10 Tips on How to Combat Loneliness this Christmas and Beyond
You may be one of the 9 million people in the UK affected by loneliness, particularly around Christmas time, when many feel most disconnected. Loneliness can negatively impact levels of anxiety and emotional wellbeing. The mental health charity Mind found that a third of lonely people (36%) are too embarrassed to admit it, so you may know more people than you think who feel the same way.
Loneliness is not the preserve of older age. You may be part of the younger generation of 16–24 year olds who, according to a BBC survey, are the most affected with almost half (46%) saying they would be reluctant to ask for help.
So, for everyone who may or may not want to acknowledge feeling lonely or disconnected, here are some tips on how to reduce it over the holiday period and beyond.
1. Reconnect. Don’t be shy to reconnect with friends and family who you may not have heard from in a while. If you have felt left behind, it may just be because everyone leads busy lives! They may well be happy to involve you in festive celebrations if they know you are on your own. Christmas is also a great excuse for sending cards or reconnecting with someone you may have had a misunderstanding with during the year, giving you the opportunity for a fresh start in the new year!
2. Organise a gathering. It may seem an overwhelming idea, and you may worry it won’t appeal to people, but inviting people over can involve little organisation or expense. Many of the large supermarkets offer decent ready-made party food selections that you just need to heat up, and many bakeries take orders for platters, or you can simply buy some bubbly and mince pies! People are often far more interested in just getting together than in the food provided, and will be grateful for the opportunity.
3. Share. Talk to friends or family members you trust about your feelings. People cannot understand or help you if they are unaware of how you feel. And if you don’t have anyone you’d feel comfortable talking to about it, contact the Samaritans who are always on hand to listen and help.
4. Join online groups or local clubs. You can expand your social network and find other like-minded people who share your interests by joining online or local interest groups. Facebook is a great place to start if you are looking for specific interest group pages, or you can google local groups — there are so many catering to all different hobbies and interests from art to scrabble, pilates or local history.
5. Nature is a great tonic. Spending time in natural, wildlife-rich places can improve your mental health and wellbeing. So why not go for a park walk or a hike in local countryside, with a friend if they’re free. Alternatively you could volunteer for a local environmental or wildlife project such as with Wildlifetrusts.org or Royal Parks and meet new people at the same time.
6. Volunteer. Volunteering in general is a great way to meet new people and feel good about helping others. Charitable work increases self-confidence and gives you a sense of purpose which in turn is more likely to give you a more positive life view. You can google local groups, or these national volunteering organisations have all sorts of local opportunities Royal Voluntary Service and NCVO.
7. Time with a pet. Keeping a pet such as a dog or cat, or spending time with one, can alleviate loneliness for some people. If you don’t own a pet, perhaps a friend can lend you one, otherwise there are sites that can also arrange to let you borrow one for a while, such as BorrowMyDoggy.
8. Reduce your time on social media. Whilst social media has some great benefits for finding groups and connecting, there is always the temptation to compare yourself to others and fall prey to the fear of missing out, or life envy! It is important to remember that people’s online profiles don’t generally reflect their ‘real’ lives, and only show the rarer good bits!
9. Talk to strangers. Even if the thought of initiating a conversation with a stranger may seem a little daunting, chatting to someone in a coffee shop or even just in a queue can make you feel more connected and put you in a better mood. The UK’s leading loneliness charity for all ages The Marmalade Trust recommends and offers advice on this, and all aspects of loneliness.
10. Check out Mind. If you have real concerns about your emotional or mental wellbeing and just talking to people you trust is not appropriate or sufficient, don’t hesitate to visit Mind to get more information and help.
Andrea Frankenthal is the founder of Hapipod.com, an online matching site for compatible homesharers to connect and exchange affordable rooms for company or practical help. Hapipod enables people of all ages and means to enhance their home lives. It is FREE to register, set up a profile and see who’s available.
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