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Support For Student Loneliness

What is loneliness? 

Loneliness is an incredibly personal experience, unique to each individual. It's important to understand that feeling lonely is not a reflection of personal failure; it's a natural human emotion, and you shouldn’t blame yourself for feeling lonely now or at any other time. It's also really important to remember that loneliness and other difficult feelings can pass.

Some ways loneliness can be experienced are:

  • emotional loneliness – a lack of emotional attachment to someone like a close friend or partner

  • social loneliness – a lack of friends to go out with, or who share your hobbies or interests

  • existential loneliness – a sense of being in a room of people you know and still feeling alone

Some people experience loneliness occasionally – perhaps only at certain times, like Sundays or the holidays – while others feel lonely all the time, which is sometimes called chronic loneliness.

Signs or symptoms of loneliness

We talk about feelings of loneliness but we can also have physical symptoms of loneliness and it can affect our behaviour.

For instance someone might:

  • get nervous about or avoid going to social events

  • change their daily routines, stop cooking for themself, caring about their appearance or getting up on time

  • find it difficult to get to sleep or stay asleep

Is loneliness a mental health problem?

Loneliness and mental health are closely linked, with each influencing the other. Feeling lonely can contribute to poor mental health, while struggling with mental health issues can intensify feelings of loneliness. Chronic loneliness also heightens the risk of developing mental health problems such as low mood, low self-esteem, poor sleep, and increased anxiety or stress levels. 

While loneliness is a common experience, it can sometimes lead to feelings of shame. This can make it really hard for someone to seek help or support due to fears about being judged.

Coping with loneliness

While these tips may work for some, it's important to remember that different strategies work for different people at different times. Don't put too much pressure on yourself to find an immediate solution. If one approach doesn't resonate with you, explore other options or come back to it later.

Understanding your feelings

For many of us, feeling lonely is linked to low self-esteem or self-confidence. Take time to explore your feelings and what might be contributing to your sense of loneliness. Keeping a journal can be helpful in identifying patterns and triggers, empowering you to better understand and manage your emotions. 

Building meaningful connections

Strong, supportive relationships are essential for alleviating loneliness. Spend time with people you trust and enjoy being around. Joining clubs or societies related to your interests can also help you find like-minded people. 

If loneliness has been a long-term struggle, the thought of going to social events might feel overwhelming. Start small by initiating conversations with people you meet in your daily life, such as saying hello to a cashier in a shop, or try sending a message to an old friend - most people love hearing from others. You can also explore environments where you feel comfortable, like coffee shops or libraries, where just being around other people can help to ease feelings of isolation.

Opening up

If you're feeling disconnected from those around you, consider opening up to a friend, family member or someone you trust. It can be a scary thought to tell other people how you're feeling but remember most people have experienced loneliness at one time or another. It might help to think about what you want to say in advance but try not to overthink it. You could say something like ‘I’m feeling really low/down right now’ and then say it can make you feel quite lonely. 

Navigating social media

It's easy to compare yourself to others, especially on social media. Social media can amplify feelings of loneliness by presenting an idealised version of others' lives. Remember that what you see online isn't always the full picture. If social media is impacting your mental health negatively, consider unfollowing or muting accounts that trigger negative emotions and seek out content that uplifts and empowers you. Focus on what brings you joy, rather than comparing yourself to others.

Take care of yourself

Taking care of your wellbeing is essential when you’re feeling lonely or isolated. Try to do things that promote physical and mental health, such as exercise, spending time in nature, or interacting with animals, and make time for activities that bring you joy.

By incorporating these strategies into your life, you can begin to cope with feelings of loneliness and create more meaningful and fulfilling connections in your life. If things aren’t getting any better and you’re feeling low or anxious most of the time, seek support. Taking care of your mental health is a sign of strength and reaching out shows resilience and a commitment to your wellbeing. 

Supporting others dealing with loneliness 

Destigmatising the language surrounding loneliness is vital in creating a supportive environment. Here are some ways you can help:

  • Avoid Stigmatising Language: Instead of saying someone is "suffering" from loneliness, use "experiencing." Similarly, replace negative terms like "admitting" with "telling." This shift helps normalise the experience and encourages open conversation.

  • Use Positive and Practical Language: Rather than framing loneliness as something to be "tackled" or "cured," focus on supportive actions. For example, ask, "How can we build up your connections?" This approach emphasises empowerment and collaboration.

  • Avoid Defining Individuals by Their Loneliness: Remember that loneliness does not define a person. Acknowledge their uniqueness by highlighting their interests, talents, and qualities. This reinforces their identity beyond their current feelings of loneliness.

By adopting these approaches, you can contribute to creating a more empathetic and supportive community for those experiencing loneliness.

Or consider a Random Acts of Connection at your Campus, which can make a real difference. Here is a list of different Random Acts of Connection that could help lift someone out of loneliness.

Pick a Random Act of Connection to try:

  • Smile at a passerby and brighten their day

  • Support a local business by leaving a glowing review

  • Make uninterrupted time for your loved ones

  • Host a dinner party, games night or movie night

  • Chat to someone in a queue

  • Ask your barista how their day is going

  • Give someone a sincere compliment 

  • Call a friend to catch up

  • Thank someone you feel grateful for and explain why

  • Send a message to someone to let them know you’re thinking of them

  • Share what you’re feeling with someone you trust

  • Show an active interest by asking questions when talking to others 

  • Get back in touch with an old friend you’ve not seen for a while

  • Find a hobby group to join 

  • Share a favourite memory or experience from your friendship with someone

  • Introduce yourself to a student you haven’t met yet 

  • Sign up to volunteer at a local charity

  • Ask for introductions. If you have a couple of friends or acquaintances who have a larger circle of friends, ask them to introduce you to new people

  • Leave a positive comment on someone's social media post



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