Has someone you know started spending a lot of time on their own? Maybe they don’t seem as productive as usual, they always focus on the negatives, they doubt themselves, and seem tired all the time. It’s possible they’re feeling lonely.
Loneliness can affect anyone. Even having lots of friends and an amazing life doesn’t make someone exempt from feeling lonely from time to time. And as someone who’s close to them, it can be difficult to find out they feel this way. Looking to lend a hand? Here’s how to help someone who is feeling lonely.
Validate their feelings
Let them know they aren’t the only ones who get lonely. This is especially important for men as societal expectations sometimes make men feel more alone or that they shouldn’t experience negative emotions. If you have a personal story that you feel comfortable sharing, do it. It helps to hear it from a friend. And, it should be obvious, but don’t laugh, alienate them or make them feel bad or regretful for sharing how they feel. Don’t make them feel worse than they already do.
Ask how you can help
Unfortunately, none of us are mind readers. To know how to help them, you have to ask. If they don’t know what they want, maybe offer some suggestions. But be realistic. Don’t suggest hanging out every Friday night if you often feel tired after work or have other commitments. Maybe suggest regular phone calls or Facetimes so you can catch up and they can vent.
Hang out with them
Invite them out as much as possible. They might turn some invites down, but that’s beside the point. Just them knowing you’re thinking of them and want them to join can help, even if they decide not to come along. It’s especially helpful if you can see them regularly, so they have something to look forward to. Another shout is going out where they might be able to meet people like a gig, comedy night, the cinema, you get the idea.
Help them look after themselves
This can be tricky because you aren’t their parent. They’re an adult, and they can do whatever they want. But heavy drinking and drug use can contribute to negative emotions. Rebound anxiety is common when substances wear off, but even when under the influence, substances can make things worse by causing us to ruminate on negative thoughts.
If your friend falls into a pattern of using substances to alleviate their feelings, it can be a tricky habit to break and, of course, it could harm their health. It’s a fantastic idea to find something healthy you can do together, whether it's hitting the gym, going out and trying new restaurants, or having jam sessions together.
Getting professional help
Suggesting they seek professional help is another tricky one. But if nothing seems to help, it could be what they need. If you think it’s time to bring it up, first, don’t accuse them of anything. Don’t say they’re selfish, lazy or that their feelings are harming you. And have the conversation in a safe, private space.
If you’ve had therapy or spoken to a doctor about negative feelings, share your experience so it doesn’t sound so alienating or drastic. Lots of people benefit from therapy in various ways, including achieving personal goals, strengthening relationships, becoming the best version of themselves or receiving brilliant advice. It’s important they know this.
Make it clear you just want to help them out and remind them that there’s nothing to lose. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, but it might. They might discover it’s the best thing that ever happened to them. But don’t force it. If they don’t want to, they don’t want to.
It’s awful when someone you care about is struggling. But by learning how to help someone who is feeling lonely, you can show them that you care, that others care, that they aren’t alone and help them recognise that these feelings will pass. Just ensure you’re patient, as understanding as possible and keep reminding them that if there’s anything you can do to help, they can call you.
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