How To Cope With & Tackle Loneliness
How To Cope With & Tackle Loneliness

How To Cope With & Tackle Loneliness

Before the pandemic, only one in 20 adults in England reported feeling lonely often or always – but this has now increased to one in five among the over 65s. An epidemic in its own right, it can be hard to know the difference between loneliness and being alone. That is why we asked some of the leading experts in this area to share their best advice on coping with it and ways to remedy it.

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Professor Lynda Holt

CEO at Health Service 360 & loneliness expert says…

This video tells the story of too many older people. It depicts the not so gradual decline in physical and cognitive ability, the shrinking of identity or sense of self and the ensuing lack of motivation or purpose that disconnection can create. Interestingly, it’s not age per se that impacts the chances of being lonely, but circumstances that increase that risk do change with age – for example, retirement, loss of work companionship, the loss of a spouse or close friends and relatives, and potential disability.

Loneliness occurs when people feel socially isolated. They often feel they’re no longer contributing to or part of meaningful interactions and, as humans, our sense of belonging and needing to contribute to something outside of ourselves are a significant part of our identity, self-worth and validation. When we become lonely or socially isolated, both relationships and the degree of meaningful engagement we have decreases. As a result, it can become increasingly difficult to maintain your sense of self.

Common emotions associated with loneliness include shame, fear, anxiety and helplessness – all of which make it difficult for people to discuss their feelings and initiate action to get out of their loneliness spiral. For older people, it’s often seen as an inevitable part of old age – which of course is not true. In theory, older people have the time and the wisdom to contribute and connect; but what they often lack is opportunity, means and sometimes simply an invitation.

The pandemic has certainly worsened the feelings of loneliness for some people. It’s also impacted on people’s confidence to mix and, in some cases, prolonged isolation has created physical or psychological deconditioning making it difficult to socialise. That’s why helping people to stay connected to their life, their family or their community and feel that their connection is meaningful is key to reducing loneliness.

We all need to feel that we add value – and this doesn’t go away because we age. Many older people are terrified of being a burden or losing their independence. They know how busy and stressful raising a family, holding down a job, managing the finances or even caring for older relatives can be – but it’s worth remembering the wealth of life experience, wisdom and anecdotes many older people have to share.

Some things you can do if you’re feeling lonely and isolated include staying in touch with friends and family. Even if you can’t meet up in person, a phone call or even an email will help keep you connected. Also, continue with hobbies or activities by checking whether you have the materials you need, the transport you need or the relevant tech to stay engaged. If you can, get ‘digital natives’ – i.e. your children and grandchildren – involved in helping to set up and teach the tech, as it might help all parties feel more connected.

Ask your older friends and relatives for help where appropriate. If you want to take it a step further, think about joining a voluntary group, like a befriending service, reading service, drivers – take a look at your local Red Cross, Campaign to End Loneliness or Age UK to see what’s needed near you. You don’t have to do all of the things suggested, any one of them will help. 


Common emotions associated with loneliness include SHAME, FEAR, ANXIETY and HELPLESSNESS – all of which make it difficult for people to DISCUSS THEIR FEELINGS and INITIATE ACTION to get out of their LONELINESS SPIRAL.

Denise Lordache

Cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist says…

Loneliness is commonly described as the absence of meaningful social interaction. Social interaction can be defined as anything from an intimate relationship to friendship or even community or workgroup connections. It’s an emotion experienced by all human beings at some point in their lives. However, loneliness is both complex and unique to each individual – there is no one size fits all. According to many experts, loneliness is not necessarily about being alone. Instead, if one feels alone and isolated, then that’s how loneliness plays out for them specifically.

Loneliness generally causes people to feel empty, unwanted, alone and isolated. It can also be a major factor in depression. And it’s not to be confused with solitude. Loneliness is marked by feelings of isolation despite wanting social connections and is often perceived as involuntary separation, while solitude is always voluntary.

For those of us experiencing loneliness, there’s not an exhaustive list of situations that may cause someone to feel lonely, but there are potentially triggering situations we need to be aware of. These include physical isolation; moving to a new location; divorce (end of a long-term relationship); and the death of someone significant. Additionally, loneliness can sometimes be attributed to internal factors such as low self-esteem. People who lack confidence tend to believe they are unworthy of attention, which in turn can lead to chronic loneliness.

To tackle loneliness, ask yourself about your social interactions and connections. For example, how are you spending your days? Are you taking part in many activities with your friends/colleagues? This questioning should be done in an empathetic and non-judgmental way in order for you to feel safe to answer the question. 

One of the first things I would recommend to someone feeling lonely would be to acknowledge and accept the feeling. Many of us feel lonely at some point in our lives, while for others this could be an overwhelming feeling which does not seem to go away easily. However, many of us do not accept we feel lonely and this in itself negates or invalidates our own feelings which isn’t good. Radical acceptance of our feelings (including loneliness) should lead the way. Yes, loneliness is an emotion just like all the other emotions, but we shouldn’t feel any less worthy because of it.

Additionally, I would encourage people who struggle with loneliness to seek balance in their lives and look after their wellbeing as top priority. This can mean different things to different people. For most of us this would mean we resort to mindfulness-like initiatives and place our focus onto the present moment – e.g. breathing, noticing things, seeking calming activities which allow us to reconnect with ourselves etc. 

Also, joy can be a great emotion to counter loneliness – so try to plan joyful activities into your day, like reading a book, watching a comedy, dancing, joining a new class, walking, hiking or even taking a relaxing bath. By focusing on things we’ve achieved, we can improve our own perception about ourselves. These achievements do not have to be large efforts; they can be anything, even doing the housework, cooking a new recipe, completing an exercise routine or doing admin tasks. 

Connection is also an integral part of being human. We are social animals; therefore, we thrive on meaningful connections which bring us closeness. A way to drive this would be to increase opportunities for social interaction, such as joining a group of likeminded individuals who share your hobby interests or choosing to volunteer for a cause you believe in (either online or in person). 

Finally, therapy can be of great help to people struggling with loneliness. CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) in particular can prove to be very helpful as it is one of the most researched therapeutic interventions for loneliness. It proves efficient because it deals with both cognitive and behavioural restructuring, while challenging the negative thoughts lonely people tend to focus on.

Remember, overcoming loneliness is not only about support, but also giving support back. A sensitive way to reach out would be to ask someone for help. Ask them to help you be more socially active or ask them to go for a coffee. An act of kindness and inclusion can make all the difference so, if in doubt, just be kind and offer your support according to your own resources.


One of the FIRST THINGS I would recommend to someone FEELING LONELY would be to ACKNOWLEDGE and ACCEPT THE FEELING.

Natalie Read

Counsellor & author of Being Human says…

Loneliness can be an actual or perceived reality. Some people are surrounded by family and friends but still feel lonely – a perception that they don’t fit in or belong. Other people can have very few people in their life but not feel lonely. And many people feel lonely in transitions, stages of life or in response to life events such as break-ups, bereavement or illness. Some people feel lonely at times and others throughout their whole life.

Contributions to modern-day loneliness include the busyness of life, which makes people less available; more polarised opinions that can lead people to feel lonely if their views are different; unrealistic and unhelpful expectations about happiness or success from social media; the speed and complexity of certain events; low self-esteem; and limiting beliefs.

My first pieces of advice would be to work on your self-esteem. Be more aware of limiting beliefs, self-fulfilling behaviours and cycles that reinforce loneliness. Create more empowering beliefs and behaviours to attract a more positive cycle. By improving your self-esteem and acceptance of yourself, you help improve your ability to be accepted and liked by others. Positive self-esteem is arguably magnetic and attractive to others.

Then, improve your connection to yourself. Time in nature, meditation, self-reflection and self-care; reduce screen time; and escape behaviours that don’t serve. The more you connect to yourself, the more you can connect to others. This is also closely tied to identifying what makes you happy – pinpoint the times in your life when you felt happiest and reapply what works and put into place the hobbies and lifestyle that bring you into contact with other people who may have similar interests. 

Identify people already in your life who you like and respect and would like to spend more time with. Invite them to meet. Alternatively, ask friends and family who you are comfortable with and enjoy similar interests to introduce you to their circles of friends to expand your network.


If you know someone you think might be lonely, TRUST YOUR INSTINCTS and TALK TO THEM.

Hannah Thomson

Founder & CEO of The Joy Club says…

There is no ‘one’ official definition of loneliness. It’s most commonly understood as a feeling of being disconnected or isolated. But experiencing loneliness may often feel low, helpless or distressed, and may feel like you’re socially isolated even when in the company of family or friends. It’s possible to lead a relatively solitary life and not feel lonely; on the other hand, you might live a seemingly rich social life and nevertheless experience profound loneliness. This is because it’s not the presence of others that matters – it’s the presence of significant others who we can trust, share goals with and feel connected to that’s important.

There are a number of reasons why someone might experience loneliness in later life. Divorce, bereavement, living apart from our families, the lack of structure and companionship that was previously found through the workplace – these are all things that become more likely as we grow older and can contribute to feelings of loneliness. The thing to understand is that we are all capable of feeling lonely. Indeed, experiencing loneliness on occasion is extremely common and is not something that anyone should feel alarmed by or ashamed of. However, extended periods of loneliness can have serious consequences for the way we think, feel and behave, and for our overall health.

Chronic loneliness has been found to be twice as harmful as obesity or the equivalent of smoking 15 cigarettes a day*, with a growing body of evidence to suggest that prolonged loneliness can increase one’s likelihood of cardiovascular disease, depressive symptoms, cognitive decline, dementia and even death**. We are an inherently social species – so much so that loneliness can literally be fatal. 

Alleviating loneliness usually comes through four main routes: enhancing social skills, providing social support, increasing opportunities for social interaction and changing unhealthy thoughts around loneliness (generally through cognitive behavioural therapy). However, for someone actually experiencing loneliness in the moment, these recommendations might feel too broad or simply out of reach. For anyone experiencing loneliness who is looking to manage those feelings, I have some recommendations:

  • Consider opening up to someone. If you’re feeling lonely, it might help to share how you’re feeling with someone you trust. This might be a friend or family member, but if you don’t have someone you feel comfortable being vulnerable with, it might be helpful to speak to a therapist or try using a peer support service.
  • Make new connections through shared activity. If you’re feeling lonely due to lack of meaningful social contact, it might be helpful to try meeting new people through classes, community groups or even through volunteering. Online activity groups like The Joy Club provide a huge variety of classes, talks and workshops where people can learn new skills alongside like-minded peers, as well as offering a welcoming space for members to connect over shared interests.
  • Take things at your own pace. It can be daunting to open up to people or to explore new activities when you’re feeling lonely, so don’t feel pressured to rush into anything if you don’t feel comfortable. Online communities are a great way to take steps to alleviate loneliness at your own pace – you can chat online, read the content they have available and even join online classes without turning your camera on. What’s most important is being open to the possibility of connection and seeing how things progress. 

There are a number of great resources out there that exist to combat loneliness. Many are available through the Campaign to End LonelinessAge UK (who offer a wonderful befriending service that I personally volunteer for) and Mind. If you’re looking for something a little more active, look for community groups for people who share your interests, whether that’s a local choir, the Social Farms and Gardens charity, or online communities that enable you to connect with people who share similar interests through interactive classes and content.

If you know someone you think might be lonely, trust your instincts and talk to them. Often, simply being there for someone can make a huge difference and bring relief, so strike up a conversation, provide reassurance and, most importantly, listen. Opening up about feeling lonely can be really difficult, so it’s OK if all you’re doing is providing a safe space for someone to be vulnerable. You don’t need to solve their problems – just let them know that you’re there for them and allow them to share how they’re feeling.


*House, Landis, and Umberson, 1988Holt-Lunstad, 2010

**Hawkley and Cacioppo, 2010

For more support and resources around loneliness, visit and Every Mind Matters via

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