This week is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK. Hosted every year in May by the Mental Health Foundation, the week is used to drive awareness about particular aspects of mental health. The focus this year is “Loneliness”, which is something that has been at the forefront of mental health discussion over the last few years.
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport undertook a Wellbeing and Loneliness survey for 2020/2021, where 6% of respondents said they feel lonely often or always. This means that 3 million people in England say that they are often or always lonely and 80% of the population are sometimes feeling lonely.
As it’s Mental Health Awareness Week, we wanted to put together some resources and ideas about what you can do to tackle loneliness.
Volunteering is a great way of both supporting your community and meeting new people. Going out of your way to help others can have very positive impacts on both your mental health and the lives of those in your community. There are a number of great organisations that you can find volunteering opportunities in your local area such as Do IT.
2. Hobby Groups
Finding groups of people that share their passion for certain activities or hobbies is a fantastic way to become part of a social group where there are people that you will have things in common with. You can find a group for just about anything and having something to do whilst you are in the presence of others can massively take away from the pressures of social situations if you find it hard to connect with people or struggle with anxiety.
Websites such as Meetup, Eventbrite and Facebook Events or Community Groups will have a huge range of groups and events that could be of interest to you.
3. Peer Support
The one thing that you need to know if you are experiencing loneliness is that you are not alone. This is the reason that peer support groups have been set up all around the country that are accessible to people struggling with mental health in general or specific aspects such as loneliness.
Free online communities such as Kooth or Clic act as a place where people can show their mutual support for each other, share their stories and provide helpful information to their peers. These can be anonymous if you would prefer to keep your identity hidden.
Often just being able to talk to those that have been in or are still experiencing what you are going through can help reduce feelings of loneliness.
4. Physical Self-Care
There are some steps you can take that have immensely positive impacts on your mood, energy and stress levels. We have put together a few of the steps that many of the team here at Holt take to de-stress and take care of themselves.
Exercise – When we say this, we definitely don’t mean run a marathon or swim the channel, none of us here are athletes (yet). Going out for a 30 minute walk in the evenings or if you live close enough, substituting your car or bus journey for a walk can boost your heart rate, improve your mental wellbeing and how you view yourself.
Eating – There is a lot of evidence to suggest that a well-balanced diet can help us to think clearly, improve our concentration and attention span. Next time you head to the supermarket, if your budget allows it, fill your trolley with fresh fruits and veg, fish, lean meats and healthy fats. You can read more about the effects of eating properly on mental health from Mind.
Sleep – Getting the right amount of restful sleep has massive impacts on our mood and energy levels throughout the day. Getting a good night’s sleep may give you that boost that allows you to start that conversation with someone at the hobby group you have just joined.
We appreciate that often these steps alone won’t counter loneliness. We just believe that by making sure you are in the best state of mind possible; you may have the confidence to start volunteering or join an online community, which will expose you to social situations and may reduce feelings of loneliness.
It has been really powerful hearing people share their stories on social media and in the office for Mental Health Awareness Week. It has highlighted that there is clearly so much we can do as individuals to promote stronger communities and encourage checking-up on our loved ones.
Although we can’t claim to be experts, we hope that you found our tips useful and may have given you some ideas on how to combat feelings of loneliness if you are experiencing them!