It's Mental Health Awareness Week and the focus this year is loneliness. All of us will experience loneliness at times and this can have a big impact on our mental health. But if you’re experiencing loneliness, there are things you can try to help cope and reduce negative feelings surrounding this.
Try getting some exercise in
Exercise is a great way to occupy your mind, plus it's good for your body too! It doesn’t need to be overly strenuous, even a walk outside can make a world of difference.
Try a new hobby
A good way to cope with loneliness and improve our mental health is to keep busy by doing things that we enjoy. This could mean picking up a new hobby like cross-stitching, going to the gym or even learning a new language in spare time.
Try to engage with people around you
It can be difficult (and scary) to chat to others, especially when feeling down, but making small connections with others can make a difference in how we feel. Even chatting to the person working at the checkout when doing your weekly shop or saying hi to people passing by can make a big difference.
Use social media positively
Social media can be a great way to find digital communities of people who may be in the same situation as you or share the same interests. You may even find that you can build meaningful friendships this way.
Spend time with pets
Spending time around pets can be amazing for your mental health, as they provide us with lots of unconditional love and have even been found to reduce stress levels. Plus they give us a reason to get some exercise outside and get into a better daily routine.
But being a pet owner is a huge responsibility that you need to be certain you can handle. If it’s not practical for you to have your own right now, try spending some time with your family or friends’ pets. You could even volunteer at a pet's home to spend time with animals if you’d rather. From my personal experience, it’s extremely rewarding to show love to animals that haven’t had the best start in life.
Practice some self-care
It’s important to take care of yourself, especially when feeling down. Getting into some good self-care habits can make all the world of difference to how you’re feeling. Making sure you’re getting enough exercise, eating nutritious foods, and getting enough sleep are all important. Plus, trying a new skincare routine or taking time to read a good book are great ways to treat ourselves.
Consider talking to a therapist
Talking your feelings through with a therapist might sound daunting at first, but it can be a great benefit to your mental health. As they’re a stranger to you, it becomes a safe space for you to talk about how you’re feeling without needing to worry about any judgement or preconceptions.
How can I support others who are feeling lonely?
Listen and show understanding
A good way to support those feeling lonely is to listen to how they’re feeling. Set time aside to spend with them and show compassion and understanding. This might even just be grabbing a coffee after work in the week and could make all the difference in their eyes.
Try to be welcoming in groups
It can be hard to initially join a new group dynamic, especially when someone is feeling low. It’s important to try to make newcomers feel welcome to make them more at ease.
Don’t show judgement
Avoid showing any judgement or stigmatising those feeling lonely. Instead, openly listen to how they’re feeling and try to draw on your own previous experiences if you can to show compassion.