In a world more connected than ever before, it can be hard to unravel why it is that you feel alone. The truth is, whether you’re sociable or solitary, extroverted or introverted, loneliness can affect us all at some point in our lives, especially during the current pandemic when we’re spending more time alone than ever before.
That’s why we’ve called on Claire Chamberlain, the author of UnLonely, to share 8 practical hacks for beating loneliness. From improving self-care to cultivating relationships, she offers practical advice for looking after your mental and physical wellbeing, which is more important than ever before.
Embracing alone time
When feelings of loneliness arise, your first thought might be to seek out others, to help fill the void. But sometimes, by turning your attention inward – to your own needs and passions – you can learn to form a deeper and more meaningful connection with yourself, helping to transform your loneliness into a productive and far less frightening state: solitude. By using your time alone to pursue creative, fulfilling, enjoyable and fruitful activities, you may find that the deeper connection you were seeking was within you all along.
Prioritise your wellbeing
When you’re feeling lonely, it’s easy to let the little things go and stop taking good care of yourself, both mentally and physically. But in order to remain (or return to feeling) positive, looking after yourself is important. Simple things like taking a hot shower each morning and using your favourite shower gel, picking an outfit that makes you feel good, enjoying a hot cup of tea, doing a spot of mindful colouring, getting out for some exercise and cooking yourself a tasty dinner each evening can go a long way to boosting your mood and your self-esteem.
Consider your diet
Taking the time to look after yourself includes fuelling both your body and mind well, so that you have the energy and strength to maintain a positive mindset and feel physically great. Eating a good balance of lean protein (such as tofu, pulses, beans or lean meat), wholegrain carbohydrates (such as wholemeal pasta and bread) and healthy fats (such as avocados and oily fish), plus plenty of colourful fruits and vegetables, will keep you feeling energised all day. And, of course, the occasional treat doesn’t go amiss either. Eat mindfully, eat with joy and eat for happiness!
Be more mindful
Mindfulness is the act of becoming consciously aware of the present moment exactly as it is, without judgement. Spending time focusing on your surroundings can help to ground you in the here and now, taking you firmly into the physical world and away from thoughts, worries and anxieties. Reconnecting in this way can help you feel more at one with the world. To get started, begin to notice your surroundings or your bodily sensations. If a thought arises that takes your mind away from “now”, acknowledge it without judgement, then draw your attention back to the present moment.
Get some fresh air (every day)
There are so many reasons why stepping outside into the fresh air each day is good for your mind, body and soul. Research has shown that regular walking can boost both your mood and self-esteem, while also easing feelings of anxiety and depression, and reducing stress levels. On top of that, natural sunlight is a fabulous mood booster – and it’s a key component for good health, too. Vitamin D (produced by your body when your skin is exposed to the sun) helps to maintain healthy bones, teeth and muscles, and research has shown there’s also a link between vitamin D and mental health, with decreased levels of the vitamin associated with low mood.
Lose yourself in a good book
There’s nothing quite like diving into the pages of a great book to help you unwind and de-stress. Reading can help you forget any worries or loneliness you may be feeling, allowing you to enter and inhabit a completely different world. What’s more, reading does not have to be reserved for your home: carry a book with you, so you can dip into it when you’re out and about, perhaps in your local park or while you’re waiting in a queue. It’s far more enriching and rewarding than scrolling through your smartphone!
Cook from scratch
If you live alone, it can be all too easy to fall into the habit of eating ready meals or super-simple suppers of an evening. But there is so much joy to be had in flicking through recipe books, discovering mouth-watering dishes, buying fresh ingredients and taking your time preparing a delicious meal. Making the effort to cook properly at least a few times a week can feel so rewarding, and it is a fabulous way to show yourself a little love. Plus, you can freeze any leftovers and enjoy the fruits of your labour again later in the week.
Taking time each day to think about all that you have to be grateful for in your life has been proven to have a positive impact on almost all areas of life, including enhancing self-esteem, increasing optimism, boosting energy, deepening relaxation, promoting feelings of kindness, improving sleep quality and – crucially – strengthening social bonds. In short, expressing gratitude can alter your whole mindset, making you feel happier and more open to forming and developing relationships with those around you.
UnLonely by Claire Chamberlain is published by Summersdale Publishers, priced £8.99