Loneliness is often associated with the older generation, but a study conducted by the Co-op and The British Red Cross shows that over 9 million people across all ages are either always or often lonely, and the Christmas period can play a role in exacerbating these emotions.
As humans, we are programmed to exist around others, so being lonely can be an uneasy and unnatural feeling. Whether it’s due to bereavement, a failed relationship, relocation or other reasons, feeling alone can have a profound effect on a person’s mental and physical health and the festive season can often be a hard time for those who are struggling.
What can you do if you’re on your own?
Reach out to an old friend.
Christmas is a perfect time to meet up with an old friend. A short and sweet ‘Merry Christmas’ text is also a good way to break the ice. Meeting with an old friend can be a great way to catch up and you should both have plenty to talk about. It can also be a good opportunity to rekindle the friendship and can lead to more plans in the future. Just be sure to try and plan in advance as Christmas can be a busy time for most people.
Talk about how you are feeling
Have a conversation with family, friends or anyone you feel comfortable talking to about how you may be feeling. Talking about your emotions can be difficult at first but it helps to get things off your chest and lets those who you confide in able to offer their help and advice. If you don’t feel comfortable talking to a family member or friend there are helplines such as Samaritans, that are available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You can call 116 123 and a Samaritans volunteer will be there to listen. Samaritans also offer a texting and email service which can also be helpful. Check out the amazing work they do here: https://www.samaritans.org
Joining a local gym or fitness class is a great way to meet new people and get fit. Exercise is also fantastic for the mind as it releases chemicals like endorphins and serotonin that improve your mood. Exercise, particularly outdoor running can be great to get you out in the fresh air. Run together is a website dedicated to helping people run with others, you can join whatever ability and they have groups across the country, check it out here: https://runtogether.co.uk/about/
‘MeetUp’ with likeminded people
MeetUp is a website that allows you to see who’s hosting local events for things you may be interested in and create your own groups. It’s an efficient way of meeting new people and making connections. Meetup offers a platform to share your thoughts and attend events and activities with like-minded people. Check out their work here: https://www.meetup.com
What can you do to help others?
Volunteering is not only a great way to meet people and socialise yourself, but it’s also incredibly rewarding and means you can give something back to your local community.
Do-it is a website dedicated to helping people find volunteer opportunities across the country and in a range of different fields so you can find something that works for you. Have a look at local volunteer opportunities here: https://do-it.org
Get to know your neighbours
Getting to know your neighbours can create a sense of community and can be real support for someone who may be silently in need. A friendly ‘good morning’ can be a great way to initiate conversation and will likely brighten someone’s day.
Image: Maison de Choup
Show them you care
If you know someone who might be feeling lonely it can help to show an interest in their lives, listen to their stories and ask their advice. These small things can make someone feel valued and they will often appreciate having someone to talk to. A simple cup of tea and a chat can go a long way!
Remember that every person is different and something that may work for you may not work for them. If you’re planning activities be sure to do things that the both of you will enjoy and be patient, as placing unwanted pressure on someone can sometimes do more harm than good.