Navigating loneliness - Public Health Dorset

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Navigating loneliness

We can all feel lonely at times, for lots of different reasons. We might experience loneliness when circumstances change in our lives – following bereavement, divorce, a new baby, a house move or after starting a new job. For some, social anxiety means they might struggle to meet people easily. Others may find that illness or disability limits their ability to socialise. And living or working alone can sometimes be isolating. 

Even surrounded by people, or in a relationship, we can sometimes feel lonely.  

“A few years ago I started a new job that wasn’t right for me,” remembers Kate. “I used to sit every day in a big open plan office, with people all around me, and feel so incredibly lonely. I felt like I just didn’t fit in. Eventually I spoke to friends and family and realised I had to make a change, but I had never understood before that point how isolated you can feel in a room full of people.” 

What to do if you’re feeling lonely 

If loneliness is affecting your life, there are things you can try that may help. Because loneliness can affect so many people in different ways, there are lots of different ways of tackling it, but these tips might help: 

1. Keep in touch  

Talk to friends and family – just a friendly chat can help, whether it’s on the phone, in person or on a video call. Listening to other people can help to switch your mind away from how you’re feeling too.  
 
Remember that if you need to talk and don’t feel you can reach out to friends or family, the Samaritans are available 24/7 on 116 123. 

2. Make new connections 
 
Joining a group or club can provide an easy way to make connections with others, and a shared interest can be a great starting point for conversations.  


The Live Well activity finder can help you find fitness activities and groups in Dorset, and the Help and Kindness website provides a directory of groups and activities for older people. The Meet Up website also includes a wide range of groups and activities and is searchable by area. 
 
Remember, too, that it doesn’t have to be face-to-face. There are plenty of virtual clubs or online classes out there, as well as a range of online communities that can offer peer support and connections, including support for parents, grandparents, carers, and students – find a list on the Every Mind Matters website.  

3. Do things for you 
 
Sometimes it can be easy to forget about the things we enjoy doing by ourselves, particularly following a break-up, bereavement or change in our lives that means we’re feeling hurt or sad. But filling your time with things that make YOU happy can really help. Whether it’s enjoying nature, listening to podcasts, making something, or even just enjoying a film or new TV series, it can occupy your mind and boost your mood. 
 
“After my divorce, I found it hard initially to motivate myself to get active and start doing things for me again,” explains Mark. “But after investing in a new bike, I rediscovered my love of cycling. Long bike rides in the nearby forest really cleared my head. I also found that one of my relatives had a similar love of cycling so we often headed out together – with the odd stop for a pub lunch!” 


4. Try not to compare yourself 
 
We all compare ourselves to others at times – particularly if we’re feeling down or lonely – but remember that things in other people’s lives aren’t usually quite as you imagine them.  

Social media can paint a rosy picture of people’s lives but keep in mind that it’s a curated picture and can often be far from reality. If you find yourself scrolling on social media and it’s making you feel worse, try to put the phone down and do something for you instead, to switch your mind onto something else. 

Visit the NHS Every Mind Matters website for more tips on tackling loneliness.  

The Mind website also has some excellent advice on loneliness, including information about peer support and talking therapies. 

 

Talking about feeling lonely 

Being able to talk about how you feel can help with loneliness. Even if it’s just one other person, share how you feel with a trusted friend or family member if you can. Or if you’d prefer, there are lots of organisations out there that can offer a friendly ear, including: 

  • Connection – a 24/7 Dorset NHS mental health helpline, open to all ages – call 0800 652 0190 

  • Samaritans – available to talk 24/7 whatever you’re going through, big or small – call 116 123 or if you prefer, email jo@samaritans.org and someone will get back to you within 24 hours 

  • Text ‘SHOUT’ to 85258 - a free, confidential, 24/7 text messaging support service for anyone who is struggling to cope 

  • Free face-to-face drop-in sessions - at The Retreat in Bournemouth and Community Front Rooms at venues across Dorset (times and locations vary, visit Access Mental Health Dorset for more information) 

Find a list of other local and national support organisations at www.LightonMH.uk/support    

There are also a number of organisations that can provide specialist advice and support: 

Feeling lonely after a bereavement 

Feeling lonely due to social anxiety 

Support for older people 

  • Silverline: A free 24-hour confidential telephone helpline offering information, friendship and advice to people over 55: 0800 4 70 80 90 

Support for carers

BCP Council area - CRISP - www.crispweb.org or call 01202 128 787

Dorset Council area - Carer Support Dorset - www.carersupportdorset.co.uk or call 0800 368 8349

Helping others who are lonely 

We can all take simple steps to help others who might be feeling lonely – and it can often help us too. 

If you know people who might be feeling lonely, try to make an effort to connect with them, even if it’s just a phone call to a relative or a quick visit to an elderly neighbour. Remember, too, that people might find it harder to make new connections if they’ve been lonely for a long time. It may be difficult for people to respond at first, so be patient and kind. 

Find more advice on how to lift people out of loneliness on the Every Mind Matters website

Lucy Mears

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