understanding loneliness

We all feel lonely from time to time. Some people feel lonely when they’re surrounded by people, and others are totally OK on their own. Everyone experiences loneliness differently.

For many people, COVID-19 has changed the way they work, study and interact with people. With some of us experiencing greater restrictions, we can feel cut off from the important people in our lives and this can increase our feelings of loneliness. 

The good news is, with the right strategies and support, we can make changes in our lives to address loneliness.  

 

What is loneliness? 

Loneliness is a feeling and like all feelings, it’s trying to tell us something. Feeling lonely lets us know that we aren’t feeling meaningfully connected enough with other people. It's trying to motivate us to do something different. This doesn’t necessarily mean having lots of people to hang out with, it’s about meaningful connections – feeling understood and supported. 

For some people, loneliness can feel overwhelming and can lead to feeling flat, sad and worried. Some people who experience loneliness might also experience anxiety or depression. 

Loneliness is not always the same as being alone. Some people can have little contact with others and not feel lonely at all. 

 

When might you feel lonely? 

Feeling lonely can happen at any time. Big life changes such as relationship break-ups, the death of someone close to us, or moving somewhere new can increase the likelihood of us feeling lonely. Other things might include: 

  • starting new jobs, school or university 
  • living alone 
  • not feeling understood by others 
  • having little contact with others 
  • not feeling we fit in

It’s not easy to admit that we’re feeling lonely. We might feel ashamed, or embarrassed, or we might think it’s our fault, but it’s really common. 

So what can you do? 

There are many things we can do to support ourselves that can help us connect with others:  

  • acknowledge that you’re feeling lonely. It’s trying to encourage you to do something new. Understanding our emotions is an important step in trying something different 
  • notice your unhelpful thoughts. Our thoughts can impact on how we view ourselves, the world and other people. There are things we can do to respond to them in more helpful ways 
  • create a routine. Include meaningful tasks and enjoyable activities and spend time doing nice things. Doing stuff is really important for our mental health and wellbeing 
  • be kind to yourself. It’s easy to judge and blame ourselves, give ourselves a hard time and compare ourselves to others. Self-compassion helps gives us the strength to continue when we’re faced with life’s challenges. 

Connecting with others is an important part of being human. Healthy relationships support usgive us a sense of belonging and can improve our mental health and wellbeing. 

It can be hard to develop relationships though, and if we’re feeling lonely it can make this seem even more challenging. We might feel awkward or shy, or doubt ourselves and our ability to make friends. But none of us are born with social skills, we learn them along the way. Building skills isn’t always easy, but with practise and patience, we can get better at it.  

Putting ourselves out there can feel scary, but if we want things to change, we need to support ourselves and take action. When we face the things that challenge us, we start to build skills and gain confidence in our ability to cope.  

Being brave increases our chances of finding meaningful connections – often the first step is the hardest partIf we don’t try, then we might never know what’s out there.  

Friendships can take time and effort to grow.  Reach out to someone you have something in common with, invite them out and base the activity around whatever you have in common.  

If you’re experiencing restrictions due to COVID-19, you might want to get creative and connect online/via phone. 

Joining a group can help you meet new people that have the same interests as you. Think about what you like doing or what you’ve enjoyed in the past, or try something new, and see if theres a group you can join. Meet Up has a number of groups both online and in-person; Facebook has online communities that you might be interested in; or you can create your own. 

headspace Peer Support Chats hosts weekly discussions for young people by young people. You can join the headspace online community to chat with peers about a variety of topics, or view the transcripts. Log in or create a headspace website account to see what chats are coming up or happening now. 

Volunteering can help us meet new people and do something that can give us a sense of purpose. Volunteering Australia is a national body that helps match your skills and wants with a volunteering opportunity near you.   

Our tips for a healthy headspace can support you to live your life in a positive and meaningful way and help you bounce back when times are tough. These are things like building skills for tough times, getting enough sleep, eating well, cutting back on alcohol and other drugs, and staying active. 

headspace Peer Support Chats hosts weekly discussions for young people by young people. You can join the headspace online community to chat with peers about a variety of topics, or view the transcripts.

Where to get support 

Though it can be really hard reaching out to others to let them know what you’re going through, it can help you feel supported, less isolated and it can be the beginning of a valuable support network. Whether you’re speaking to a trusted friend, family member, teacher, Elder or a counsellor, it’s entirely up to you what you feel comfortable sharing. You might just want to say you’re having a tough time. 

 

If you ever feel unable to cope because of intense emotions of if you have thoughts of harming yourself, then ask for help immediately 

For immediate help contact triple zero (000) if it is an emergency  

National 24/7 crisis services:  

Lifeline: 13 11 14 or lifeline.org.au  

Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467 or suicidecallbackservice.org.au  

beyondblue: 1300 224 636 or beyondblue.org.au 

 

Additional youth support services  

headspace: visit headspace.org.au to find your nearest centre or contact eheadspaceour phone and online service (12-25 years) 

 kidshelpline.com.auKids Helpline: 1800 55 1800 (5-25 years) 

 reachout.com.auReachOut (under 25 years) 

 sane.orgSANE Australia: 1800 187 263 (18+ years) 

Speak to your local doctor/General Practitioner (GP) or you can search for a health service and GP on Head to Health. 

 

 

 

The headspace Clinical Reference Group oversee and approve clinical resources made available on this website. 

Last reviewed 10/11/2020 

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