Living on your own can be difficult at times, and it can feel impossible to know how to stop feeling lonely in your own company.
Firstly, it’s important to realise you aren’t alone with these feelings, there are many of us struggling with loneliness. According to a recent Government report, three million people in England said they feel lonely often or always.
"Loneliness is not a pleasant feeling but it is very common – particularly if you have recently experienced a life transition such as a relationship breakdown, bereavement or retirement," says Amy Perrin from loneliness support charity, The Marmalade Trust.
It can be tempting, and a whole lot easier to just keep yourself to yourself, and many of us worry about being a burden or simply feel embarrassed that we’re by ourselves. But reaching out to the people around you could have a real positive impact on your mental health.
Of course, everyone is different and these methods and self-care quotes may not work for everyone and it's important not to put too much pressure on yourself. You may just want to start by regularly writing in a wellness journal to help track your mood and how you're feeling.
Here are Amy's top tips for making friends, reconnecting and combating loneliness.
Start by working on yourself
Having a wide circle of friends and a big family isn't always the answer to combatting loneliness. The first step to feeling less lonely is learning to feel more comfortable in your own skin and in your own company.
To help boost your self-esteem, start by thinking about what brings you joy when you're by yourself. Is it having your favourite music or radio station on in the background? Is it having the TV on throughout the day? Are you happier when you have plans or stick to a regular routine?
Have a think of what activities you enjoy by yourself. This could be going for a walk, going to the shops or your local garden centre, going to the cinema to watch a film or treating yourself at the local beauty salon. These self-care ideas will help boost your mood and make you feel good, even if you only manage to tick one thing off your self-care checklist per day.
How to stop feeling lonely when single
Once you've found joy in spending time with yourself, then you're not relying on other people to stop you from feeling lonely. Having others or a significant other in your life will just be a bonus.
Whether you're widowed or are recovering from a relationship or marriage breakdown, it's important to find your own happiness before trying to find someone to share it all with.
Make friends with your neighbours
The best place to start when making friends is often at home, so it's a good idea to first get friendly with your neighbours.
"Reach out and say hello, or take something round to a neighbour. Are you a baker? Why not take over a cake? Or invite someone for a cuppa in your garden.
"You could even ask for help with something – gardening or taking the bins out etc. It can be a good way to strike up a conversation (and people usually like to feel helpful)".
If you're feeling brave, why not organise yourself a street party? "Street parties don’t take much organising, most councils have easy ways to close the road and you can pop a few notes through neighbour's doors to inform them of the time and day and what to bring. It can be a great way to get to meet everyone. Just be aware of your safety when getting more familiar with your neighbours – they should NOT charge you for getting shopping, putting bins out or any other tasks. Speak to a trusted friend or family member if this is happening."
Volunteering in your community is a great way to feel useful and meet new people, says Amy.
"Some organisations are set up to support older people in volunteering, such as charities like RSVP.
"Do you have a skill that could be put to use? For example, if you know a thing or two about accountancy - could you be a treasurer? Or do you like to chat? Could you be a telephone befriender and support someone who is feeling very isolated?"
There are so many online groups and senior chat rooms that exist on social media as well as YouTubers who can sometimes feel like your friends. Start by using a search engine like Google to search for online communities of like-minded people who might be feeling lonely too.
"There are many meetup groups and forums and discussion places like the Yours FitMind50 group or gransnet. Do you have a particular interest and or would like to learn more or share your knowledge - join online groups about a particular subject that interests you such as history, music or crafts.
"There are also platforms that you can use to stay in contact with friends and family, such as Facebook and WhatsApp. On most of these platforms, you can use video calling, which is another great way to ‘see’ friends and family from a distance, if they live far away." Facebook is fairly simple to use and before you know it, you'll be connecting with old friends and distant family.
You can also make friends in the real world too, through online groups such as meetup.com where you can find out all about events and clubs in your local area. Whether you’re passionate about walking, crafts, reading, or anything in between, you’re sure to meet like-minded people. Men might benefit from joining menssheds.org.uk which organises workshops and projects in giant shared sheds!
Get out and about
Walking is one of the best wellbeing activities we can do for ourselves, especially if we're outside. Head outdoors and you’ll be amazed at how many families, dog walkers and individuals are getting a spot of fresh air and improving their physical health. These people are generally much more open to chatting with strangers – say a friendly hello and get a conversation going. If you need a bit of motivation to head out on a walk, then there's no better method of encouragement than getting a dog. Getting a dog brings many benefits. From providing some companionship to helping you be more active, we think having a four-legged friend is a great idea to combat loneliness.
"There are many opportunities to spark up a conversation with strangers," says Amy. "For instance – in the queue for the supermarket, you can strike up a conversation with someone in the queue, talk about the weather! Give someone a compliment (I love your dress!) Small opening comments can get people chatting."
"If you can, shop local – often smaller shops and grocery stores will have similar people working there and it can be easier to have regular conversations and build up friendships. If you can, avoid self-service checkouts – use the opportunity to have a chat with the shop worker whilst packing your shopping."
Make virtual friends
If you find it hard to get out and about because of health problems, you could join a support community like elefriends.org.uk where you can build friendships and chat with people about how you are feeling from the comfort of your own home – perfect if you can’t get out and about. Don’t forget, Yours also has a FitMind50 Facebook group where readers are always looking to have a good chat.
"Everyone is different! Do what suits you best - Do you want to call on the telephone? Or see each other in your own environment using video calling or maybe emailing suits you better?
"Get to know each other – ask each other questions to find out more about each other – where did you go to school, do you have any pets, what music do you like. Find a convenient time to catch up – so that all parties are not distracted and have time to chat."
If you love a home-cooked meal but don’t always fancy cooking for yourself, sign up to be a diner in the Casserole Club – a scheme that encourages home cooks to make an extra portion of a meal to share with someone who is on their own. If you like to cook, you could sign up to provide meals for someone else.
Find out if there are participants in your area by calling 0203 475 3444 or visit casseroleclub.com
You can also cook while listening to music to give you an extra feel-good boost! Whether you love the best of Motown or if you're a fan of The Beatles, music can often lift your mood like nothing else.
Have a chat
Age UK offers a Befriending service that can pair you up with a local volunteer for regular home visits, where you can enjoy a cup of tea and a natter. Alternatively, there’s also a Call in Time phone befriending service, where a volunteer will call you on a regular basis for a chat.
For information on either call 0800 169 2081 or visit ageuk.org.uk
How to stop feeling depressed and lonely
Remember, if you feel like your health and wellbeing are being affected by loneliness and that it could be verging on depression, it is important to discuss this with a health professional or GP, who will be able to give you more support and professional advice and help.
You may also want to speak to your doctor's surgery about social prescribers. Most areas have social prescribers – often linked to GP surgeries, give them a call and say you are interested in finding a local social prescribing service – they will get in contact and tell you all about the local connection opportunities.
Lorna White is a Senior Digital Writer at Yours.co.uk. She was previously a writer at Yours Magazine writing features and news stories before joining the digital team. Lorna loves the great British countryside and likes to spend her spare time out and about in her home of Nottinghamshire walking her dog, Pippin.