Coping with loneliness

Loneliness can affect us all, whether we live alone or are surrounded by others. People feel lonely for all sorts of reasons and they find different ways to overcome it.

Thinking about yourself

If you’ve been feeling lonely for a while, it might feel daunting to go out and meet new people. You might worry that others won’t understand you or want to spend time with you. If your confidence is low, addressing how you’re feeling and reaching out to others can help. Try to be kind to yourself and challenge negative thoughts. You could try using self-help books, such as the Overcoming series recommended by the Royal College of Psychiatrists. Titles include Overcoming Anxiety and Overcoming Low Self-Esteem. Self-help isn’t right for everyone, so speak to your GP if you think you need some support.

Talking about it

If you’re going through a difficult time and need some emotional support, you might find it useful to talk about what you’re feeling. If you have people close to you, try reaching out to them. Loneliness affects almost everyone, so they’ll probably be able to empathise. If you’d rather talk to someone who isn’t close to you, there are organisations that can help you:

  • Cruse Bereavement Care can support you after the death of someone close.
  • If you are experiencing difficulties in your relationships you could contact Relate for help.
  • Samaritans provides free, confidential emotional support. You don’t have to be depressed or suicidal to call them – they will talk about anything that’s worrying you.
  • The Silver Line is a helpline providing emotional support and advice to older people.
  • You could ask for a short course of counselling through the NHS - you could refer yourself or ask your GP to refer you.

Volunteers to visit or call you

You may just want some company or a chat on the phone with someone. There are many organisations that offer befriending schemes, including Independent Age. If you find it difficult to get out and about, a volunteer can visit or call weekly or fortnightly for a chat. Call 0800 319 6789 to find out more.

Other organisations that offer befriending services include Friends of the Elderly, the Royal Voluntary Service (RVS) and The Silver Line.

For more ideas on how to boost your social contact, see Staying socially connected.

Partners and loneliness

For some people, the loss or lack of a partner can be the hardest thing to cope with. You may have people around you, but miss having one person to share your life with. This can be very difficult. You might feel you want to put all your energy into meeting new people, but learning to spend time alone and building other supportive relationships can also help you to feel less lonely, whether or not you’re looking for a partner.

If you do feel ready to start a new relationship or friendship, there are many ways to meet people. Joining a group can be a good way to spend time with others and get to know them at a pace that suits you. See Staying socially connected for some ideas of groups you could join. Some people also try online dating – an increasingly popular way for people of all ages to meet new partners. 

Learning to be alone

This may feel like the opposite of what you should be doing, but being on your own is different from being lonely. Learning to enjoy your own company can help you to feel less lonely even when you don’t have others around you.

Try using your time alone to learn a new skill or indulge an interest your friends don’t share. Many people find it helpful to practise mindfulness. This involves focusing your mind on the present moment, for example by focusing on your breathing. Mind has more information.

If you want more company at home, you could consider getting a pet. Many people find them very comforting, and having a dog that needs walking would also give you a reason to get out and keep active. If you wouldn’t be able to keep your own dog, sign up to look after or walk one for someone else through organisations like The Cinnamon Trust or Borrow My Doggy.

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