The chances are most of us will experience loneliness at some point in our lives. It doesn’t matter how old we are, whether we are physically alone or surrounded by others. It can take many different forms and can be triggered by many different things.
The key is to recognise it, know that it is your brain’s way of letting you know that you need to seek social contact, and then tackle it.
So how can you overcome loneliness which, let’s face it, is usually a painful experience and can often lead to us feeling a lack of self-worth? Here are my top tips for dealing with loneliness.
• Acknowledge that you’re feeling lonely. If you never acknowledged that you were hungry, then you’d never answer that need in an appropriate way with food. Loneliness is the same, and we need to notice it, acknowledge it, and act to fulfill the need it is highlighting.
• Realise there’s no shame in feeling lonely. Loneliness is an epidemic, so you’re certainly not unusual. Sit with the emotions around your loneliness and try to determine what triggers them. Working out the root cause can help you identify a solution.
• One of the best antidotes to feeling lonely is to focus on other people. Loneliness can lead to a cycle of perpetuating negative thoughts, but helping someone else, for example a neighbour with their shopping, can help change this.
• Practice gratitude. Those negative thoughts generated by feelings of loneliness can lead us to think that everything is doom and gloom. Focus your mind on what you do have, and start to regain control of your thoughts. This can be a small thing, and it helps if you do this practice each day, focusing on something - or a series of small things - specific to that day.
• See, speak to or message others - in that order! We get the most benefit from seeing others, which admittedly is very difficult with the current restrictions due to Covid-19. Even a chat with a neighbour over the garden fence can help. If this isn’t possible, then call a friend. Sending a message should be the last resort, as it doesn’t give you the same emotional connection as seeing or speaking to someone.
• Learn new skills. Joining a class or doing a course, even if online, can boost your self-confidence.
• Find a purpose. This may sound grand, but it doesn’t have to be. It could be something as simple as choosing to go for a walk every day and smiling at three people en route, or it could be sending a happy email to someone every day.
• Foster your current relationships. If you’re feeling lonely, the chances are your inner critic is telling you that everything about your life is bad. But if there are people in your life who make you feel good reach out to them and nurture that relationship.
• Do one unexpected act of kindness every day. Research shows that doing this can lead to higher levels of wellbeing and lower levels of loneliness.
• If you’re really struggling with loneliness and these tips aren’t making a difference, please seek professional help. Everyone experiences variations in both their physical and mental health, and there will be help available from your GP and from other organisations.
If you’re feeling lonely, register for our free Zoom get-togethers to connect with others and hear an inspirational story.