We can do it by working together
As a result of the coronavirus pandemic most of us now know how loneliness can impact our general wellbeing and mood. It is also now widely understood that feeling lonely for a long time can increase our risk of suffering many physical and mental health conditions as much as things like smoking and being an unhealthy weight.
The good news is there are simple things we can all do to help combat loneliness, for ourselves and for others in our community.
How are we combatting loneliness?
At the RCC we want to keep everyone connected with their community, ensuring that those at risk of loneliness are supported, and anyone currently feeling lonely is connected with someone who can help. Whilst this sounds like a huge job, we believe that by keeping things simple and working together we can make a big impact on combatting loneliness.
Our tried and tested approach is based around three C's: Coffee, Conversation, and Community. By combining these basic elements we are building connections, confidence, and helping people overcome loneliness across Leicestershire & Rutland. If we can do it, you can too!
Rural Coffee Connect
Using coffee and chat to combat loneliness and isolation in rural areas of Leicestershire & Rutland. Connecting people one cup at a time.
What is Loneliness?
You don’t need to be alone to feel lonely, you could be surrounded by people at work or at home but still have the unwelcome feeling of loneliness. Conversely, you might always be by yourself and feel perfectly happy alone. Loneliness is simply a feeling that we get when the social contact we have is not what we want or need.
How does it feel?
Everyone's experience of loneliness is different and even an individuals experience of it can change over time. Some people say it makes them feel hollow and empty, others describe it as feeling cut off or rejected, almost like you have an invisible forcefield surrounding you. Sometimes people do not even know that the way they are feeling is due to being lonely.
Why do people get lonely?
So many things can make you feel lonely. Mental health issues such as stress, anxiety and depression. Small things like being left out by friends, doom scrolling on social media, a neighbour moving away or losing your place in the football team. Big life events such as a break up, having a baby, your children starting school, moving house, losing your job, a bereavement, or ill health. The loss of facilities like your internet connection, local pub, village shop or café . Sometimes we can feel lonely for no reason at all.
What can you do to help?
You don't need any qualifications or expertise to help combat loneliness. We all have what is needed to help ourselves and others around us.
How to help yourself?
If you are feeling lonely, the best things to help yourself often feel very hard to do. Things like talking to someone about how you are feeling, reconnecting with an old friend, or getting out and doing something you enjoy.
Doing these simple things really does help. Our advice is to take it slow, open up to someone you trust, and try to do one little thing each day that you enjoy and that helps you to connect with others.
How to help others?
Don't just assume that someone is lonely just because they are alone or withdrawn from what is going on around them. In some cases they may be perfectly happy, and in others it may be something other than loneliness that is troubling them.
If you are worried that someone is suffering from loneliness there are simple things you can do to help. Don't worry, none of these will hurt if it turns out they aren't lonely, and they will still help even if they are suffering a different mental health issue.
Start a conversation
There is nothing better that a good old chat. Starting a simple conversation with someone is a great way to boost their mood and make them feel valued. This might be a conversation in the street, over the garden fence, or even better somewhere with a nice cup of coffee.
Ask open questions
Try to avoid asking closed questions (that only require a yes or no answer) or jumping straight in and asking "are you lonely?". Good conversation starters are things like "How are you feeling?", "What did you do at the weekend?", "What did you think of the football on Saturday?" or "Where is best to get a good cup of coffee around here?".
Be a good listener
It is common to go into conversations worrying what you are going to say. To really help someone it is far more important to be a good listener than to talk a lot. The best approach is to ask an open question and then step/sit back and keep quiet. Let the other person do the talking. Even if they start slowly, if you avoid interrupting or filling gaps they are more likely to open up. Remember to show you are listening by using eye contact, nods and other gestures.
Find common ground
By listening to what someone has to say you are more likely to find things that you have in common. Finding common ground will help you build much a much more meaningful and lasting connection. It may also create opportunities for you get out and do something you both enjoy together.
Don't give up
If someone you are worried about doesn't engage the first time you try please don't give up. Fear of rejection can be a cause and a symptom of loneliness. If someone seems dismissive or shuts you out when you reach out to them, don't force it, but be sure to say that you will get back in touch another time. Make sure you follow this up and keep trying.