Around a third of adults in Ireland aged 50 or over experience emotional loneliness some of the time. 7 percent often feel lonely. Experts believe loneliness is fast becoming one of the biggest health challenges for our aging population. So what steps can you take to combat feelings of isolation and continue being socially connected? We’ve compiled a list of practical suggestions. Read on for some helpful tips designed to keep loneliness at bay.
What You Can Do to Combat Loneliness
Triggers of loneliness can vary from person to person. Bereavement, illness, and a sudden change in personal circumstances can all play their part. One issue of particular relevance to Ireland is that more than a third of people live in rural areas. That means a significant percentage of the population is less likely to have regular physical contact with others.
This can sometimes make combating loneliness more of a challenge. Many health professionals believe that the key drivers to help beat loneliness are these:
- Connecting with others by reaching out and developing relationships
- Staying physically active by finding an activity that works for you
- Being mindful of the environment around you and noticing how you feel
- Learning something new such as a craft or even how to dance
- Do something for the benefit of others like becoming a volunteer for a charity
Adapting Tips to Your Own Circumstances
When we’re feeling lonely, it is quite normal to be dismissive of suggestions that might help. New ideas can sometimes feel overwhelming or beyond our physical capabilities. It’s important to take the essence of a recommendation and tailor it to you.
Online forums that can instantly connect you to others are a fantastic way to feel part of a community. You can do everything from playing games with others to sharing life experiences.
There are plenty of apps out there that keep us visually and socially connected with family and friends at the touch of a button.
If you are someone who has no online access then you’re not alone. Hundreds of thousands of Irish residents have no access to the internet at home. Many believe they either don’t need it or are afraid they lack the skills to use it.
Elaborate technology is not always necessary to stay connected. Simply speaking to someone on the telephone and hearing their voice can be as beneficial as engaging online.
If you can, set up a regular call with a friend or family member. Alternatively, become someone’s pen pal and share photos, drawings and your thoughts with them.
It’s never too late to learn, however. Technology has moved on and become more and more user-friendly. You could make a resolution to get technology-savvy with one of the Irish government’s free online courses on computer basics.
The direct correlation between physical and mental wellbeing is as old as time immemorial. It’s the quality of exercise we take that matters rather than the quantity. If you can, find a friend to join you.
If you have mobility issues, don’t focus on the activities you can’t enjoy, concentrate on finding those that you can.What can really help is keeping a written diary of our daily activities? Filling your diary is a great way to make you feel less lonely and to let your physical achievements inspire you.
It is essential to make regular exercise part of our everyday lifestyle. Again, this needs to match our own personal capabilities. Here are a few simple ways to get the blood flowing:
- Climbing the stairs several times a day to your favorite music
- Using cans of tinned food as weights to strengthen arms and legs
- Dancing with a friend
- Taking the dog for a twice-weekly extra long walk
- Joining an aqua aerobics class
- Stretching exercises to reduce pain and stiffness
If you’re planning to start a new exercise routine, keep it simple so that you’re more likely to stick with it. Remember to stay hydrated.
Mindfulness techniques can also help to keep us connected to the world around us and increase a sense of belonging. You can practice mindfulness any time, anywhere and even combine it with physical activities such as yoga or stretching.
Learn Something New
When we learn best, we tend to do it in ways that connect us with others. It means we become part of a group of people with a shared skill.
If there are opportunities to learn a new craft or activity available to you locally, you should seize them. Singing in a choir, creating a piece of art or even learning how to speak another language will keep you active and socially connected with others.
Connections lead to other connections. Once you set the ball rolling, you’ll quickly discover other activities and other people with shared interests.
If you have a passion for literature, check out if there is a book club in your area or online. If not, why not try and start one? You could also find out about bridge, bingo or quiz evenings.
It’s a scientific fact that helping other people makes us feel better about ourselves. That’s because when we do so, we trigger the release of a hormone called oxytocin. It has the effect of boosting our mood.
On top of this, the higher the level of oxytocin, the more we want to help others. As well as the benefits to self-esteem, doing something good for other people connects us with others. It increases our sense of belonging in a wider society.
Even offering a smile to a stranger in the street can boost their day and make us feel better knowing that we’ve contributed in a small way to the greater good. Finding out how to help a charity by contributing our time to a good cause is also a useful place to start.
How Comfort Keepers Helps Fight Loneliness
Our clients tell us that Comfort Keepers has really helped them to stay socially connected. They look forward to the regular visits from our homecare team, even if it’s just for a friendly chat. Our home carers are always on hand to offer advice about how to combat loneliness.
If you’d like to find out how Comfort Keepers could help you or a loved one, get in touch with us now.