How to cope with loneliness and improve your mental health

How to cope with loneliness and improve your mental health

To help us to successfully deal with any troubling issue in life, it’s sometimes best to take a step back in order to analyse what has caused the issue. That way we can come up with the best solution possible for our needs. Take loneliness for example. There are many causes of this. We may find it difficult to make new friends, have moved to a new area, have recently been bereaved or been bullied at school or work. In these examples feelings of loneliness are very understandable. How we successfully deal with these feelings will ultimately have a positive effect on our mental health.

The following are a number of different strategies to help us cope with feelings of loneliness.

1.     Phone or message a friend you haven’t been in contact with for a while. This can feel awkward or even intimidating if a long period of time has passed since your last communication. With modern technology there are so many different ways of messaging. Be brave. Send a text, Whatsapp, Facebook message or whatever your preferred method is. You might just be surprised by the reaction.

2.     Physical activity. Getting out in the fresh air has very positive mental health consequences. Release of the hormone serotonin, which promotes feelings of wellbeing and happiness, is affected by the amount of oxygen in our bloodstream. This is why we feel more relaxed and refreshed after being outside! If you go for a walk or run in your local area, the chances are greater that you’ll meet someone you know, helping our feelings of loneliness. If your choice of activity is a sport that requires others such as football or tennis, you’ll get to know others. Physical activity also has a healthy and positive effect on our sleep patterns. It’s a win-win situation!

3.     Find your ‘Tribe’. We all want to feel part of something. It helps us belong. Look at the number of people in your local area who wear team jerseys. If sport is not your thing try something else. A Men’s Shed. A local community volunteer group. Anything you have an interest in that will also help you to positively cope with feelings of loneliness.

4.     Mind stimulation. Try a crossword or puzzle. These take time and mental effort, but completing them gives us a feeling of accomplishment and boosts our self-esteem. It’s also OK to get help from the internet – just not too much help!

5.     Spend time with animals. Interacting with animals decreases our levels of cortisol (a stress-related hormone) and lowers blood pressure. Some studies have found that animals can reduce feelings of loneliness and provide a boost to our mood. If you don’t have a dog maybe offer to walk one belonging to a friend or neighbour.

6.     Talking therapy. Therapy isn’t for everyone, but it can certainly be a big help if you’re feeling lonely. There are a number of organisations that can help. Just choose the one that’s right for you. Supporting people who are feeling lonely is very important. Try to listen as much as possible, empathise, and don’t judge or stigmatise. Make everyone feel as welcome as possible.