Top tips for feeing less lonely

It’s Loneliness Awareness Week from 15th - 19th June. Started by the Marmalade Trust, it aims to break the stigma attached to loneliness and encourage people to speak about it openly.

The Marmalade Trust recognises that loneliness can feel overwhelming and out of our control. They believe it is useful to have a starting point. So, to help you and others to feel less lonely they have framed it into three parts:

1. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

The Marmalade Trust says that the first step is to acknowledge your loneliness and not feel embarrassed by it. Humans are biologically wired for social contact so loneliness is a normal emotion. Most of us will experience loneliness at some point in our lives, regardless of our age, circumstance or background. There are key life points which can increase the likelihood of feeling lonely such as moving away from home for the first time, starting a new job, becoming a new parent, going through a divorce or suffering a bereavement.

Loneliness is similar to feeling hungry or thirsty. Just like when our bodies tell us we need to eat or drink something, the feeling of loneliness is a sign that we need to pay attention to the amount of social contact we’re having.

As well as acknowledging that you feel lonely, the Marmalade Trust believes that how we talk about loneliness is just as important. We often use words such as ‘admitting’ to or ‘suffering’ from, which can unintentionally add to the belief that there is something wrong with us. But it’s important to remember that there is no shame in feeling lonely and changing the language around loneliness is a positive and liberating step forward. The more we talk about it, the more we normalise it and we can move towards a society where it can be spoken about openly. When you tell someone that you feel lonely, or someone tells you, try to discuss it in a neutral and open manner. Loneliness is normal and therefore should be accepted and understood more, rather than something that necessarily must be eradicated.

2. IDENTIFY

If you feel lonely, tell someone. Look at your life and try to identify the areas where you have support. Is there a family member or a friend that you can talk to? Or maybe someone at work or in your community that you can contact? When we’ve been lonely for a long time it can start to affect our mental health and wellbeing. If you feel that is the case, the Marmalade Trust recommends making an appointment to see your GP to make sure that you are getting the right support.

When you’re lonely it can feel like there is no one there for you but loneliness isn’t something that can always be noticed from someone’s outward appearance. How we look and how we feel can be completely different. It’s not that people don’t care or aren’t there for you, it’s more likely that they don’t know how you are feeling. It goes two ways: once you start reaching out to people, they will respond accordingly, and your social network can start to flourish.

Call a friend

We’re all different and we all need varying levels of social contact. Some of us like to have face-to-face interaction several times a day. For others it’s a regular phone call or being part of an online group or forum. Some people find a busy social life is too overwhelming, so it’s about finding the level of contact that you feel comfortable with. Work out what you need and then look at how you can fill those gaps in your life with the right amount of connections. If someone tells you they are lonely, rather than rushing to suggest lots of new things for them to do, take the time to ask what they need and what they think they’d like to do. We often assume that others are the same as us but we all have different needs and interests. It’s also important to distinguish the difference between being alone and feeling lonely. Many people are happy with their own company for much of the time and find it to be a positive experience.

3. TAKE ACTION

Work on slowly building up your daily community. We live in a world where much of the time we don’t have to connect with people for work, shopping or leisure activities. Or we might live away from friends and family and feel like we don’t have a local network or community. Think of the ways you can build connections back into your daily life. Perhaps you could try shopping locally in the same places or walking regularly in your local park in your wider fit shoes. Even the smallest things like seeing the same faces on a regular basis or saying hello to your neighbours will help you feel more connected to a community.

Try using technology proactively. Technology is often blamed for rising levels of loneliness, but if it’s used in the right way it can still be good for social interaction. Social media is still a great way to connect with others. You can use it to join new groups or like-minded communities so that you feel part of something. You can also reach out to family, colleagues and neighbours digitally by sending messages; remind them of a memory or let them know something you’re grateful to them for. Or why not make a telephone call. When did you last have a long phone conversation with your family or friends?

Shop online

If you are spending long stretches of time at home alone it can feel overwhelming. Try writing a list of all of the activities you haven’t managed to do recently, like putting together that puzzle you got for Christmas, practicing an instrument, looking for new recipes or simply picking up a book you’ve been meaning to read. Even better, connect with a friend or family member through FaceTime and do an activity together!

What is the Marmalade Trust?

The Marmalade Trust offers a vital link between lonely people and the communities and resources that can help them. They have two bi-annual events: their Christmas Day Lunch and Loneliness Awareness Week, which is held in June. They are also currently trialling their first Buddy Scheme, which connects volunteers with people experiencing loneliness. They raise awareness of loneliness all year round to help people to reach out and make positive changes within their own lives and communities.