How not to get lonely when you're home alone

Susannah Hickling

The past few months have taught us a lot about isolation. But it’s worth making the effort to connect—or reconnect—with family and friends

Understand that you’re not the only one

More than 8 million people live on their own in the UK, with the number increasing by a fifth in the last 20 years. It doesn’t follow that you’re lonely just because you’re a solo dweller, but there’s evidence that it can have an effect on your health, upping your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and mental health problems. So if you do feel lonesome at times, don’t dismiss it. Acknowledging it and understanding what’s causing you to feel that way is the first step to doing something about it.

 

Make time for people

It’s easy to feel as if you just don’t have time to devote to meeting new friends, but you need to prioritise your social life. Instead of watching the TV or checking your phone, go for a walk and chat to someone. Better still, offer to take a neighbour’s dog for a walk—dog owners love other “doggy” people!

 

Change the things you can

What can you fix? For example, if you live far from friends, family and activities you enjoy, and it’s not easy to reach them, consider moving. And, if it’s possible, do it.

 

Build your community online

Obviously, moving isn’t an option for everyone, but the internet has the potential to bring like-minded people together. However, it needs to translate into meeting up in real life. Try the Meetup website, which lists local groups and events, bringing people with common interests together. Facebook too will point you in the direction of people who share your interests.

 

Pick up the phone

Or, even better, start a video call on Zoom, Skype or Facebook Messenger— there are so many ways you can talk face to face now. Don’t wait for family and friends to make the first move; get in touch for a chat. Make it a regular habit.

 

Treat friends like dates

Just as you would with a relationship prospect, find out about potential friends. What do they like doing? Join one of their activities. What subject are they passionate about? Find out more about it and discuss it with them.

 

Get involved

Volunteering has been shown to be good for physical and mental health, reducing stress, taking your mind off your problems or illnesses, and giving you the opportunity to connect with people. Helping at the local food bank or in a charity shop, say, will give you a warm, fuzzy feeling and you’ll also get to know the other volunteers. It’ll also give you something to talk about with friends and family.

 

Plan ahead

Everyone’s busy, so getting people together can take organisation and motivation. Rather than vaguely suggesting meeting up, follow it up quickly with a proposed date. Send out a Doodle poll if it involves a lot of people—this is a free phone app that helps you schedule events.

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