5 tips to reducing loneliness and isolation
“Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocially naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human”, Aristotle.
Humans are social creatures, we are genetically wired to seek out social contact with others. Years ago, this social connection kept us alive and safe within our tribes and although the meaning behind this connection may have evolved over the years, it is still just as important in today’s society.
There is a common misconception that loneliness only effects older people, however anyone can experience loneliness at any point in their lives. Factors such as a loss of employment, becoming a new parent, moving away from home or suffering a bereavement can all have an impact on our mental and emotional health and can cause feelings of loneliness.
Covid-19 and the impact of lock-down has caused a huge increase in the reports of poor mental and emotional health, with many more individuals reporting to have experienced loneliness. New research published by the Institute for Social and Economic Research (ISER), (2020) has shown that significantly more women than men are suffering the impacts of loneliness during the lock-down. According to this new study, more than a third of women (34%) said they sometimes felt lonely, and 23% of men also stated that were sometimes lonely.
Tips for tackling loneliness;
1. Don’t keep it to yourself
One of the most important things when tackling loneliness is recognising it and telling others. Loneliness is not something that is easy to spot in others, so waiting for others to notice how you are feeling may be fruitless. Proactively seeking out the support from others, whether this be through friends, family, professional support or online groups or forums is the first important step to addressing loneliness. You can chose how you wish to do this, you don’t have to necessarily tell the people closest to you, sometimes the hardest things to talk about are easiest said to complete strangers, whereas others prefer to have only one or two close friends or family members who they feel able to confide in.
2. Small things can make a big difference
Small social interactions can have a huge impact on our emotional and mental health. Much of our social interaction has been superseded by the internet and mobile phones, with one click purchases, social media, instant messaging and more recently the increase in working from home, meaning that there is often no need to even leave our house. Making the most of the small daily interactions we have with others, chatting to the neighbours when putting the bins out or speaking to your delivery driver or the postman. If you are able to leave your house, intentionally choose to go to the local shop rather than shop online or go in to the office once a week if you are working from home. These seemingly small interactions with others can make us feel more connected and reduce isolation and loneliness.
3. Connect with others
With our busy lives, work, children or other commitments it can be easy to lose touch with others. Reach out to old friends or family members you haven’t spoken to for a while, don’t be afraid to be the first person to call or send a message, they may even be thinking the same thing and will be glad to hear from you. Alternatively, start up a new hobby, join a class or a group where you can meet other likeminded people and have a weekly social interaction. Explore what is available in your local area, you will probably be surprised at the array of activities and groups that are just around the corner (or online). It can be easier than you think to connect with others, it may involve getting outside of your comfort zone, but I promise you the benefits are worth it.
4. Do things that you enjoy
If you are not feeling ready to connect with others yet or you want something to alleviate the symptoms of loneliness when not with others, engaging in activity that you enjoy can help manage this. Compile a list of activities that you enjoy doing, for example reading, walking, playing with your dog, gardening or listening to music. These things can increase the feel-good chemicals in our brain and help to tackle these unpleasant feelings. By compiling a list of go to activities and putting them somewhere easy to see you can avoid the downward spiral that may accompany isolation and loneliness. Make sure that you are fully present with the activity you chose and try to avoid letting your mind wonder.
5. Get Online
The internet and social media often get a bad rap when discussing mental health and loneliness. However, if used in the right way, this can be an extremely useful tool when tackling isolation. Technology can never replace real human contact, however it can supplement our connection with others. Connecting with others via social media, online forums or online support can put us in touch with likeminded people who we would otherwise never have met. Not only can you connect with and make new friends, but you can also rekindle relationships with old friends. The internet also provides us with a platform to share how we are feeling, good times and bad. We are constantly connected to others who can provide us with reassurance, support and kindness, so it important to utilise this platform by connecting with those whom we trust and can enhance our lives.
If you are unemployed and looking for support feel free to contact us for an informal chat over coffee (on us) to find out how we can help!
Below are some useful websites for support with mental health and loneliness:
Iser.essex.ac.uk. 2020. The Gender Gap In Mental Well-Being During The Covid-19 Outbreak: Evidence From The UK – Institute For Social And Economic Research (ISER). [online] Available at: <https://www.iser.essex.ac.uk/research/publications/working-papers/iser/2020-08> [Accessed 18 June 2020].