What to do if you are feeling lonely
If, like most people, you have had periods in your life where you have felt lonely or socially isolated, you know how distressing it can be.
Having no one to talk to or to be there for you, not being able to be with those you love, surrounded by many people, but feeling that you don’t belong - being lonely or socially isolated can have a detrimental effect on our mental health and if not addressed, can have a negative effect on our physical health too.
How can you tackle loneliness and feel more connected?
One of the first steps to addressing your loneliness or social isolation is to first acknowledge it. This may seem very obvious, but by admitting to yourself that you are lonely (and then others, when you are ready to) will help you make progress in dealing with it.
Like stating you are hungry is an acknowledgement that you need food, acknowledging you are lonely is simply recognising that you are lacking in and need positive social connections. And you should feel no shame in admitting it – it is a basic human need and by understanding it is what you require and seeking to remedy it, you will help keep yourself mentally and physically well.
That said, if we are hungry, for most of us, this is a craving we can easily remedy, even if it’s just a snack. But how can we easily alleviate loneliness, we can’t just open a cupboard and grab a ‘social connection’?
There are many ways we can help ourselves feel more connected to those around us including these:-
Arrange a time to talk with a friend
Arrange a dedicated time to catch up with a family member or friend in person, or alternatively by video link or telephone. By making time to chat with someone you know, you will feel more connected and less lonely. If done on a regular basis, as well as being a positive action in your diary , it can also help strengthen your bonds with those people.
If you don’t have any family or friends you would like to call, there are many organisations and befriending services whose sole purpose is to help people feel more connected to each other through regular telephone chats. Befriending Networks
Say ‘hello’ on your travels
Even the smallest of social interactions can help us feel more connected to our community around us. A simple ‘hello’ to those you pass in the street, taking the time to speak with your neighbour or the person sat next to you in a coffee shop can positively impact your wellbeing. Not only that, these positive social connections all contribute to making our communities a more friendlier and safer place to live.
Building new social connections
Finding and making new social connections and friendships can feel incredibly daunting for those who are lonely and socially isolated. Why would you want to walk into a room full of strangers and admit you are lonely?
Fortunately there are many ways in which you can take gentle steps into a new social group. You could look for opportunities to meet people in smaller groups, or a group that is doing an activity that you already enjoy, for example a knitting group or walking group.
By joining in with group where an activity you enjoy is the main focus, there is less pressure on you to talk to everybody, plus you will have the confidence of knowing how to do the activity.
Indeed, that is what many of the events and activities at The Friendly Bench are like, a small number of local people meet at The Friendly Bench to take part in an organised activity. For example at our The Friendly Bench Bottesford our Network members held a litter pick evening in the summer (see photo above), which brought people of all ages from across the community together to take part in a shared activity. In Chester our The Friendly Bench Network Member’s organised an art event where people from across the community were invited to add a piece of tile to a large mosaic which will be displayed in the Countess of Chester Country Park. Also, in Brandon, Suffolk our The Friendly Bench Network Member’s held a ‘Time to Chat’ event at The Friendly Bench where people across the community could simply turn up to have a chat and a cup of tea. (see photo below)
All of these get togethers at our The Friendly Bench are intended to give people of all ages, abilities and backgrounds easily accessible opportunities to meet other local people in their community. They are free to attend, no memberships or bookings are required and everyone is free to come and go as they please.
Our hope is that if those who are lonely or socially isolated do go along and join in an event, we can help break the soul-destroying solitude of their loneliness. We also hope that they make a connection and that we help them take those first steps into addressing their loneliness whilst reconnecting them to their community.
To find out more about how The Friendly Bench can help tackle loneliness and social isolation in your community head over to our Join Us page.
Connection is why we’re here. We are hardwired to connect with others, it’s what gives purpose and meaning to our lives and without it there is suffering. Brene Brown