How to spot loneliness and what to do about it

It's easy to imagine that loneliness is only an issue that affects the very old. But the truth is loneliness can strike anyone, at any time.

And whilst this year has been tough on us all - forcing us apart from those we love - the pandemic has only served to expedite a worrying trend: that despite living in a world where we've never been better connected many of us are feeling lonelier than ever.

As part of our campaign to break the silence on loneliness we’ve teamed up with mental health charity Samaritans to raise awareness of the issue and help remove any stigma associated with feeling lonely.

Read on for top tips from Samaritans to help you spot loneliness in others, and advice and help on how to combat it.

How to spot the signs of loneliness 

It could be the smallest thing that triggers loneliness in someone, but do you know the tell-tale signs that someone may not feel ok?

Samaritans advice is to look for changes to their usual routine and any behaviour that’s out of the norm. Ask yourself...

  • Do they seem more lethargic and tired than usual?
  • Are they no longer finding pleasure in the things they'd ordinarily enjoy?
  • Are they actively distancing themselves from others, even virtually?
  • Or on the contrary, are they spending a lot of time 'doom scrolling' on social media? (Heavy use of social media has been linked to feelings of social isolation).

If the answer is yes, they could be struggling. Now's the time to reach out.

What to do to if you’re worried someone’s feeling lonely

While we’re still practising a considerable amount of social distancing, it’s more important than ever before to check in on our friends and family – not just those you know are struggling but even those who appear to be coping well (remember, you can hide a lot behind a social media filter).

Now is definitely not the time to be worried about being the annoying friend. Pick up the phone or drop them person a text, without a second thought! Want to go one better? Reach out in real life because let's face it a Facebook like just isn't the same as making a real moment of human connection. Drop by for a (socially distanced) natter. Leave a gift on their doorstep. Send something to show you care. Taking that first step could make a huge difference to someone feeling isolated.

Still struggling to know how to reach out to someone you're worried about?Samaritans has a fantastic set of COVID-friendly tips to help you make the first step and an online guide to help you become a better listener for those in need – the charity’s ‘SUSH’ guide – so make sure to check it out and brush up on your skills.

What to do if you're feeling lonely?

We all feel lonely from time to time. Here are some tips to help you cope:

  • Don't compare yourself to other people on social media. Remember, you're often looking their their highlight reel.
  • Spend time outside - being amongst nature is proven to help your wellbeing
  • Try to get enough sleep as this can have a big impact on how you feel
  • Eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly - both can help to stabilise your mood
  • Try to open up to someone you trust

If you don't feel comfortable opening up to the people you know, you could try speaking with a therapist or a using a peer support service.

You may not be able to see your friends and family right now, but that’s where charities such as Samaritans can help.

Samaritans has a dedicated team of volunteers to help you, listen and talk, so don’t be worried about reaching out to the team. They're on hand 24/7. Just call 116 123 (it's free) or email jo@samaritans.org.

It’s time to start breaking the silence on loneliness one way or another, so don’t be afraid to open up and reach out to others – we can guarantee you’re not alone no matter how you’re feeling.

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