Loneliness is a very personal experience, with each of us feeling it in different ways. While many of us experience it in bursts at some stage or another, loneliness can often become chronic, posing serious risks on our health and mental well-being.
Why combat loneliness
Feeling lonely for prolonged periods of time can cause some serious health concerns, with it recently being linked to being as harmful for our health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. It's also been proven to increase type 2 diabetes, dementia and the chance of suffering from cardiovascular issues.
Loneliness also contributes significantly to poor mental health, increasing the chances of suffering from depression and anxiety.
On the other hand, bringing people together and fighting loneliness is fantastic not only for our health but also for strengthening our communities, too.
How to overcome loneliness
Nothing is going to change overnight, but recognising that you feel lonely and need to reach out is a huge step. By embracing some of these handy tips below, you can start to combat the feelings of loneliness that so many of us now experience:
Reach out to family, friends or neighbours
It may seem obvious, but reaching out to those around you is the perhaps one of the best things you can do if you're feeling lonely. Open up about how you've been feeling or even pick up the phone for a quick chat.
Remember, we all feel lonely sometimes so your loved ones should be supportive and empathetic.
Volunteer for a local charity
Volunteering has been praised numerous times for its fantastic ability to help combat mental health problems. Not only this, it brings together from people of all walks of life and is a fantastic way to give something back to the community while making new friends and becoming part of a team.
Join the local community
According to research carried out for the DWP, nearly a quarter of older people do not go out socially at least once a month. Joining a local community group or club of interest could be a great way to get out the house, socialise with like-minded people and maybe even try something new.
Consider looking into the friendship centres for older people run by local Age UK branches or the Royal Voluntary Service's social centres and community clubs, that help bring together people over the age of 55, providing a safe place for people to make new friends.
Learn to enjoy 'me' time
Learning to enjoy time by yourself is key to combatting loneliness. Spending too much time alone will make even the strongest of us feel lonely, however being content in your own company is an important skill to learn.
Get some fresh air, pop to the gym, put your feet up with a book or film, or take yourself out on a day trip.
Remember, you don't necessarily need the company of others to have fun!
Get the help you need
We've put together a list of helplines, charities and organisations that help combat loneliness through some amazing initiatives. If you feel like you need it, reach out.