Feeling lonely isn’t in itself a mental health problem, but the two are strongly linked. Having a mental health problem increases your chance of feeling lonely, and feeling lonely can have a negative impact on your mental health.
Although most people need some kind of social contact to maintain good mental health, everyone has different social needs. You may be someone who is content with a few close friends, or you may need a large group of varied acquaintances to feel satisfied.
Think about what is making you lonely
Being alone is not the same as being lonely. There is nothing wrong with being on your own if you are comfortable with it.
If you’re visiting this page however, something probably feels wrong for you.
People usually describe feeling lonely for one of two reasons:
- they simply don’t see or talk to anyone very often
- even though they are surrounded by people, they don’t feel understood or cared for
Deciding which is the case for you may help you to find a way of feeling better.
It can be helpful to think of feeling lonely like feeling hungry. Just as your body uses hunger to tell your body you need food, loneliness is a way of your body telling you that you need more social contact.
That means the simplest way to ease feelings of loneliness can be to try to meet more, or different, people.
- Can you think of anything you’re interested in, a class or a group you’ve heard of, that could help you connect with new people? Search online for ideas of how to find positive groups that interest you.
- Volunteering is a good way of meeting people. Helping others can also really help improve your mental health. Search online for organisations that can help you find local volunteering opportunities.
- Join a positive online community.
You might feel that you have plenty of connections, but what is actually wrong is that you don’t feel close to them, or they don’t give you the care and attention you need.
In this situation it might help to open up about how you feel to friends and family.
If you don’t feel comfortable opening up to the people you know, you could try making new connections using the ideas above.
Be careful when comparing yourself to others
It is very hard to stop comparing ourselves to others, we all do it, but it can help to just be aware that things are not always what they seem from the outside.
Social media, and the fact that we very often only see what other people want to share about their lives, can make us feel like we are the only ones feeling lonely.
It’s important to remind yourself that you don’t know how people feel when they are alone, or when their social media feeds are turned off.
If you’re worried that social media might be affecting your mental health see our information on staying well online.