We all know what loneliness feels like and feeling lonely from time to time is a normal part of life. But when loneliness is severe or lasts a long time, it can negatively affect our mental health.
Loneliness is different for everyone and there are no rules for when or how a person may experience it. If you’re feeling lonely, or think someone might be lonely, there are things you can do to help ease some of those feelings.
Loneliness is often linked with life events that could prevent you spending time with other people, such as:
However, many people can still feel lonely even when in a relationship or spending time with friends and family.
Loneliness differs from person to person, but often, people experiencing loneliness can suddenly find socialising has also become difficult. Common symptoms can include:
Noticing a change in behaviour or personality is the first step to getting the help you need ot to becoming a supportive a friend of family member.
Loneliness can have a serious impact on health and wellbeing, but there are things you can do, or suggest, that may help:
Join a new group or class – This is a great way to meet new people. If this appears too daunting, suggest an online class first, where they’re not expected to interact but is enough to ease feelings of loneliness.
Try volunteering – This could be weekly or monthly. It’s a great way to meet people and can really help improve mental health.
Explore talking therapies or use our wellbeing tool, My Health – This is a great way to explore and understand feelings of loneliness and develop positive ways to deal with them. Alternatively, if you , or your friend or family member, has developed anxiety about social situations, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) may help. Our wellbeing tool My Health has a range of carefully curated resources on a range of topics including relationships.
Take time for yourself and self-care – Feeling lonely can be stressful and have an impact on general wellbeing. Adopt a healthy diet, and if you or loved one lacks the drive to cook, try a meal kit delivery service.. Ensure you’re getting plenty of sleep . It’s also a good step to ty and get out outdoors, as exercise and spending time in green spaces can improve self-esteem.
Stay in touch – Try getting in touch with friends and family and to talk openly about how you’ve been feeling. And if you’re worried someone is feeling lonely simply being there for someone can help. You can ask how they’re feeling or if there’s anything you can do to help. Talking with someone about how they are feeling can help put things into perspective. Often just knowing there is somebody there to listen can bring some relief.
Remember that different techniques work for different people, and timing is also crucial. If something isn’t working, suggest trying something else.
However, if you feel you’re unable to fully support your friend or family member, the Doctor Care Anywhere team is at hand. Our 24/7 GP service can help with loneliness, offering diagnosis and recommendations about treatments such as CBT and therapy.
Learn more about our wellbeing tool - MyHealth here.
Last reviewed September 2022.