge number of online and in-person classes from which to choose. Google or search popular event sites such as Eventbrite, where you will find one-off classes and free talks and courses to suit most interests.
Taking part in a virtual class means you can connect with people from all over the world. It may also help you feel encouraged to take an in-person class, which will be a great way to meet new people or become part of a community.
Engage with animals
Research shows that animals reduce our loneliness and increase feelings of being supported . Of course, getting a pet is only advisable if you have the time, money and energy needed to fully care for the animal. If you can, but are unable to leave your house, a cat or other small animal could be suitable. If you can leave the house, you will find other dog walkers happy to chat and will often make new friends as a result.
If you cannot commit to the time and needs of your own pet, there are still ways to engage. You could offer to walk a neighbour’s dog or volunteer at a local animal shelter. Even if you can only do this once a week or so, it can still have positive effects. Being in the company of animals, who are good listeners and calming to have around, will boost your mood.
Hopefully, these suggestions will have given you more ideas about paths forward. Please bear in mind that loneliness can lead to reduce self-esteem and self-confidence, which can make taking action more difficult. Remember, a lot of people have felt like you and have found their way forward. Be kind to yourself because loneliness is not your fault or anything of which to be ashamed .
If you need support with moving forward, Luisa at My Family Psychologist can help you with a variety of techniques that could make a real difference to your life and happiness. Call Luisa on 07801 079 555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for a confidential chat.
- Cacioppo, S., Grippo, A. J., London, S., Goossens, L., & Cacioppo, J. T. (2015). Loneliness: clinical import and interventions. Perspectives on psychological science : a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, 10(2), 238–249. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691615570616
- Anderson CA, Horowitz LM, French R. Attributional style of lonely and depressed people. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1983;45:127–136. doi: 10.1037//0022-35188.8.131.52
- Griffin J. The lonely society?London: The Mental Health Foundation; 2010.
- Qualter, P., Vanhalst, J., Harris, R., Van Roekel, E., Lodder, G., Bangee, M., Maes, M., & Verhagen, M. (2015). Loneliness Across the Life Span. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 10(2), 250–264. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691615568999
- Budin W. C. (2017). Building Confidence. The Journal of Perinatal Education, 26(3), 107–109. https://doi.org/10.1891/1058-1243.26.3.107