How to combat loneliness and social isolation
January can be a difficult time for many. After the festivities of the holiday season and New Year, it’s normal to feel a little glum. Everyone needs social connection to Thrive, whether that’s spending quality time with friends and family or simply making small talk with a stranger.
Most of us have felt lonely at some point in our lives, and this can have a significant impact on our wellbeing, lifestyle, and mental health. People living alone can be especially vulnerable to social isolation, which is a contributing factor to serious health issues such as heart disease, cognitive decline, high blood pressure, and depression.
If you find yourself feeling lonely, you don’t have to suffer in silence. We’ve put together a few tips for combating loneliness in the cold winter months, to help ensure people live their best lives and stay happy and healthy.
Keep up with family and friends
A key factor that can help reduce feelings of loneliness is maintaining social connections with family and friends. It’s important to stay in touch with people and reach out if you feel isolated.
If your family and friends live close by, try to plan a trip out somewhere exciting or simply invite someone over for tea. For those with distant family and friends, just picking up the phone is enough to reduce feelings of loneliness. Video calls are also a great option for those who face geographical barriers. Using a phone or computer to speak face-to-face is a great way to lift your spirits and connect with your loved ones.
Some people might feel guilty and embarrassed when they feel lonely and don’t want to bother anyone with their problems. You must overcome these feelings. They are your loved ones for a reason, and they want you to be healthy, happy, and content, just as much as you do.
At BelleVie, we also provide companionship visits for those that just need a friend or some good company. Whether you want a good conversation over a cuppa, or someone to do a puzzle with, our friendly Wellbeing Support workers can drop by and provide the support and companionship you deserve.
Keep yourself busy
Keeping busy isn’t just a way to distract yourself from feelings of loneliness. It can help keep your mind active and engaged, leading to better brain health, reduced feelings of depression, and mental stimulation.
One of the best ways to keep busy is to indulge in one of your favourite hobbies, like picking up a good book or starting an arts and crafts project. You could even try your hand at a new hobby that you’ve always wanted to do. Taking time to invest in yourself and your interests is a fantastic way to clear your mind and get in touch with your emotions.
You can also stay busy by connecting with your local community. There are plenty of free group activities and events that you can participate in to meet new people and connect with your local peers. Join up with a local arts and crafts class or sign yourself up for a game of bingo. Many activities can also be accessed online, so you can connect with your community and meet new people from the comfort of your own home.
Enjoy the outdoors
Getting out into nature or even just your local community can help you to feel revitalised and at peace. Take a visit to your local park or town centre to reduce feelings of disconnect and loneliness, but remember to wrap up warm!
Sunlight helps regulate mood and energy levels. Exposure to natural light and vitamin D increases the level of serotonin in the brain, which can help with anxiety and depression, leading to improved mood. Even just getting out in the garden can have a positive impact on your health and reduce feelings of loneliness.
Get enough sleep
Getting too much or not enough sleep can have profound effects on your wellbeing. Social isolation can disrupt sleep and sleep deprivation has been linked to higher reported levels of loneliness. This vicious cycle can negatively impact your mental and physical health, leading to mood disorders, emotional distress, memory problems, and heart disease.
Try to keep a diary to monitor your sleep pattern. If you spot something unusual, try your best to fix it and create a more regular schedule. The recommended healthy amount of sleep for an adult is 7 hours, and most people don’t need more than 8 hours to feel well-rested.
Try to stay active
Staying active is beneficial for your physical and mental health. Keeping physically active can help to maintain independence and provide numerous health benefits which can lead to improved mood and better quality of life.
Exercise is a great thing to do with others and opens up new ways to connect with your peers. Whether that’s taking a walk with a family member or friend, taking part in a group yoga class, or joining a community exercise group. Actively participating in physical activity with others is a great way to connect socially.
Focus on yourself
Finally, it’s important to focus on yourself and your wellbeing when experiencing feelings of loneliness. It’s important that you recognise the signs and symptoms and take a look at your own patterns of behaviour. Try and open up to someone you trust and explore your thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
How to spot if someone is feeling lonely
If you have a loved one who you might think is at risk of social isolation, it’s important to be aware of the signs. Many people over the age of blah. Here are just a few of the signs that can stem from loneliness. The earlier you recognise these and take action, the faster you can prevent someone’s health from declining.
Restless sleep – Have they complained about a change in sleep pattern?
Lack of Appetite – Are they not eating like they used to?
Change in frequency of phone calls – Do they not call you as frequently as they used to?
Spending more time at home – Have they been spending more time at home?
Withdrawal and isolation – Have they withdrawn from friends and family?
Reluctance to make plans – Are they reluctant to make plans to do things or do they avoid events and activities they used to enjoy?
Substance abuse – Have they recently increased their intake of alcohol or prescription medications?
General health complaints – Do they make more regular complaints about their mental or physical health?
- Age UK – Provide a range of services and support to help meet new people and make friends.
- Independent Age – A charity that provides advice, support, and a helpline.
- Campaign to End Loneliness – A wealth of information and advice for those that are lonley.
- The Silver Line – 24 hour free helpline for older people across the UK.