Steps To Take If You Are Lonely And Depressed
We are all living through difficult times at the moment, life is challenging most of the time anyway without the threat of an ongoing global pandemic which has drastically exacerbated any negative feelings that we have been experiencing.
Due to the enforced lockdown set by the UK Government in March 2020 hundreds of thousands if not several million people have missed out on spending valuable time with their friends, family and work colleagues for sustained periods of time.
This means they are vulnerable to feeling the effects of loneliness and poor mental health, the term “lockdown loneliness” has been used to describe this drastic increase in feelings of loneliness amongst people. (7)
It has been widely reported that there has been an epidemic of loneliness prevalent in the UK over recent years.
In 2018, Theresa May the Prime Minister at the time announced the government’s first-ever strategy designed to tackle loneliness which was starting to become a serious social issue. (3a)
There has been a focus on the over 50s driven by the charity Age Concern but realistically people of any age can be subject to feelings of loneliness depending on the course of events their lives take and the situations they have found themselves in through no fault of their own
Loneliness is in essence a disconnection with your fellow human as a result of separation and or isolation and can affect us in many different ways. (2, 8)
People who experience long term isolation have disrupted thinking, a reduction in their willpower, self-control and immune system functioning.
It has been proposed to be as damaging as smoking and obesity as it increases our stress levels, reduces heart functioning, accelerates the ageing process and decreases our tolerance to pain (2)
They are in danger of becoming psychologically dependent on it to help them cope. (8)
Many researchers believe that addiction has a relational basis to it and can be traced back to poor attachment patterns in early childhood (3) as alcohol is consumed to block out unpleasant feelings linked to isolation and loneliness.
Reasons Why I am Feeling Like This
Having a social phobia and or social anxiety could make social contact challenging for some people, the fact someone is struggling with this can in itself make them feel lonely. Such people want to build connections but are unable to do so.
The Coronavirus pandemic has probably made this worse for many people. (2, 8)
As well as the enforced isolation people have had to contend with over the past 18 months there are other factors that could lead to people feeling lonely.
Change of Circumstances
Anything that involves a change of routine or an ending of some sort can evoke feelings of loneliness that accompany the change. People become used to a particular way of life and when that ends it is understandably unsettling and could potentially have a negative impact on a person’s mental health.
Examples of such situations could be moving to a new area to start a new job or a University course or because another family member had to move. (2)
Changing jobs or career changes can be unsettling as there is an end to a previous routine that you had become accustomed to and people that you were used to interacting with.
You may need to build new connections in your new environment and that can take time which can be very challenging for some people who are extremely sensitive to the absence of meaningful connections. (2)
Relationships / Bereavement
The death of a partner, family member or close friend is always upsetting and can certainly lead to deep feelings of loneliness and isolation (8), the bereavement process itself is a difficult process to go through.
Relationship breakups are also very hard and involve a separation from a person that you had a strong emotional attachment to so this would also lead to feelings of loneliness if the relationship came to an end
Those who are particularly vulnerable to loneliness include:
- Those with a lack of friends and family nearby
- Unemployed people
- Single parents
- Those from minority groups who are under-represented in a certain community
- People who have a disability or mental health condition
- Long terms carers
Steps That I Can Take
If you are feeling particularly lonely and/or depressed, these are a few steps you should take in order to get yourself the help you not only need but deserve.
1. Visit your local Doctor`s Surgery
As well as talking about your concerns with a qualified medical professional, your GP will be able to listen to your symptoms and assess whether there is an underlying health condition responsible for how you are feeling or they could make a diagnosis of a mental health condition.
Your GP will also be able to offer you counselling sessions as part of the Access to Psychological Therapies scheme and will provide you with all the information that you need to get in touch with this service.
Your GP may also refer you to other mental health specialists depending on the nature of your diagnosis.
2. Look for AA meetings to Attend
If you feel that your drinking is getting out of control and are not ready to seek professional help or visit the doctor then an AA group in your area would be somewhere you can go to to be listened to without any judgement or ridicule by people experiencing similar problems.
You can just turn up and listen to other people each week until you are ready to talk.
AA meetings did switch to online during the coronavirus lockdown but they now are up and running again to various degrees around the country, although there are certain conditions attached to each meeting depending on the location. (1)
Remember the whole AA philosophy is based on the principle of Fellowship, so you will receive support and understanding from your fellow human.
The AA also prides itself on its principle of Anonymity so you will be quite safe attending meetings so you will not be asked to reveal any personal details.(1)
3. Activities to Build Connections
It’s important to remember that we are social creatures and the humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow proposed that we all have a fundamental need to belong, so spending time with our fellow humans makes us feel good and puts us in a positive frame of mind (4)
So if you are feeling lonely and depressed looking for a group to join where you can enjoy your favourite activity with similar people who share your interests can have a very positive effect on your mental well-being.
Even just going somewhere where there are plenty of people around, like a park, cinema, or coffee shop can be extremely valuable in building a connection with your fellow human.
Whether it is watching the same film or sitting near them means you are putting yourself in a situation where you are having a similar experience to another person which is better than sitting alone in your house. This goes some way towards making contact with people which can start to erode away at any feelings of loneliness. (6)
There are many community projects who offer a befriending service to elderly people,
which you can volunteer to join. Being part of such a service can be beneficial to yourself as well as the person you will be supporting.
(3b) Research has shown that helping and showing compassion towards others can be enormously beneficial to you as well, in making you feel better about yourself and giving your mental health a positive boost. (9)
5. Sports Clubs
Joining a sports team can be a great way to meet people and engage in exercise both of which can boost low mental health. It might be a good idea to tune into any sports that you use to enjoy and start taking up again.
As well as taking part in the sport there are also many opportunities to meet new people and socialise after playing the sport. There are now many community projects throughout the UK that seek to use participation in sport to combat the growing problem of loneliness. (3b)
6. Education/Evening classes
There are many shorter evening classes as well as college and university courses run in most areas throughout the UK. You can obtain a brochure with a list of all courses available including languages, cookery, computing and technology, fitness, art, music and photography.
There is something available for most people and it’s a chance to learn about a new topic or increase your knowledge on a current one and to meet new people at the same time.
Engaging your brain and being creative has a positive effect on your mental health, and any activity involving connections with other people will help you overcome loneliness.
Many people have commented how joining a choir and singing has helped them immensely and enabled them to build friendships and connections they never previously had.
Singing itself has been reported to have therapeutic qualities that can be beneficial for one’s mental health as it improves breathing, posture and reduces muscle tension and releases feel-good chemicals in the brain.
Joining a choir has also been acknowledged as a great way to meet people and to eradicate feelings of loneliness. (5)
8. Organisations/Charities that Specialise in Supporting Mental Health
Luckily because of the wide-scale concern surrounding loneliness and mental health that has become apparent over the past few years, there are many organisations and charities dedicated to offering services to support people experiencing such difficulties.
The Marmalade Trust which was formed in 2013 is a UK Charity that was the first in the world committed to tackling the issue of loneliness.
They have a very simple mission statement in which they see loneliness as a serious issue and they aim to support people in their quest to find the social connections that have been missing from their lives
(1) Alcoholics Anonymous (2021) What is AA? Available @What is AA? | Alcoholics Anonymous – Great Britain (alcoholics-anonymous.org.uk)
(2) Cacioppo, J., Patrick, W. (2008) Human Nature and a Need for Social Connection. WW Norton & Company. London
(3) Flores, P. (2004) Addiction as an Attachment Disorder. Jason Aronson. Maryland
(3a) Gov.uk (2018) PM Announces Government’s First Loneliness Strategy
(3b) Gov.Scot (2018) A Connected Scotland; Our Strategy for Tackling Social Isolation and Loneliness and Building Stronger Social Connections available@ A Connected Scotland: our strategy for tackling social isolation and loneliness and building stronger social connections – gov.scot (www.gov.scot)
(4) Gross, M. (1987) The Science of Mind and Behaviour
(5) Launay, J. (2021) Choir Singing Improves Health, Happiness and is the Perfect Ice Breaker
(6) NHS (2021) Get Help with Loneliness
available @ Get help with loneliness – NHS (www.nhs.uk)
(7) Office of National Statistics (2021) Coronavirus and Loneliness: Great Britain
(8) Swan, T. (2018) The Anatomy of Loneliness: How to Find Your Way Back to Connection. Watkins Publishing
(9) Yalom, I.D. (1995) The Theory and Practice of Group Psychotherapy. Basic Books New York