How to deal with loneliness
If you are feeling lonely, you are not alone.
YouGov research in October 2019 revealed 88% of people in the UK aged from 18 to 24 say they experience loneliness to some degree, with a quarter (24%) suffering often and 7% saying they are lonely all the time.
Human beings are social creatures by nature. Interacting with other human beings is a crucial need that most of us have to meet to maintain good mental health and wellbeing.
The amount of social interaction we each need can vary from individual to individual but, in general, a lack of social contact with other people can impact on our mental health.
Strategies for coping with loneliness
Being lonely may affect your confidence and self-belief. You might also feel that this situation will go on forever and you’ll never meet anyone, either friends or a romantic partner.
1. Practice self-compassion
It is important to be especially kind to yourself and not lose heart
2. Attend to the Five ways to wellbeing
- Connect with others – even if it is only saying hello to a neighbour
- Keep learning – maybe join a class. You’ll learn something and be with other people
- Stay active – this helps mental and physical health. If you join a sports club or exercise class you may meet others
- Give to others – volunteering is a great way of meeting other people and giving something back
- Notice – noticing the world around you and staying in the present moment can help you appreciate things in a new way.
Each of these activities may help you start to overcome your loneliness
These activities may help you start to overcome your loneliness
- Reconnect with old friends from home that you knew before college or university.
- Think of creative ways of staying in touch with friends or partners who are moving away, for example:
- Video calls
- Writing letters
- Regular reunions - meet up for a weekend every so often, to explore a new part of the country together
- Whatever works for you
- Keep up with hobbies, sports or other interests
- Join a sports club, team, theatre group, choir or class - whatever interests you
- Having something to do is vital for keeping a sense of purpose
- It also helps you to stop ruminating on negative thoughts and to keep depression at bay
- Dating apps are a good way of meeting people, especially if you have moved to a new area
- Try volunteering. It is a good way of meeting people and has proven benefits for your mental wellbeing. If you are still looking for a job, it will also help with your CV. In her book, ‘Overcoming Loneliness in Everyday Life’ (1996), Professor Jacqueline Olds puts forward a strong case for the mental health benefits of volunteering to tackle isolation.
Being lonely can also increase your likelihood of becoming depressed.
Being depressed can increase loneliness by making you isolate yourself and think negatively.
If you feel you are becoming depressed, it is important to get help.
The impact of loneliness on your mental health
Being lonely can have a profound impact on our mental and physical health.
Professor John Cacioppo, former director of the University of Chicago's Centre for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience, wrote of the health impacts of loneliness in his 2008 book, ‘Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection’1. In this book, he established five possible implications of loneliness on our health and general quality of life:
Reduction in will-power
- Lack of distraction, motivation or gratification from others
- More likely to engage in self-destructive behaviours when lonely
- Drug & alcohol abuse, bulimia, over-eating, lack of exercise
Exposure to stress
- Lonely people report greater exposure to stress
- Possibly due to lack of people to offload on or confide in
- Lack of perspective on or distraction from personal problems
- The longer you remain isolated, the harder it is to re-integrate
- Lonely people are more likely to avoid engaging with others, perpetuating isolation further
- Tests have found links between loneliness and impaired immune and cardiac function
- Possibly due to biological roles of oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine - these are stimulated by social interaction
- Tests show people are more likely to have difficulty sleeping when lonely
- Metabolic, cognitive and hormonal implications
Asking for help (young person)
A simple guide for young people to help talk about their feelings.View resource
Featuring useful facts, figures and information, this booklet also contains sources of help and what not to say to people experiencing depressionView resource
Life at university (A4 poster)
A4 poster with QR code for students to find information about life at university,View resource
Life at university (A6 postcard)
A6 postcard with QR code for students to find information about life at university,View resource
Low mood poster
Poster created in partnership with Bank Workers Charity highlighting common causes of low mood, how to help yourself feel better and information on where to get more help.View resource
Making the move to university: care leavers
Read how to look after your mental health if you are starting university after being in care.View resource
Making the move to university: international students
Moving to university is especially tough for those who are coming from another country. Don't forget to make sure you prioritise your mental health, and read how to do so here.View resource
Making the move to university: LGBTQ+ students
Read our resource on how you can best take care of your mental health when making the transition to university if you are part of the LGBTQ+ community.View resource
Making the move to university: not fitting in
Read our guide on how to protect your wellbeing if you are starting university and feel like you may not fit in in any way.View resource
Making the move to university: students with adverse childhood experiences
Resource for those starting university who have had adverse childhood experiences such as trauma or abuse.View resource
Making the move to university: young carers
Read how to access support and prioritise your mental health while transitioning to university as a young carer.View resource
Patent and trade mark professionals
Protecting your mental health and wellbeing: A guide for patent and trade mark professionalsView resource
Aiming high can sometimes come at a cost. This eight page guide looks at ‘unhealthy perfectionism’ – how to spot it and advice on how to develop effective interventions.View resource
Students Against Depression posters
Posters to be displayed in Higher and Further Education areasView resource
Top Tips For Students
A booklet giving tips on how students can look after their mental health.View resource
Warning signs poster
A bold A3 poster showing the warning signs that tell you when someone may be depressed. This poster could save a life.View resource
Wellbeing Action Plan (child)
A simple, resource to help young people keep themselves well and get them through difficult timesView resource
Wellbeing Action Plan (young person)
Our new Wellbeing Action Plan is for all young people attending sixth form or college.View resource
Was this article helpful?Your feedback helps us create better content so if this article helped, please leave a like below and let others know.
The Charlie Waller Trust
The Charlie Waller Trust is a registered charity in England and Wales 1109984. A company limited by guarantee. Registered company in England and Wales 5447902. Registered address: The Charlie Waller Trust, First Floor, 23 Kingfisher Court, Newbury, Berkshire, RG14 5SJ.
Copyright © 2024 The Charlie Waller Trust. All rights reserved.