Loneliness is one of the big issues facing the UK, with even the government taking action with the appointment of a “loneliness Tsar” in 2019 to lead on issues connected to loneliness.
The stats on the physical and emotional impact make for scary reading, but in many ways, the stories we all have or have heard about being lonely, feeling alone, or being isolated have a far more significant impact on us.
Yet, with most things, there is a balance, a flip side. During the pandemic we’ve seen communities come together, random acts of kindness, and people of all ages going out of their way to connect with family, friends, and neighbours. Again there has been plenty of advice from mental health and wellbeing organisations to help people feel less lonely and to begin to feel connected.
I’ve taken the inspiration from others to share my top 10 tips on tackling loneliness:
1. Recognise your feelings – check-in and ask yourself ‘what do I really feel?’ Once you can name an emotion, you are in a better place to then know how to manage it. Sometimes our emotions can be wrapped up in with something else, like hunger or tiredness, and can actually distort what we really are feeling.
2. Aim to smile at least one person today – human connection, even with a smile releases the natural positive chemical of oxytocin in our bodies, creating a bond even in a fleeting moment.
3. Say hello to a stranger, it could turn into a conversation – take it one step further and actually pause and really say hello and acknowledge the other person. During the lockdown, one elderly lady was walking her dog and not only did I stop to say hello but I chatted for a few minutes. It turned out; that I was the only real conversation she’d had in days.
4. Get lost in an activity, keep yourself busy – when we get engrossed in something, even tidying up or doing the washing, we get into a natural flow state, where our sense of time and energy doesn’t exist. In other words, we become fully present in the activity.
5. Dust off your phone book and reconnect with your past – catching up with friends and family, reminiscing about the ‘good ol’ days’ can remind ourselves of happier times. Again, releasing natural highs into our bodies of oxytocin (connection), endorphins (feel good) and serotonin (happiness).
6. Embark on some personal pampering – we don’t have enough ‘me time’ in our working week. So, why not take a bit longer in the shower, treat yourself to one of those beauty toiletry sets you’ve got lurking in the back of your cupboard, paint your nails or just take time to brush your hair – all amount to you, showing loving-kindness to you.
7. Do something for someone else, a random act of kindness – I do this with my kids in January, where we spend the whole month looking for ways to be kind to others from holding the door open, saying something kind, offering to help. Acts of kindness help us to feel more confident, connected, and more optimistic (so more of those wonderful positive natural highs!)
8. Join something new online or in person, or even volunteer – The Action for Happiness say that ‘the best way to cheer yourself up is to cheer someone else up.’ And by volunteering you can help others, yourself, and your wider community.
9. Look after yourself by how much you sleep, what you eat and drink – we all know that what we put in our bodies has a positive or a negative impact on how we feel. When we feel our best, we are more motivated to connect with others and to step outside of our comfort zone.
10. Spend some time in nature – even when you are alone, isolated and away from the people you love, being outside and looking for nature or emerging ourselves in it, we begin to realise that we are not truly alone. We may just have to look up, down or around us to find those other interesting and fascinating creatures.
And remember, there is plenty of professional support available. Whilst I don’t consider myself a loneliness expert, like most of us I’ve experienced it and come out the other side – as have all of our Mental Fitness Coaches.
If you’d like to join myself, Clive, Mary and Moon from Mon 9th to Fri 13th to look at the theme of loneliness and solutions to tackle your internal negative chatter, and to better understand the inner workings of your mind – then get in touch. We’d love you along as part of Mental Health Foundation’s Health Awareness Week.
Download our 5-day schedule of programmes from 15 to 60-minute sessions.