Everyone experiences loneliness at some point in their lives: starting a new school, leaving home for university or a first job, become a parent, juggling childcare and aging parents, empty nest, retirement, aging yourself, after bereavement.
It can be tough to be lonely for short period but long, lingering, unwanted aloneness has been scientifically proven to damage your health.
It has even been suggested it is as dangerous as smoking in terms of the effect on the length of people’s lives.
This week is Loneliness Awareness Week, the Marmalade Trust’s annual campaign gets people talking about loneliness and how to counteract it. The trust says: “Loneliness is a natural human emotion. We are hard-wired to need social connection. Feeling lonely is a useful prompt for us to look at how we can better meet our social needs.”
Of course, many of us have recent experience after the numerous Covid lockdowns we experienced in past couple of years.
Whether you have fallen out of the habit of being sociable or circumstances out of your control have taken the opportunities away, here are our top five tips to combat loneliness:
- Cyberfriends: Don’t dismiss the value of online friendships, especially if you find it hard getting out and about. WhatsApp groups are a great low-pressure way to keep in touch. Facebook groups for people with a shared interest can open up new opportunities for socialising. Just remember not to compare your situation with what other people might post – they often only share their best bits and might feel as lonely as you on occasion.
- Follow your passion: The horrible awkwardness of meeting strangers can be enough to stop people trying to break the cycle of loneliness, but a shared interest will help break the ice. Doing an activity alongside others gives an immediate point of shared interest and there is always enough to distract if the conversation becomes strained. Attending a class is a relaxed way of knowing you will see the same people each week, giving you a chance to build a rapport that may lead to friendship away from the class.
- Life begins at 50: We are biased, of course, but if you are over 50, visit our LifeTime Centre at the Gateway in the centre of Warrington! There is always something going on – from music, art and exercise to IT help and trips out – and someone up for a chat. Decide what you would choose to try first here and then come and meet the LifeTime gang – they are a friendly bunch.
- Help yourself by helping others: Think about people you know who might be feeling lonely and make an effort to connect with them. Volunteering is also a great way to meet new people, feel valued and become part of a community – and you might pick up some impressive skills to boost your career as well as a friend or two along the way. Our LifeTime Centre volunteers are great appreciated.
- Four-legged friends: Anyone who has ever had a pet can tell you, you don’t necessarily need a human to feel a connection. You can’t beat petting and playing with a cute creature who is all yours for a rush of loneliness-beating endorphins. The routine and responsibility of care for an animal also helps maintain good mental health even when isolated.