7 Ways to Combat Loneliness
Many people of different ages experience feelings of loneliness. Whether or not you feel lonely is an individual experience, depending on whether your own needs for social interaction are met.
If you are stuck in a pattern of feeling lonely and isolated, there are ways in which you can improve your current situation by being proactive. Here are 7 ways in which you can help to combat loneliness:
1. Volunteer for a Charity or Project
Volunteering can be a great way to keep busy and meet new people. It also comes with the "feel-good" factor, since you are doing something for a cause you care about.
There are lots of different places to volunteer and meet people at the same time. You could volunteer at your local charity shop — they always seem to be in need of help. Alternatively, you could volunteer for an animal charity or a local conservation project, adopting a more 'hands on' approach to the cause itself.
If you are skilled in a particular area, you could look for an opportunity in which you can showcase your skills or help other people learn and enjoy them. I'll always remember taking my family to an old, local military defence base, where all of the people who worked there were volunteers who were retired from the industry. They were so knowledgeable and passionate, and so full of interesting stories and first-hand information, that the experience was a delight. What's more, I have no doubt that it kept them 'young' and interested in life, as well as providing them with a social outlet.
In my area, there is a "secret" Victorian garden (it's hidden from the road, but welcomes visitors whom they rely upon to leave a donation in the box). The garden relies completely on a team of dedicated volunteers — something like this could be a great way to combat loneliness whilst making a valuable difference if you have green fingers!
Alternatively, you could volunteer for an outreach program. Programs usually operate in teams, so you will get to know your fellow volunteers at the same time as helping vulnerable people.
Beach clean-ups offer another way to meet people and get involved in something, whilst also helping the planet. For those who are more adventurous, there are also several opportunities for volunteering overseas in areas of need.
'Befriending' is another worthwhile volunteering option. Many older people, in particular, find it difficult to get out and about and suffer from increasing loneliness. Spending time with someone else, even just for a while, may be the highlight of their entire week. This form of volunteering may particularly suit you if you are an older person yourself.
Whatever your age, and wherever your interests lie, there is always somewhere to volunteer to suit you.
2. Get an Allotment
Where I live, there is quite a big trend towards taking on an allotment. My house backs onto local allotments, so three months ago I decided it would be a great idea to take over a plot of my own.
The reasons why I suddenly decided I wanted an allotment were more to do with sustainable living and convenience than loneliness. During the last few weeks, however, it has become clear to me that allotments are places where you can easily and spontaneously meet people. In fact, it is the sort of place where everyone greets you, even if they've never seen you before.
I'm part of the Sustainable Living Group, which means I am part of a community that works together and has optional meet-ups and events, including shared lunches with home grown produce and 'painting days' where everyone works on maintaining the communal areas of the allotments, such as the sheds and picnic tables. I don't usually go to those meetings because they are on Sunday mornings when I am generally doing other things, but despite this I have still got to know several allotment regulars, some of whom have turned out to be close neighbours from my own street whom I had never met.
Having an allotment made me feel as though I was suddenly part of a team. As already mentioned, people say 'hello' to each other as they walk through the allotments, and my allotment neighbours introduced themselves and gave me produce, such as rhubarb, gooseberries, a cucumber, a courgette and offers of plants.
I have also found that allotments bridge generation gaps. Perhaps once thought of as an older person's pastime, allotments are quite trendy these days. There are people of all ages — I've met several other parents in their 30s and 40s from my son's school there. Likewise, there many even younger people — it's certainly not just a place for retirees, as some people might imagine.
There are small children helping parents, children practically in charge of their own allotments while parents just tally behind, an older man who told me he'd had his allotment since 1973, which is the year I was born, and a couple who I'd never met even though we all live on the same street. I was even walking along the dirt track with my son when I saw one of my neighbours at the bottom of her garden with her gate open, therefore practically in the allotments, drinking a glass of gin. Yes, it's all happening around here.
3. Join a Club
Lots of people think about joining a club in adulthood. The problem is, those who actually go ahead and do it are much less. Today's children have countless opportunities and extra-curricular activities to attend which parents are happy to pay for if they can — so why, as adults, do we not always indulge our own interests in the same way?
The truth is that, as adults, we often sacrifice our own passions for a myriad of reasons, including the responsibilities of caring for other family members, or a lack of confidence.
But joining a club as an adult can be a fulfilling and enjoyable way to 'hang out' with other people with whom you will have at least one shared interest. I was recently driving to the vets in a nearby village when I passed a group of mature walkers. They were clearly part of an organised walking group, and I remember thinking that it must be an enjoyable way to spend a nice day.
Walking together enables people to build relationships easily, since chatting whilst ambling together is very natural. There is, of course, an almost inexhaustible list of alternatives if walking isn't your thing. Some ideas are:
— Yoga or fitness
— Bowls club
— Bridge club
— Book club
— Amateur dramatics
— Badminton or squash club
— Martial arts club
— Writer's group
The list in endless.
My dad is in his late seventies and all through his life he has had many different hobbies. I used to think it was funny, the way he'd get an idea in his head, buy all the stuff required, and launch into the hobby with lots of passion, often for it to fizzle out as fast as it began. But he always had one particular hobby — lawn bowls — that he has continued with through the past 35 years or so, and it means that he always has somewhere to go a few times a week, and that he always has a group of familiar faces to chat to and go to matches with. Maintaining social contact with people aside from your family is supposed to be one of the ways to keep your brain healthy in later life, so it seems like a great way to spend time.
Join a Community
If you don't want to join a club, you could try joining a community. Particularly if you are an older person, there are many community centres that are regularly available for local members of a similar age to meet up, chat, enjoy a lunch together and even play board games. Such opportunities can make a real difference to the lives of people who would otherwise be sitting at home.
4. Go on a Singles Holiday
A singles holiday is a great way to meet people at the same time as experiencing something new. Many people make new friends, and at the very least you will be ensured companionship at dinner every night.
There is a whole array of singles breaks to choose from, from outdoorsy activity trips, to culture or beach breaks. If you love travelling and want to see the world, but don't want to go it completely alone, this can be the perfect solution. It's also nice to have like-minded people around you with whom you can share your experiences.
One company in the UK that prides itself on great holidays for single travellers is Solos Holidays, which has some great reviews and a wide range of choice. I still have a dependent child, but I really think I'd like to go on a trip like this at some point in the future. As I don't have a partner, and I do like sharing my travelling adventures, I think it would be a perfect solution.
Not only that, but if you happen to make even one friend on a trip, you might decide to sign up for another one together, thus maintaining the friendship into the future. And, as the saying goes, you can never have too many friends.
5. Set Up a Group
It might seem a little daunting, but setting up your own group can be a great idea to socialise with people on a regular basis. Someone I know did this, for fellow single people who just wanted a regular occasion to interact with other people. It was not about dating — it was about friendship and support and just meeting up and having something nice to do.
This group was set up via Facebook and was a closed group for local people. To do something similar, all you need is a regular meeting place and date, an idea of what you will do — hang out with drinks and nibbles, arrange regular outings and nights out, start up a book club, etc. Of course, it doesn't have to be for single people — it can be a group for like-minded individuals to indulge in a hobby, a campaign group, or anything you like.
It might take a little time to get going, and you'll have to consider the details, such as how many members you can accommodate, but setting up your own group could be the turning point in combating loneliness for many people.
6. Start a Class
Signing up for a class is a great way to engage your mind, with the potential to meet new people at the same time. The upside is that everyone in the class should be interested in the same thing.
There are classes for everything, from academic subjects, to pottery, drawing, car mechanics, film making, languages, photography and everything in-between. Most people have that 'thing' they've always felt like trying but never have — so if that sounds like you, bite the bullet and go for it.
Most classes run from a duration of 6 weeks and upwards, depending on what you are signing up for. And remember — you are never too old to learn. Even people in their 80s and beyond have fulfilled their dreams of studying!
7. Get a Part-time Job
If you are not already working, then getting a part-time job can be a way to meet people and become less lonely. A position in a small shop, tea room or coffee shop, restaurant, visitor attraction, or anywhere where the environment is interactive is a great choice. Many establishments have regular customers, so you can get to know people you would never otherwise have met.
Aside from the customers, working in general can help with loneliness, especially in places where staff have to work as a team (which is most places, to varying degrees).
Over the years, I have spent a lot of time working in jobs that require serving the public, and I really got to know many of those people just by chatting and by them recognising me as a familiar face. Some of the places I worked were really busy and I might not want to do that now, but there are plenty of smaller alternatives. If money is not an issue — perhaps you are retired and just want a small outlet — then the previously mentioned charity shop is a good bet where you are likely to find fellow volunteers of a similar age.
© 2019 Eleanor's Words