Loneliness can strike anyone, anywhere, anytime. You can be in a room crowded with people and still feel lonely. Check out our practical guide to help you feel more connected to those around you.
1. Take baby steps
If you’re feeling alone and isolated, it’s really easy to get stuck in a loneliness vortex. The best way out is to start small with some simple social interactions. Try saying ‘hello’ to a person you pass in the street, or make small talk with the cashier at the supermarket. It might feel really awkward at first, but these small interactions can help you be more ‘out there’ and less focused on your own sense of isolation.
2. Hang out with like-minded people
Joining a club is an excellent way to meet and connect with like-minded people. Have a think about your interests: do you enjoy video games? Music? Or maybe you’re a bookworm?
Whatever you’re interested in, there’s bound to be a club where you can meet other enthusiasts. Your school or your local community centre likely runs special-interest clubs, so check out if there’s something there that’s right for you.
Another option is the Meetup app. It’s designed to bring together people who enjoy similar things or activities, whether that be fitness, photography, tech or, well … just about anything. And best of all, it’s free!
3. Get active
Exercising is a great way to get out into the world and meet new people. It’s also brilliant at making you feel happier all round, as exercise releases endorphins, the chemical that keeps you happy.
You could always join an exercise class, take up a competitive sport, or even head to your local gym if the sight of all those sweaty bodies isn’t too much for you. There are heaps of different ways to get fit, so keep your mind open and you’ll find something that’s right for you.
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. Challenge yourself to join in one social activity per week
When you’re feeling lonely, it can be very easy to get stuck in a spiral of isolation and anxiety.
You might even start turning down opportunities to socialise, sometimes without even realising what you’re doing.
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. Get gaming
A lot of free games use chat, so you can talk to people as you play.
Sites such as Newgrounds feature a range of fun games that will also introduce you to people around the world that you can bond with – and you never even have to leave your room.
‘Online friends aren’t really a substitute for real world friends, but they are still valid,’ writes Reddit user ChadTC7. ‘I think they can be a great way to practice your social skills in a relatively consequence free environment.’
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. When you write things down, it becomes a record for you to reflect on and may even help you to identify patterns or triggers when you’re feeling lonely and isolated.
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.
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’.
But you don’t have to adopt something that’s difficult to look after, such as a dog or a cat – a bird, a mouse or fish can be just as effective. Or, if you’re not ready for that much responsibility, 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.
It definitely beats just hanging out with cat videos, hey?
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.
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 alleviate your isolation and should help you start to feel better.