How to cope with loneliness

Explains loneliness, giving practical suggestions for what you can do and where you can go for support.

Your stories

The loneliness of mental health problems

Rosie blogs about her experience of loneliness and mental health.

Rosie
Posted on 17/09/2014

Loneliness and anorexia

Michelle blogs about how lonely she found living with anorexia and how joining a running group helped.

Michelle Mumford
Posted on 25/04/2016

How I overcame loneliness

Joanna blogs about how she overcame loneliness by getting in touch with a local mental health service.

Joanna
Posted on 27/04/2016

Coping with loneliness

Feeling lonely isn't in itself a mental health problem, but the two are strongly linked. Having a mental health problem increases your chance of feeling lonely, and feeling lonely can have a negative impact on your mental health. 

Lonely -diagram

Although most people need some kind of social contact to maintain good mental health, everyone has different social needs. You may be someone who is content with a few close friends, or you may need a large group of varied acquaintances to feel satisfied.

Have a look at these tips. They might help you to cope with feelings of loneliness.


Think about what is making you lonely

Being alone is not the same as being lonely. There is nothing wrong with being on your own if you are comfortable with it.

If you're visiting this page however, something probably feels wrong for you.

People usually describe feeling lonely for one of two reasons:

  • they simply don't see or talk to anyone very often
  • even though they are surrounded by people, they don't feel understood or cared for

Deciding which is the case for you may help you to find a way of feeling better. 

New connections

It can be helpful to think of feeling lonely like feeling hungry. Just as your body uses hunger to tell your body you need food, loneliness is a way of your body telling you that you need more social contact.

That means the simplest way to ease feelings of loneliness can be to try to meet more, or different, people. 

  • Can you think of anything you're interested in, a class or a group you've heard of, that could help you connect with new people? See Useful contacts for ideas of how to find groups that interest you.

Talking to people online has helped me find an understanding support network and makes me feel less alone.

  • Volunteering is a good way of meeting people. Helping others can also really help improve your mental health. See useful contacts for organisations that can help you find local volunteering opportunities.

We're not saying it's an easy thing to do. If reaching out sounds overwhelming, take a look at some of our ideas in Take it slow for inspiration, or read Lee or Scott's stories below about how they found ways to meet new people.

Open up

You might feel that you have plenty of connections, but what is actually wrong is that you don't feel close to them, or they don't give you the care and attention you need.

In this situation it might help to open up about how you feel to friends and family. 

If you don't feel comfortable opening up to the people you know, you could try making new connections (see Make new connections).

Take it slow

If you've felt lonely for a long time, or even if you're surrounded by people, it can be terrifying to think of trying to meet new people, or opening up to people for the first time. 

But you don't need to rush into anything.

  • Start off by going somewhere like a cafe, the cinema or a sports event where you can be around people, but not be expected to talk to them.

Be brave and reach out to someone. It doesnt have to be face to face; you could share a post on social media.

  • If you're going to a group or class, see if someone you know will go along with you the first time, or ask whoever runs the class or group if you can just go along and watch at first.

  • Go somewhere it's not expected that you'll interact straight away, like a class where everyone is focused on an activity.

  • Ask your GP if talking treatments are available in your area which could help you manage the mental health effects of loneliness.
  • Visit our online support community Elefriends. It's a safe and supportive environment where you can talk about your mental health, without fear of judgement, with others who share your experience.

Watch Lee's vlog on how overcoming his loneliness started with talking to people online and getting involved a mental health campaign.

Be careful when comparing yourself to others

It is very hard to stop comparing ourselves to others, we all do it, but it can help to just be aware that things are not always what they seem from the outside. 

Social media, and the fact that we very often only see what other people want to share about their lives, can make us feel like we are the only ones feeling lonely. 

It's important to remind yourself that you don't know how people feel when they are alone, or when their social media feeds are turned off.

If you're worried that social media might be affecting your mental health see our information on staying well online.

Check how you are feeling

How are you feeling generally? Feeling lonely can be very stressful and can have a big impact on your general wellbeing, which might make it even harder to make positive steps to feeling better. 

Think about how some of the following are affecting how you feel and whether you can do anything to change them:

Sleeping

Getting too little or too much sleep can have a big impact on how you feel. 

> See our info on sleep problems

Stress

We might associate stress with things like work or family pressure, but research has show that being lonely also causes a lot of stress.

> See our info on managing stress or tips on how to relax

Self-esteem

Feeling lonely can have a big impact on your confidence and self-esteem, which can only make it harder to open up and make new connections. 

> See our info on improving your self esteem


Moving

Our mental and physical health are closely linked. Taking up sport or exercise can help you feel better in lots of different ways. 

> See our info on physical activity, sport and exercise

Eating

Exploring how what you eat affects your mood might help you to feel better. 

> See our info on food and mood


Mental health

If your mental health is having an impact on your feelings of loneliness, you could try seeking more or different treatment for it. 

> See our info on different diagnoses and treatments


Ask for help

You don't have to go through this on your own. Lots of organisations can help you make connections. 

Read others' stories

Craig blogs about his experiences of peer support through social media, and offers some tips for anyone seeking support online.

> Read Craig's story

Michelle blogs about how she overcame the loneliness caused by her mental health problem.

> Read Michelle's story


This information was published in April 2016. We will revise it in 2019.


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