One in four adults and one in three children report feeling lonely some or all of the time1. Loneliness, particularly when prolonged, can lead to illness, mental health problems and substance abuse2.
This year, Mental Health Awareness Week (9th – 15th May) focuses on tackling loneliness and exploring what we can all do to make more people feel supported and connected.
Mental health and wellbeing are important to us as a company, so we want to highlight how together, we can make a difference to those around us.
You’re Not Alone
We can all experience loneliness – the feelings can come and go. But when they stick around, it’s important to take a moment to recognise them and find ways to prevent the negativity that accompanies it.
There is tonnes of advice and numerous strategies out there to help us cope with feelings of loneliness, so we’ve picked a few that we think can make a real difference.
- Get up and be active
It is well known that exercise is good for our physical and mental health, and when it comes to loneliness, the story is no different. Being physically active releases endorphins (mood boosters) into the bloodstream, making you feel happier and healthier.
Exercise doesn’t have to be a gym class, although group activities can be a great way of connecting with others and feeling part of a team. A simple walk in the park before work or a lunchtime dance in the rain can be perfect ways of making you feel connected to your surroundings.
Activity is for everyone. Daily movement and being active can help older people live a more independent life. In turn, this helps to reduce feelings of loneliness, isolation and depression3. Physical activity is often described as a ‘silver bullet’ for issues facing the older generation, and for a good reason.
- Be present
In this ‘digital age’ it’s easy to find yourself metres deep in an Instagram scroll or aimlessly skipping to the next episode on Netflix. Being completely immersed in our phones and tablets can make us feel disconnected from the world around us. Being present can help tackle these feelings – take in the nature around you, engage with people you meet (say “Good morning” or smile at a stranger in the street) and embrace and accept your emotions. Try writing a diary or noting down something you remember seeing each day.
- Do things you enjoy
Whatever you enjoy doing, let these activities stimulate your mind and put a smile on your face. Whether it’s gardening, listening to music or baking, let your favourite hobbies take your mind off to somewhere you really enjoy.
Doing activities you enjoy can help reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression, all of which contribute to loneliness.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help
One of the hardest things to do is open up about how you’re feeling or ask for help. However, talking things through with someone you trust can help you feel supported and lift a weight off your shoulders. Friends and family members can often offer advice and help you find ways to cope with your feelings. Talking your thoughts through with a counsellor or therapist can also be a good way of addressing loneliness in a safe space.
How to Help Others
- Check in on friends and family
Life is always busy. However, if you can find time in your day to check in on those around you, you’ll be amazed what a difference it can make. Often, when someone is feeling lonely, they find it hard to reach out. By checking in and asking how they are, it gives that person permission to talk – and sometimes, all they need is for you to listen. Showing you care enough to listen is a great way of showing that person support.
You could also suggest or participate in shared activities. Organising a morning coffee, cycle ride or a trip to a museum can be good way of helping that person feel valued and included.
- Avoid judgement
Anyone can feel lonely at any point in their life, so telling someone why they’re feeling lonely or what they’ve done to make them feel that way is never helpful. Judging or stigmatising loneliness can be a huge barrier for the person having these thoughts. It’s important to be open minded as to why someone may be feeling this way and work together to find strategies to support them.
Loneliness is all around us, so this Mental Health Awareness Week, we encourage you to take some time to think about how you can support yourself and others.
The Mental Health Foundation has some fantastic resources for children, teenagers, parents, and older people about how they can tackle loneliness in the community. Find out more here: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week
by Lucy Manley