How to Combat Loneliness

Mental Health Awareness Week this year focuses on the topic of loneliness. Within the military community, it is easy to feel lonely at times during service, deployment or postings.

Dealing with loneliness can be difficult but there are ways in which we can cope with loneliness in order to prevent negative feelings and mental health issues that are associated with it.

In our community, the feeling can be shared and related to, as our shared experiences derive not only through military connections, but by personal and social relationships too; we must work together to combat loneliness. 

The following list contains a number of suggestions to improve your mental health, how to cope with feeling lonely and supporting others.

 

Try to do some enjoyable things that will keep you busy

One way of trying to manage loneliness is by keeping busy and doing things we enjoy. This might be a hobby such as gardening, jigsaws, puzzles, board game or knitting. Small activities can give you energy and positive feelings. It’s important that these things are fun or fulfilling.

I find that activities that have a creative purpose or end goal such as arts and crafts, enjoying music, joining a local choir or reading give you a feeling of reward for your time and one which makes our time feel worthwhile.

Be careful about working too hard or watching TV shows simply as a distraction, these will only delay or suppress your feelings and could make your mental health worse.

 

Try to do things that stimulate your mind

Participating in activities that occupy your mind can help with loneliness. This can include the benefits of taking courses or listening to podcasts from comedy to fitness. This can be stimulating and something as simple as listening to the familiar voice of someone you like can help you feel less lonely.

Crosswords and online brain training games can be a fun alternative, and encourage competition between friends and family as you compete for a better result or score. This can be an additional positive outcome, and healthy competition can only be seen as an advantage and collaborative means toward feeling part of a team or competitive rivalry.

 

Think about doing a physical activity 

Physical exercise can help with loneliness. It can be as simple as having a walk in the park when you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed. Engaging with nature and experiencing fresh air and life outside of the household can be a good way to remove yourself from a situation associated with lonely or negative feelings. Volunteering at your local parkrun, for example, is a great way to start your weekend.

Exercise has been clinically proven to release endorphins and those ‘feel good’ hormones, so if you can, get those trainers on and give it a go. Alternatively, you could listen to music and do a bit of dancing around your living room!

 

Try to use social media in a positive way

Social media can help your mental health. But it can also affect it negatively. The key is to use it in a positive way. Finding digital communities you share experiences, interests and passions with can help. 

Interacting with others that ‘get’ you can give you a sense of belonging that may be missing. Most importantly, be aware of how you feel when you use social media and focus on topics and activities that work best for you.

 

Spend time with pets

If you are lucky enough to have a pet, it can be a great way of managing loneliness. Not only do animals provide us with unconditional love and support, they also give structure to our days and even encourage us to get out and connect with others. Interaction with pets is also shown to help reduce stress levels.

 

How to support other people who are feeling lonely

Don’t judge or stigmatise

It’s important not to judge or stigmatise people who are feeling lonely. Stigma around loneliness is a huge barrier to the kind of open and genuine conversations that can help. It’s more important to be aware of just how common loneliness is. 

It’s a normal feeling that all of us are likely to experience at some point in our lives. Telling other people that their poor mental health is the reason why they are feeling lonely is really not helpful, and not the message that will show your support to them.

 

Try to make groups welcoming to other people

It can be difficult for people who are feeling lonely to join a group like a club. This might be because people are shy or feel nervous about existing relationships in the group which they don’t feel part of. It’s important to be aware of this and try to make groups be as welcoming as possible to newcomers. Flexibility around things like how often people attend is also important.

 

Try to listen and show understanding

A great way to help a friend or family member is to simply listen. People who have experienced loneliness relate how they valued friends who really considered what they might enjoy and were even willing to join them in some shared activities. Having an understanding and compassionate approach, and not ignoring the person’s experience, will help them feel heard and understood.

 

These lists are non-exhaustive and often by reaching out to a friend, a family member or even a stranger through conversation or activity, we are able to find reward through positive interaction and help with feelings of loneliness.

 

For more online resources and advice please visit the following websites;

MentalHealth.org

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week/loneliness-help-and-advice

 

NHS Mental Health

https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/self-help/guides-tools-and-activities/five-steps-to-mental-wellbeing/

 

CALM – Calzone.net

https://www.thecalmzone.net/guides/loneliness-and-social-isolation?gclid=CjwKCAjw9-KTBhBcEiwAr19ig_1pvMbCVn5qi06_GjjFi1DvfkJAWZnha0Uz_u-VH_aaUbd4FnsE9xoC4cIQAvD_BwE

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