4 healthy ways to help you deal with loneliness

Feeling lonely? You’re not alone – and there are ways to help you cope and stay connected.

Australian research shows one in two people report feeling lonely at least once a week, and one in four people experience loneliness for three days or more.

Because it’s such a common problem, we’re often told we can tackle the issue by acknowledging we’re lonely, reaching out, and getting help.

These are all critical steps in overcoming loneliness, but there are a few other things you can do to beat it and bring back joy.

Get out in nature

If you’re experiencing loneliness, getting outdoors is one healthy form of distraction, according to Jackie Hallan from youth mental health service ReachOut.

“Time in nature for some people can be very therapeutic,” Jackie says.

“Getting outside will give you a break from the screen and help you feel relaxed.”

Exposure to the outdoors also has proven health benefits and can help your immune system.

Embrace solitary activities

Clinical psychologist Dr Michelle Lim says keeping ourselves busy can help when we feel lonely.

That can include simple activities like reading, baking, focusing on a home project or taking up a hobby.

“It’s really important to remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution,” Dr Lim, from Swinburne University, says.

“You need to reflect a little on what works for you.

“Our social needs are very nuanced, so it could be listening to a podcast or getting out in the garden.”

Exercise to beat loneliness

When you’re lonely, negative thoughts and feelings can rise to the surface, but being active can improve both your physical and mental wellbeing.

Research has shown that adults who joined a regular exercise class reported decreased loneliness within months of becoming more active; and virtual activities were also effective.

So, it could be a gym class, a walk, or anything else that gets the blood pumping.

Seek out community

Make social connections. Jackie says this could mean looking for ways to make new friends, or it could simply be about looking at ways to increase the interaction you have with your established network.

Another tip is to join — and regularly attend — group activities, which can be helpful if you get anxious about contacting people to set up social gatherings.

“It could be a boot camp; it could be a book club — the key here is that it happens on a regular basis, someone else organises it, you can just turn up, and it’s something that you enjoy doing,” Jackie explains.

“Often, when you keep showing up, you will find somebody there that you can connect with, even if it’s just for that time while you’re doing that shared activity.”