Have you ever been in a room crowded with people and still felt lonely? The truth is, you can feel lonely anywhere, anytime. We’ve put together a guide to help you feel more connected to those around you.
1. Start small
The best way out of a loneliness vortex is to start small with some simple social interactions. Try making small talk with the cashier at the supermarket or sending a text to a friend. Yep, it might feel super awks at first, but these small interactions can help you feel less alone and isolated.
2. Hang out with like-minded people
What are you into: video games, music, books? Joining a club is an awesome way to meet and connect with like-minded people.
Your school or your local community centre might run different clubs, so check out if there’s something there that’s right for you.
Another option is Meetup. It brings together people who enjoy similar things or activities, whether that be fitness, photography, tech or, well … pretty much anything. And it’s free!
3. Get active
Ok, so exercise is great for keeping you less stressed and well, but have you thought about it as a way to meet new people?
The good thing about sport is that it’s regular - so it might take a while but you can build up relationships over time and there’s not as much pressure. You could join an exercise class, take up a competitive sport or head to your local gym. Or, if you have a friend that’s interested, consider asking them to meet up for a walk or run.
4. Get online
Talking to people online is a great way to battle loneliness, as it allows you to stay in a comfortable, safe space (such as your own room) and still make contact with the outside world. While sometimes it can be a mission to dodge the trolls and haters, a little searching should uncover an online haven filled with your kind of people.
The ReachOut Forums are a supportive, safe and anonymous space where people care about what’s happening for you, because they’ve been there, too. Check them out here.
5. Schedule in something social
Sometimes when you’re in a loneliness spiral, you might start turning down opportunities to socialise, without even realising it. Try to challenge yourself to get out and socialise at least once a week. Make a note in your diary of at least one regular weekly social activity, and plan your time so that you don’t forget it.
6. Take yourself out on a date
Don’t feel comfortable asking someone out for a hang? That’s cool. Grab a good book, the morning crossword, a sports mag or even just your Reddit feed and head to a local spot. You don't have to get too creative, just find somewhere you're comfortable chilling out for an hour. It might be a local cafe, a dog park, a gallery or the nearest beach. The first few times flying solo can feel a little awkward. You might even worry that people are judging you - but we promise they're not. A regular hang spot can also help you to meet new people. If you hit up the same place often enough, you’ll start to notice some familiar faces, and might even make a few mates.
7. Write it down
Writing is a great way to battle loneliness, as it helps you to clarify your thoughts, process your emotions and get to know yourself better. Your journal can become like a best friend: it’s a ‘safe place’ for letting everything out, and it’s always going to be there for you.
But you don’t just have to stick to journal writing – writing a poem, a short story or even some song lyrics can also be a great way to deal with feelings of isolation. You could try a journalling app such as Day One.
8. Hang out with some non-humans
Animals are great at making us feel connected and cared for. ‘Dogs in particular can reduce stress, anxiety, and depression [and] ease loneliness,’ according to an article titled ‘Mind-Boosting Power of Dogs’. If you’re not ready for the responsibility of owning a pet, you could always get into pet minding.
Ask your neighbours and friends: they might have a dog you could take for a walk occasionally, or a cat you could come over to visit and pet. Or, if all else fails, head to a dog park!
9. Put on your volunteer hat
When you’re feeling isolated, volunteering helps to get you out into the world, connects you with the community and, by keeping you busy, helps take your mind off your own problems. There are stacks of charities in your local area that will be looking for volunteers. Try local nursing homes, childcare centres, or shops like Vinnies. Govolunteer.com.au is a great place to start.
10. Get some help
If you’ve tried a couple of these steps and are still feeling disconnected, don’t be afraid to seek professional help. If you need it, your GP can set you up with a mental health plan that will enable you to access counselling or to visit a psychologist. Don’t be afraid to get the support you need.
Don’t forget, stacks of people have times where they feel a sense of loneliness, so you’ll never be alone in feeling lonely. Taking even just a few of the steps above can help reduce your isolation and should help you start to feel better.
What can I do now?
- Here are a gazillion ways to make new friends.
- Listen to how these young guys talk about how they cope with loneliness.
- Jump onto the ReachOut forums and connect to other young people.