6 ways to prevent loneliness by connecting with others

The post-holiday season can sometimes leave you feeling a little lonely. But it’s important to know everyone can feel this way and there are lots of things you can do to boost your mood and stay in touch with others. Take a look at these six ideas to help keep the January blues at bay.

Despite the world being more connected today, people are feeling lonelier. The Campaign to End Loneliness discovered that nearly half of all adults in the UK have experienced loneliness, and this can have a negative impact on both physical and mental wellbeing.

Luckily, there are lots of options and resources available to help people feel less lonely. We’ve put together six suggestions that could help you feel more connected to others. 

1. Join a club

Humans have evolved as social beings, surviving and thriving when we’re part of a community. Even in the modern world, psychologists say that humans still benefit emotionally from connecting with others, particularly with those who share similar interests.

There are plenty of groups out there to help you meet new people, particularly if you look for one with people who have similar interests. Joining a club gives you a structured way to socialise with others. If your local community has a website or social media group, this is often a good place to find clubs nearby.

If possible, look for a club that meets in person, as making connections and building relationships face-to-face can be more beneficial. But if mobility is an issue or your options are limited, the internet is also alive with virtual clubs that can make it easier to socialise. If you can, try typing in one of your favourite activities on Facebook or in online forums. You’ll be amazed at how many people with similar interests you can discover.

If it applies, you might also want to look at Age UK’s website. It has a wide range of social activities that older people can get involved in, including coffee mornings, arts and crafts, pub lunches, photography clubs and quizzes. You can find out what activities your local Age UK has on offer on their website.

2. Learn a new skill

Learning a skill at any age and any stage of your life is hugely beneficial. Whether it’s an art class, breadmaking, picking up a new language or something else that interests you. It’s important to get out of your comfort zone and try something new, perhaps even something that scared you before. This can help boost your motivation and confidence going forwards.

For maximum benefit, look for a class that brings you into contact with other people. You can explore this by searching for local classes online. If learning a new skill online is your preferred option, try to look for a course where you’ll get to interact with others.

One idea is to sign up for an online British Sign Language (BSL) course. This course was created by disabled student Tyrese Dibba, in collaboration with the disability charity Sense. The course was created during lockdown, in an effort to help tackle loneliness and isolation among other people with disabilities.

3. Master the art of small talk

Small talk may seem pointless, or perhaps even awkward. It’s can also be scary if you lack self-confidence, as so many of us do, but the chances are that the person you’re chatting to is probably nervous as well! And being able to strike up a conversation with anyone about anything is a great skill to build.

Speaking to people not only opens new doors and opportunities, but also fulfils our natural desire for social interaction. It can help develop our social skills, making us ultimately more confident and less anxious for future interactions with new people.

The easiest way to improve your small-talking skills is to start small. Try to strike up a conversation with your local shop assistant, catch up with a neighbour, or seek out an old friend via phone, text or email. As your confidence grows, making small talk with a stranger won’t seem so scary.

4. Say “Yes” more

Changing your mindset might feel like a big shift, but the benefits can be worthwhile. Many people can feel comfortable saying “No” in situations to avoid potential embarrassment or disappointment. But by saying “Yes” to some questions, you’ll potentially open yourself up to new opportunities.

Saying “Yes” can be scary because it takes you out of your comfort zone, but that’s the point. Our comfort zones can isolate us and make us feel lonely. Saying “No” cuts down conversations, shuts off opportunities and can lead to loneliness. Saying “Yes” opens doors. Of course you have to be sensible with who and what you’re saying agreeing to, but it’s a good practice to try and follow when you can.

The good thing about making “Yes” your default response is that you can still choose to say “No” later on. However, during that time, you might experience opportunities that you can feel excited about. It could be as small as stopping to talk when you initially wanted to keep going, but even a little uncertain “Yes” could bring positive changes to your life. 

5. Volunteer your time

Charities are always on the lookout for volunteers, and the benefits of volunteering are very clear. While volunteering can increase your self-confidence and opportunities to connect with others, it can also give you a sense of purpose. 

Volunteering comes in various forms, and it can work around your schedule and what you’re able to offer. You could volunteer in a soup kitchen, for the Samaritans, do litter picking, or help in your local library or charity shop. The opportunities are endless, and it’s bound to boost your own happiness and self-confidence while adding in a positive way to your local community.

You could volunteer in a soup kitchen, for the Samaritans, do litter picking, or help in your local library. The opportunities are endless, and it’s bound to boost your own happiness and self-worth while adding to your local community.

To find out more, search online for opportunities in your local area or visit Volunteering Matters or the UK Government’s website.

6. Find yourself a furry friend

Humans aren’t the only solution to help with loneliness. Studies have shown that owning a pet can have numerous benefits, such as reducing anxiety, providing companionship and helping you to meet new people. According to mental health and wellness experts HelpGuide, pets “fulfil the basic human need for touch,” while “the companionship of a pet can also ease loneliness.”* 

The type of pet you opt for will depend on how much you can give back. For example, a dog will require more physical effort from you compared to a cat. It’s an important factor to think about from the beginning. If you have the mobility to walk a dog, it has the added bonus of giving you daily exercise and bringing you into contact with other dog walkers and new social circles. If you’d struggle with this, a cat will very happily provide love and companionship.

Of course, not all of us will want to get a pet, but there are other ways you can spend time with animals. Why not volunteer at your local shelter, or use the app Borrow My Doggy? On Borrow My Doggy you can offer to walk local dogs, or look after other people’s furry friends while their humans go on holiday.

It’s important to remember that you’re not alone. Feelings of loneliness affect many of us, often unexpectedly and without warning. While it can feel easier to push those feelings aside, it’s important to address how you feel. hile those feelings can often be banished or pushed to the side, that is not always the case for everyone. If you try the steps outlined above but are still feeling lonely, don’t be afraid to seek out professional help from your GP.

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