“People are typically embarrassed or ashamed about loneliness because they think it ties to some kind of inadequacy or deficiency on their part,” Nobel said in an article in the January-February 2021 Harvard Magazine.
Loneliness has been a pernicious side effect of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the world approaches a new year of social distancing and isolation, I am working on exploring the long-term mental and physical health consequences of loneliness, and offering strategies to help people stay more connected and more equilibrated in their mental health.
You might be missing family and friends, colleagues or other everyday connections you had. It’s natural to feel like this, and you should not blame yourself for feeling like you are struggling, now or at any other time.
It’s really important to remember these changes will not be forever.
If you’re feeling lonely at the moment, the following tips can help.
Different things work for different people, so try to find what suits you, and seek further support if you feel you need it. I am all ears for you.
1. Explore ways to spend time together
When you are staying at home, you can still spend time with others. There are lots of ways to reach out to friends and family without having to meet in person. Chatting on the phone, video-calling and using social media can remind you that you’re not alone.
Lots of people are doing things together online, like watching films, playing Scrabble or having dinner.
You could join one of the many online clubs and virtual social events taking place, and invite your friends and family to take part too.
2. Be more social and check in regularly
Creating a regular routine of checking in with others and being more sociable can be good, as it can make it easier to reach out at the time you feel lonely.
You could try messaging old friends or colleagues on social media or text someone you have not spoken to for a while. Or set up a group chat on WhatsApp or Messenger if you prefer to talk with a few people at the same time.
Most of us love hearing from people we have lost contact with – and that’s especially true now. It may also encourage them to contact you more, or you could ask if it’s OK to have a regular check-in.
3. Share your feelings but do not compare
Being able to share your feelings with others can help with loneliness, and hearing a familiar voice or seeing a friendly face makes us feel less isolated.
Telling someone you trust that you’re feeling lonely can help, and it may be easier to do this when you have had some time to chat and relax together first.
Remember that many people may only share the good things happening to them on social media, so avoid comparing yourself to anyone, as this can make you feel lonelier. Plus we can never be sure of what someone else is going through.
4. Do more things you enjoy
Filling your time doing more things you like can stop you from focusing on feelings of loneliness and is good for your wellbeing.
If you can go out, a trip to the park can help, but always follow social distancing guidelines when you are outside your home.
When you’re at home, entertaining radio shows or podcasts are a good way to occupy your mind and keep you company. You could listen to audiobooks, and join an online book club to talk about them with others. There are also lots of comedy clubs online, so search for something that will make you laugh.
Exercise can lift your mood and help take your mind off things, so try walking, cycle or running outdoors if you can – or make an indoor class part of your daily routine.
If you want something more calming, try a free mental wellbeing audio guide, or give a relaxation or mindfulness app a go.
5. Stay busy by learning something new
Now is a good time to pursue a hobby or something you have always wanted to be able to do – and it can be a good way to spend time with others. If you enjoy learning with others, you could join an online class for arts and crafts, cookery, gardening.
Become a guitar hero, learn piano or join a virtual choir.
If you want to do something that gets you thinking about other things, you could try learning a language. There are many online courses, from beginners through to advanced classes.
Trying to find meaning in the midst of what is a very difficult set of circumstances we are all trying to think in reevaluating our lives.