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Mental Health Awareness Week 2022: Loneliness

16th May 2022

In this blog we will consider why tackling loneliness and developing and maintaining good quality relationships is important.

What is loneliness?

Loneliness isn’t necessarily about being on your own, it is the distress and upset experienced when feeling alone and disconnected from others. In real terms this means that, someone could be in a room full of people and still experience loneliness.

Why is it important to think about loneliness?

Loneliness is a significant risk factor for developing mental health problems. It is also a key predictor of poor physical health and is associated with higher rates of mortality and lower life satisfaction.

It is important to note that it is the quality of relationships, not the quantity that matters. Relationships that make you unhappy can be toxic and more damaging to our mental health than being on our own.

Ultimately, having good quality relationships and positive support networks in place can help us to live longer, happier lives and protect our mental and physical health.

Some simple steps to tackle loneliness, increase connectivity, and develop positive relationships.

It’s important for us all to feel as tough we are part of something, and that we are understood and accepted. This protects our mental health by boosting self-esteem, improving wellbeing, and protecting against loneliness.

There are lots of different ways to connect and its important for us to think about different ways to do this.

  • Reach out to people Having good support networks in place through family, friends and colleagues protects against loneliness. By reaching out and making meaningful connections with people who share common ground, ideas, and values, supports us to develop a sense of belonging. You could do this by joining a club or group that focuses on something you enjoy. Think about taking up a new hobby or rediscovering an old interest. These can all be great ways to meet new people.

  • Do something nice for someone The smallest acts of kindness really can make a difference. Giving to others makes other people and you feel good. Research suggests that acts of giving and kindness support positive mental health by creating positive feelings and a sense of self-worth and value. They also help us connect with others. Try something as simple as holding the door, making a cup of tea, or paying a compliment.

  • Appreciate others Think about someone you know who’s done something you appreciate and let them know. Pick up the phone, write a letter, send an email or message them. If you’ve not got the time to call or write, it may help to just think about someone who’s done something nice for you, and mentally thank them. Appreciation and gratitude help us feel positive emotions, cope with adversity, and build strong relationships; all of which support positive mental health and combat loneliness.

  • Practice active listening. Active listening is part of effective communication skills and can help us build and maintain healthy relationships. Often, we can find ourselves listening to respond. The aim of active listening is to listen to understand. A simple way to improve our listening skills is to pay attention to how often we may interrupt a conversation. Did you know…the average adult listens for less than 20 seconds before interrupting?

  • If you’re struggling, let someone know. If you are feeling lonely and experiencing difficulties and finding it difficult to cope, don’t put yourself under pressure to try to carry on as normal. Let someone know and ask for help if you need it. There is always help and support available. For more information on support services click the link here.

Bibliography

Harvard Medical School (2019). Healthbeat: Giving thanks can make you happier. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier Mental Health Foundation. (May 2016b) Relationships in the 21st Century. London: Mental Health Foundation. Mental health Foundation (online). (Accessed January 2017). Available from: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/publications/relationships-21st-century-forgotten-foundation-mental-health-and-wellbeing NHS Choices. (2018). 5 steps to mental wellbeing. Available online. Accessed at: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/learn-for-mental-wellbeing/ NHS Website (2019). Feeling lonely. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/mental-health/feelings-symptoms-behaviours/feelings-and-symptoms/feeling-lonely/ Riopel, L (2019). Emotional intelligence frameworks, charts, diagrams and graphs. Positive Psychology. Available at: https://positivepsychology.com/emotional-intelligence-frameworks/*