Updated: Jan 6
Feeling lonely isn't in itself a mental health problem, but the two are strongly linked. Having a mental health problem increases your chance of feeling lonely, and feeling lonely can have a negative impact on your mental health.
Although most people need some kind of social contact to maintain good mental health, everyone has different social needs. You may be someone who is content with a few close friends, or you may need a large group of varied acquaintances to feel satisfied.
Have a look at these tips. They might help you to cope with feelings of loneliness.
Think about what is making you lonely.
Being alone is not the same as being lonely. There is nothing wrong with being on your own if you are comfortable with it.
If you're visiting this page however, something probably feels wrong for you.
People usually describe feeling lonely for one of two reasons:
they simply don't see or talk to anyone very often
even though they are surrounded by people, they don't feel understood or cared for.
Deciding which is the case for you may help you to find a way of feeling better.
It can be helpful to think of feeling lonely like feeling hungry. Just as your body uses hunger to tell your body you need food, loneliness is a way of your body telling you that you need more social contact.
That means the simplest way to ease feelings of loneliness can be to try to meet more, or different, people.
Can you think of anything you're interested in, a class or a group you've heard of, that could help you connect with new people?
Talking to people online often helps people find an understanding source of support.
Volunteering is a good way of meeting people. Helping others can also really help improve your mental health.
I am not saying it's an easy thing to do.
You might feel that you have plenty of connections, but what is actually wrong is that you don't feel close to them, or they don't give you the care and attention you need.
In this situation it might help to open up about how you feel to friends and family.
Take it slow.
If you've felt lonely for a long time, or even if you're surrounded by people, it can be terrifying to think of trying to meet new people, or opening up to people for the first time.
But you don't need to rush into anything.
Start off by going somewhere like a cafe, the cinema or a sports event where you can be around people, but not be expected to talk to them.
Be brave and reach out to someone. It doesn't have to be face to face; you could share a post on social media.
If you're going to a group or class, see if someone you know will go along with you the first time, or ask whoever runs the class or group if you can just go along and watch at first.
Go somewhere it's not expected that you'll interact straight away, like a class where everyone is focused on an activity.
Ask your GP if talking treatments are available in your area which could help you manage the mental health effects of loneliness.
Be careful when comparing yourself to others.
It is very hard to stop comparing ourselves to others, we all do it, but it can help to just be aware that things are not always what they seem from the outside.
Social media, and the fact that we very often only see what other people want to share about their lives, can make us feel like we are the only ones feeling lonely.
It's important to remind yourself that you don't know how people feel when they are alone, or when their social media feeds are turned off.
Check how you are feeling.
How are you feeling generally? Feeling lonely can be very stressful and can have a big impact on your general well being, which might make it even harder to make positive steps to feeling better.
Think about how some of the following are affecting how you feel and whether you can do anything to change them:
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