Feelings of loneliness are completely normal and most people will experience loneliness at some point in their life.
Loneliness is a personal experience and everyone's experience of loneliness will be slightly different. Mind UK defined loneliness as "the feeling we get when our need for rewarding social contact and relationships is not met".
Loneliness isn't always the same as being alone. Some people can be surrounded by people and still feel lonely, some people can live alone and not feel lonely at all. People with mental health issues can have an increased chance of feeling lonely, but loneliness affects us all.
Loneliness can be caused by a bereavement, a break-up, moving to a new place or changing jobs/schools. It may not feel like a big thing but studies have suggested that loneliness can lead to increased risk of depression, anxiety, sleep problems and stress.
So how do we manage loneliness?
Self-care is always a good idea, our bodies and minds require a lot of care to keep functioning as they should. Self-care doesn't have to be a massive task, self-care can be as little as making sure we're getting enough sleep or thinking about what we're eating. Or, if you're feeling a little more energetic, try doing some physical activity or spending some time outside in nature.
Try making new connections
Loneliness can sometimes be caused by a lack of social interaction or satisfying social contact in your life. In this case, sometimes it's helpful to meet new people and establish new connections. Perhaps you could join a group or a class based on your hobbies and interests, lots of communities run social events for people who hold an interest in different things. Even if you can't find a group near you that you're interested in, maybe try an online group/class so you can make new connections from home!
Or, if you're able, you could try volunteering. There's lots of volunteering opportunities for people all over the country, from homeless shelters to charity shops and even some daycares! It's a great way to meet likeminded people and to help others.
Try opening up
Sometimes we can feel lonely even when we're surrounded by people, sometimes this can be because we don't feel close to them. Maybe try opening up to those you trust about how you feel and if they are interested in getting closer. Sometimes opening up to our friends and family can help them to better understand how we feel and what they can do to help.
If you don't feel comfortable opening up to friends and family then you could try speaking to a therapist or a online/phone support service.
Talking therapies are a way to explore your feelings and learn how to deal with them in a positive and healthy way. Talking with a therapist can help you to explore the feelings of loneliness and come up with some practical ways to help create satisfying relationships.
If anxiety has stopped you from forming fulfilling relationships with people, consider CBT. Cognitive behavioural therapy (or CBT) is another type of therapy which focuses more on how your thoughts can affect your feelings and behaviour. Just like talking therapies, this can be great for learning new ways to deal with loneliness in a healthy and positive way.
The British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy has lots of great information on different forms of therapy and how to access them! Simply go to www.bacp.co.uk for more information.