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Loneliness Awareness Week – 26 ways to connect during COVID-19

Loneliness Awareness Week (June 15-19) this year feels more important than ever.

Organisers Marmalade Trust’s vision is to “create a society where anyone can talk freely and openly about loneliness – after all, it’s a normal human emotion”.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, instead of face-to-face events the trust is hosting a virtual campaign called ‘One Less Lonely Voice’.

“We are taking the ‘one’ out of loneliness, to signify one less lonely voice,” Marmalade Trust said, launching the social media hashtag #LetsTalkLoneliness

The definition: Loneliness is a perceived mismatch between the quality or quantity of social connections that a person has and what they would like to have.

You don’t have to be on your own to feel lonely – you might feel lonely in a relationship or while spending time with friends or family – especially if you don’t feel understood or cared for by the people around you. Other people might choose to be alone and live happily without much social contact.

Loneliness can also be characterised by its intensity, or how strongly it is felt, which can change from moment to moment and over different durations of time [2]. There are different types of loneliness including:

Emotional loneliness – When someone you were very close with is no longer there. This could be a partner or a close friend.

Social loneliness – When you feel like you’re lacking a wider social network of friends, neighbours or colleagues.

Transient loneliness – A feeling that comes and goes.

Situational loneliness – Loneliness which you only feel at certain times like Sundays, bank holidays or Christmas.

Chronic loneliness – When you feel lonely all or most of the time.

Telling someone that you’re lonely is an important step but it’s also important to be mindful of how we talk about it.

We still use words like ‘admitting’ to and ‘suffering’ from, which can unintentionally add to the belief that something is wrong with us. There is absolutely no shame in feeling lonely and changing the language around loneliness is a positive and liberating step forward. The more we talk about it, the more we normalise it and we can move towards a society where it can be spoken about openly. 

“I’ve been struggling on my own during lockdown. I decided to FaceTime my uncle, and when he asked how I was doing, I was just honest and said ‘I’m feeling pretty lonely, actually’. He surprised me by saying ‘yeah, I know how you feel’. I’m so glad I reached out because we both decided to have a (virtual) coffee together each morning. It’s been transformative for us both.” – Jack, 28.

“I love spending time with my young kids. But some days I feel so lonely, which isn’t a nice feeling. I signed myself up to some virtual parenting groups and I mentioned how I was feeling. Turns out, plenty of other parents felt similarly. I realised even though I was with my family all day, I felt lonely because I was yearning for some grown-up conversation and connection!” – Alison, 39.

Everyone could do with connecting more – so here’s the Marmalade Trust’s tips for reducing loneliness in our personal lives and or communities.

Home

  • Send a letter or postcard to someone isolating by themselves
  • Organise a weekly video call with friends or family
  • Reach out to a friend to remind them you’re always there to talk
  • Arrange to watch a film at the same time as a friend and video call
  • Share your experiences of loneliness on social media – you might encourage others to share as well!
  • Arrange a video call with someone you haven’t seen in a while
  • Talk with friends or family about their experiences of loneliness during lockdown
  • Start or join a virtual book or film club
  • Join a virtual pub quiz
  • Spend some time in nature or tend to some indoor plants
  • Some people find it easier to have meaningful conversations while walking rather than sitting face-to-face
  • Prioritise looking after yourself, making sure you are eating healthily, being as active as you can and sleeping well.

Community

  • Start (or join) a WhatsApp or email group for your street. It’s a great way to connect with your neighbours
  • If you know a neighbour who is self-isolating, post a letter under their door to ask if they need help with groceries or errands
  • Have a cup of tea with your neighbour (while maintaining appropriate distance)
  • Reach out to a local charity and volunteer your support
  • Reach out to a friend, family member or neighbour who is experiencing loneliness or isolation
  • If you’re able to get out, smile and say hello to passers-by. Even from two-metres, this can make a big difference
  • Make use of your community – many small local food suppliers will still be open, and can be a friendly place to say hello and chat.
  • Host a weekly social to catch up with colleagues – but try not to talk about work!
  • Encourage employees to reach out to their HR manager if they are feeling lonely
  • ‘Meet’ a colleague for a virtual coffee or lunch
  • Lend your ear – phone (or video call) a colleague and ask how they’re finding the change in routine
  • Email supporters or clients to let them know what you’re doing to combat loneliness and promote greater understanding
  • Use this time to build stronger employee and team relationships by getting to know each other better
  • Be mindful that everyone experiences loneliness in different ways.