Explains loneliness, including the causes of loneliness and how it relates to mental health problems. Gives practical tips to help manage feelings of loneliness, and other places you can go for support.
How can I manage loneliness?
This page has some tips and suggestions for managing feelings of loneliness:
- Learn more about being comfortable in your own company
- Try and open up to people you know
- Take it slow
- Make new connections
- Try not to compare yourself to others
- Look after yourself
- Try talking therapies
Some people find these ideas useful. But remember that different things work for different people at different times. Only try what you feel comfortable with, and try not to put too much pressure on yourself.
If something isn't working for you (or doesn't feel possible just now), you can try something else or come back to it another time.
Having lots of friends and contacts in your life doesn’t mean you won’t feel lonely. For many of us, feeling lonely is linked to low self-esteem or self-confidence.
Sometimes, improving our relationships with ourselves, as well as others, can help us feel less lonely. You may find it helpful to look at our information about self-esteem.
You could start by thinking about what self-care means to you. Remember that self-care looks different for everyone. Some people who live alone find it comforting to have some background noise. This could be the television, the radio or a podcast you enjoy.
It may help to start doing activities you enjoy by yourself. For example, going for a walk in your local area, doing some arts and crafts or cooking a meal from scratch.
It could also involve moving your body, watching a film you love, decluttering your home or going to a free museum in your area.
It’s okay to try different things to see what makes you feel good. Try and be patient with yourself.
You might feel like you know plenty of people, but don’t have a deep connection with them. Or that the people around you don't give you the care and attention that you need.
If this is how you feel, it might help to open up to someone you trust. This could be a friend or family member, a colleague or someone else in your life. You don’t need to speak face-to-face. You could send them a text message, or send a message to someone on social media.
Many of us have experienced loneliness, but it can be a scary thought to tell other people about it. It might be helpful to think about what you want to say in advance. You may find that they’ve experienced similar feelings before.
Being able to normalise feeling lonely with someone you trust may help you feel a bit better.
- If you've felt lonely for a long time, it might feel overwhelming to start opening up to people. Trying to meet new people may also worry you. But you don't need to rush into anything.
- To start small, try and make conversations with people you come across in your day-to-day life. For example, this could be saying hello to a cashier in your local shop. Or making conversation with a neighbour.
- Some people find it useful to be in environments where there are lots of people around. For example, coffee shops, libraries or shopping centres. Feeling the presence of other people may help with some feelings of loneliness.
- It may help to establish a routine, where you go to the same places at the same time. You might start to recognise people in these places, which may lead to forming connections.
- Try thinking about how your interests could help you connect with other people. For example, if you like reading, you could join an online forum for conversations about books. You could also spend some time in a local library before joining a book club. Focus on environments where you feel safe and try not to put too much pressure on yourself.
- You could try an online activity where other people attend but you're not expected to interact with them. For example, a drawing class or another kind of creative workshop. You could ask whoever runs the sessions if you can just watch at first, rather than taking part.
Loneliness and mental health
Watch Lee's vlog on how overcoming his loneliness started with talking to people online and getting involved a mental health campaign.
We have listed some different types of peer support and ways to make new connections. These may provide a space to meet new people and find support:
- Join an online community like Side by Side. These communities can provide a place to listen and share with others who have similar experiences. They're available 24/7. Most are free, and you can access them wherever you are.
- Meetup is a website where you can meet new people who share your interests, through online and in-person events. If you don’t see any groups or activities that interest you, you could try and start your own group.
- If you’re able to, volunteering is a good way to meet people. You can do it in-person or at home. Helping others can also really improve your mental health. It’s a good idea to check that you’ll receive adequate support from the organisation you are volunteering at. See our page of useful contacts for organisations that can help you find local volunteering opportunities.
- Join a group on social media to talk to others in your area. For example, many areas of the UK have local Facebook groups that you can join to meet others who live nearby.
- Ask your GP to refer you to a social prescribing link worker. They can refer you to local sources of support. For example, voluntary and community sector organisations.
- Contact Mind's Infoline or a local Mind to see what other types of peer support there may be in your area.
- Try a befriender service. Various charities offer telephone befriender services. They put volunteer befrienders in touch with people who are feeling lonely. See our page of useful contacts for details of organisations that run befriender services.
I never feel lonely when I'm in nature. I feel more connected than ever when I'm walking alone through a wood or by a river.
Many of us have changed the way we communicate over the last few years. We’re connecting with others online and through social media more.
Being able to interact with more people online has been a positive experience for many of us. But others may find this challenging. We often only see what other people want to share about their lives on social media.
Seeing photos of others at events, or socialising with friends and family, might make us feel like we’re the only one who’s feeling lonely. Being able to access so many people’s lives can sometimes feel overwhelming.
It’s sometimes hard to stop comparing ourselves to others. But remember that things aren’t always what they seem from the outside. We don’t know how other people feel when they’re alone. Or what’s going on for them outside of their social media feed.
If you're worried that social media might be affecting your mental health, see our information on online mental health.
I sometimes feel lonely when I am overwhelmed by human information – the news, social media, TV, negative gossip etc. – I feel so separate and different to most people.
Feeling lonely can affect your wellbeing. Making small changes in your day-to-day life may help you feel more able to connect with others. For example:
- Physical activity can be really helpful for your mental wellbeing. Some people also find it helps to improve their self-esteem. If you want to meet people while exercising, you could join a local exercise class or an online class. There’s also parkrun, which has free, weekly 5k runs or walks local to you. See our pages on physical activity and mental health for more information.
- Spend time in nature if you can. This can improve your sense of wellbeing and reduce feelings of loneliness. For example, you could plant some vegetables in your garden or on your windowsill. Organisations such as Ramblers arrange local walks for people to walk together. You can also look at our pages on nature and mental health for more ideas.
- Some people find that spending time around animals can help with feelings of loneliness. You could try visiting a local community or city farm. The organisation Social Farms and Gardens has a list of outdoor community projects across the UK. Many of these have animals that the public can interact with. There are also websites that connect animal owners with people who want to look after them, such as Borrow my Doggy.
- You might feel lonelier during certain times of year. For example, at Christmas or on certain anniversaries. It might be helpful to think in advance about what activities you could do to make you feel good at these times.
Talking therapies can help you explore what feeling lonely means to you. Your therapist can help you develop different ways of managing your feelings.
If anxiety about social situations has made you feel isolated, you may find cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helpful. This type of therapy focuses on how your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes affect your feelings and behaviour. Your therapist can help you develop coping strategies for different situations that you find difficult.