At the start of November, it was recorded that 8% of adults felt "always or often lonely." Staggeringly, this represents 4.2 million people in the UK.
Feelings of loneliness and isolation are just one of the many side effects of lockdown and the pandemic and it’s affecting people of all ages.
Social interaction has been limited for most of the year and people in the high-risk category or those caring for people in that category aren’t leaving the house for weeks at a time.
With winter well and truly setting in and the days becoming much shorter, it’s expected that levels of loneliness are still yet to peak.
So, what can we do to help combat loneliness within ourselves and others during this time?
1. Check in with other people
If you’re experiencing feelings of loneliness, you’re certainly not alone and whether you’re young, or older, no one is immune from it. A great way to manage your own feelings of loneliness is to check in with your friends and family to see how they’re doing. We always ask each other “how are you?” but rarely get an honest response from people so make it your mission to find out how the people you care about really are. Simply checking in and opening up the discussion can alleviate your own feelings of loneliness and isolation as well as helping the other person – a win win
2. Utilise technology
We’ve all had to adapt and find new ways of keeping in touch this year. Zoom became the norm for team meetings and was soon adapted for quiz nights, our grandparents embraced FaceTime and even major life events such as weddings and funerals were streamed to audiences who couldn’t be there. Whilst there’s no substitute for real-life social interaction, technology has certainly helped us stay connected and pass some time when being confined to the house. If you’re feeling lonely be sure to draw upon one of these many options to help fill that void. Even if you don’t necessarily want to talk about your feelings you can still utilise technology to connect with friends and play a game or do a quiz and in doing so will boost your mood.
3. Stay active
Our mental and physical health are highly connected so keeping active will actually help how you feel overall. When we were all told to stay at home, many people will have found exercising more challenging perhaps because of lack of space, home schooling or simply lack of motivation. However, PE with Joe Wicks showed us that we don’t need a huge amount of space or lots of equipment to get active and it can be fun to involve all the generations within a household. Many other fitness gurus have hosted free online sessions for people of all abilities to join in live which creates a sense of community and togetherness. Find something that feels good for you whether it’s a daily walk or a more vigorous class and commit to it as best you can.
4. Indulge in a hobby
Distracting yourself by doing something you enjoy is another way to combat loneliness. If you’ve always had a burning passion to try something new whether that’s baking, knitting, painting or writing, now is the time. Getting creative can be hugely cathartic and helps to pass the time without feeling trapped in your negative thoughts and emotions. There’s been lots of positive stories of people turning their hobbies into a small business or using them to make other people feel good by delivering baked goods or personalised letters or paintings to friends and neighbours (socially distanced of course).
Doing something good works wonders for our mental health so whether you’re on furlough or just have some extra time on your hands, using it to help others will prove mutually beneficial. Many local councils have set up schemes whereby you can be partnered with other people in your area and all you have to do is keep in touch with that person throughout the week. This can be done via phone, zoom or rules permitting you could even stretch to a socially distanced walk. You could also volunteer to do a neighbours shopping if they’re not able to or register to help at your local food bank. The options are endless and there are many ways to help others even if you’re not able to leave your home!
It’s important to remember that this is just a moment in time and that things will get better.
By caring for each other, checking in on people who are more isolated, and looking out for each other we can work together to prevent a loneliness epidemic.
If you need to speak to someone about how you feel, reach out to a friend or family member or you can contact charities who can help you.