Don’t go it alone. There are lots of ways to find fun, friendship and boost your emotional wellbeing this Christmas and New Year.
- Keep all lines of communication open
Having a chat with a friend or relative over the phone can be the next best thing to being with them, or you can stay connected online.
Talk over Skype, exchange photos and keep up to date with the latest news from friends and family with Facebook or on email.
- Get to know your neighbours
Not getting out of the house because of the weather is a common cause of isolation and loneliness in the winter.
But while you may be snowed in or have battened down the hatches against the wind and hail, it doesn’t have to mean a solitary existence.
Research has found that nearly 80% of people would give up their time to help a neighbour, while almost 50% would have a neighbour over for Christmas dinner if they were lonely.
There’s even a free private social network for neighbours who want to connect. Find out more at nextdoor.co.uk
You will not only give something back to your community, but volunteering will help you feel more connected, involved and needed. There are lots of volunteering roles that need your skills and experience.
- Take up dancing
According to research, reducing the risk of illness isn’t the only mental benefit associated with dancing.
The social aspect can be fantastic for anyone who is susceptible to feeling lonely. Meeting up with like-minded people on a regular basis can also reduce low mood and stimulate cognitive and social skills.
- Find a walking companion
If you love outdoor adventure but seldom have someone to join you on walks or hikes, online community Glamoraks could help you find a walking partner.
The network connects women with similar walking abilities to others near them or in places they’re visiting around the world. To join, go to glamoraks.com
These are all great ways of getting out, making new connections and lifting your spirits.
But AXA PPP Healthcare advises taking it slow. If you’ve felt lonely for a while, or experience anxiety around new social situations, throwing yourself in at the deep end could exacerbate the problem.
Instead, dip your toes into the water first by going to a local café or sports event where you are surrounded by people, and just enjoy sharing their company.
Or try a class where you can dive into the activity itself to distract you from the pressure of introducing yourself to people straight away. With loneliness, slow and steady often wins the race.
The extent of loneliness in the UK
A 2014 survey by the Office for National Statistics found that the UK is the loneliness capital of Europe, with many Brits unlikely to know their neighbours or feel they have friendships that they can rely on in a crisis.
Most people think loneliness only affects the older generation and, in many ways this is true.
The charity Age UK reports that more than 1m older people always or often feel lonely. But loneliness also affects young people. AXA PPP Healthcare research in 2014 showed that British adults aged 18 to 24 are four times as likely to feel consistently lonely compared with those over 70.
New research suggests loneliness could become as big a public health issue as obesity and smoking and can be as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
Did you know?
University researchers in the USA have found that loneliness sparks your ‘fight or flight’ response, which decreases your production of white blood cells, reduces your immune system, and increases inflammation in your body.
Support for carers
If you’re caring for someone with dementia and don’t have friends and family nearby, call the Admiral Nurse Dementia Helpline on 0800 888 6678, or email firstname.lastname@example.org, for help to find local support networks this winter.
Over 55? Call The Silver Line
The Silver Line operates the only confidential, free helpline for older people across the UK that’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
T: 0800 470 8090.