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7 things to do if you're feeling lonely

Prima (UK) logo Prima (UK) 02/02/2018 Charlotte Haigh

Feeling lonely? 7 simple ways to overcome loneliness © JGI/Jamie Grill / Getty Feeling lonely? 7 simple ways to overcome loneliness A special message from MSN:

Nine million people across all age groups and walks of life in Britain are affected by loneliness. We've partnered with giving platform Benevity to raise funds for three charities - Mind, the Campaign to End Loneliness, and Wavelength – to tackle this debilitating and complex issue. You can help make a difference - please donate now.

We've all felt lonely at some point – such as after a break-up or a move to a new area. Often, it's a temporary state and can trigger you into making some changes to bring people into your life. 

For some, loneliness can feel like a more permanent state. Last year, a report found nine million in Britain consider themselves always or often lonely. Older people may be most affected, with 3.6 million over 65 considering the TV their main form of company.

But nobody's immune. You can be lonely if you work from home, are a full-time carer or have been through a big life change, such as getting divorced or becoming a parent.

Loneliness doesn't necessarily mean you're alone. Even if you're in a relationship, have loads of friends and don't look isolated to the outside world, you can still feel lonely, says counsellor Eve Menezes Cunningham, author of 365 Ways to Feel Better

'Actually, it's as easy to feel lonely among a group of friends or in a relationship as it is when you're physically alone,' she says. If you find it hard to open up to people in your life, or you don't feel anyone really understands or appreciates you, you may experience loneliness as deeply as someone who spends a lot of time by themselves. 

Long-term loneliness can have worrying effects on your mental and physical health. Research has shown it's a major predictor of depression and alcoholism. If you feel isolated, you don't cope as well with stress, are more likely to sleep poorly and are even at increased risk of high blood pressure.

Unfortunately, says Eve, loneliness tends to feed itself: 'Our levels of bonding hormone oxytocin drop when we feel lonely, making it more difficult to connect with others.' And studies show people who often feel lonely get fewer positive benefits from the relationships they do have.

But loneliness isn't something that's out of your control. Here are seven practical steps to get connected.

1. Join a choir

'It's a great way to feel part of something, and research shows singing in a choir raises oxytocin levels and increases positive feelings,' says Eve. It's also been found to help ease stress and anxiety – what are you waiting for?

2. Open up

'If you're feeling lonely, try to be honest about it with someone you trust,' says Eve. 'There can be a stigma around loneliness, which sometimes makes it hard to admit to, but allowing yourself to be vulnerable in this way will help deepen the connection between the two of you – a great way to feel more supported and understood.'

a group of people sitting at a table © Provided by National magazine company ltd (Hearst UK) 3. Go on a course

Ideally, choose something that encourages the group to talk to each other or work together – such as learning stand-up comedy, creative writing or massage.

Hotcourses is a great place to search for a class in your area.

4. Use social media

'It's often blamed for causing isolation and it isn't the same as seeing someone in person, but used the right way, it can help you connect,' says Eve.

Message someone you haven't spoken to for months, join a local community Facebook group or try Meetup to find interesting events and like-minded people near you.

5. Connect with another lonely person

It takes your focus off yourself and your problems, and moves it onto supporting someone else, which can improve your mood and give you a sense of purpose.

Look around you – do you have any neighbours who need company? Or you could try a befriending service, which aims to pair people up with those most likely to experience loneliness, often the elderly, disabled, carers, single parents and refugees.

6. Don't feel overwhelmed

Loneliness can seem a huge problem to overcome but often, says Eve, taking some baby steps can produce really positive changes in your life.

© Provided by National magazine company ltd (Hearst UK) Simply building a stronger connection with an existing friend, meeting one new person or discovering a hobby you love can be enough to transform the way you feel and open up lots of opportunities. 

7. Prize the power of acquaintanceships

In our society, we talk less to neighbours and people in shops than our parents did. But striking up a bit of small talk in the supermarket or saying hello to the elderly man opposite can really brighten up your day – and someone else's.

It doesn't matter if you don't have loads in common – while not a substitute for friendships, acquaintanceships can help you feel more linked into your community.

Related: Loneliness is deadly (Wochit News)

MSN Loneliness Campaign: Who's affected and how is loneliness being tackled? Discover more and please donate now.

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