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5 practical tips for feeling less lonely in lockdown

We asked our friends at mental health startup Spill to share tips on how to feel less lonely, even though we might be spending a lot more time alone.

1. Work out what gives you a sense of connection

Loneliness is caused by an absence of connection, not strictly an absence of contact with other humans.

That's why we can still feel lonely (and often most lonely) even when we're surrounded by others.

Everyone is different. And many things can make us feel connected: pets, nature, art, abstract ideas... Try a few and see what makes you feel better. A good novel or a small houseplant are great places to start.

2. Introduce variety into your days

Loneliness is worst when we start to feel like we can never escape it: like all our days are the same and we can't see a way out.

One of the things we're missing out on whilst at home is a sense of chance or variety. It can feel like nothing different happens, and we don't have stories we can share with friends or family.

So try walking a different route, going to a different supermarket, or starting a new activity. Who knows what'll happen.

3. Spread your communication throughout the day

The normal way of interacting at many jobs is to have lots of small conversations over the course of the day.

When we have a question, we ask a colleague. When something exciting happens we tell someone nearby. We might even be talking to customers or clients all day.

Trying to cram the whole day's communication into a 30min morning call may feel efficient. But it can make us feel more disconnected in the long run. So try going for more calls, but keep each of them shorter. A phone call doesn't even need to last 5 minutes.

4. Trick your brain into feeling like it's in a public space

What we often hear at Spill is that people miss being in the presence of other people, rather than necessarily talking to them! Jostling through a busy market, reading in a cafe.

Humans like being around each other as much as they like actually interacting with each other. Coffitivity, a free online resource, lets you choose from various background sounds — including a cafe at lunchtime or a uni campus. It might be weird at first, but it could help you feel less alone while working.

5. Focus on and appreciate the small things

When people who've been through extended periods of isolation — prisoner of war survivors, submarine captains, hostages — are asked how they stayed mentally strong, they often say they tried to focus on the tiny stuff. A glimpse of the sun, a rare cup of tea, a chance to speak with someone.

These things can all make the weight of our loneliness lift for a while, if we concentrate enough to let them.