In this blog I'll explain some common causes of loneliness and suggest a simple five-step model to help you build a thriving social support network. The aim is to make you aware that taking steps to overcome loneliness can have many other related benefits.
Some of the main sources of loneliness are:
- a lack of confidence to connect with others due to low self-esteem. Building a social circle of like-minded people can help to build self-worth and confidence
- the loss of trust due to past relationship issues and a fear of being hurt again. When you take the risk to connect and explore new relationships, this alleviates the prospect of long-term loneliness and isolation
- moving to a new location, far from your usual support circle. When you begin to build a network of groups and people, this gives you a new sense of belonging
- the loss of a close loved one. Looking for support with the grieving process and finding options for filling the void helps to heal the loss
- a lack of people with similar interests. Using the internet and social media gives people options to build new relationships remotely and in person
- a lack of energy to devote to relationships due to ill health. Making wellbeing your number one priority by using energy-boosting initiatives brings renewed motivation to socialise and interact with others
We can be lonely for different reasons
As human beings, we need practical, emotional and moral support at different times in our lives, so think about your specific needs in these categories.
For instance, you may go out and have fun with friends, but find it difficult to talk about painful emotions or you may have a friend who helps with practical things but is not a good listener. Or perhaps you can call your mother who lives abroad for moral support, but you have no one to help with your young children.
Some of you may identify with the above (or know of someone in that situation). In that case, it may help to reflect on a time when you were not lonely and had a happy social circle. How did you achieve it? How can you do the same again? What would you need?
Make a list of how you did this and take the first steps. The following process provides additional guidance.
Here's a five-step process that could help you build a thriving support circle, you can:
- make a list of all your contacts - at work, family, friends and even casual acquaintances
- tick nine people from this list - three each for moral, practical, and emotional support. You can also start with fewer people and build up to nine people
- gradually build connections with these people. You may begin by sending a text, then a short telephone call and then inviting them for coffee or a meal
- Over a period, do the same with all nine people. The reason, I'm suggesting nine is because at any given time, a few people may not be available for various reasons, in which case there would always be someone there for support
- review your network and make changes as needed after several months
Taking small gradual steps to build a threefold social support circle around you, not only alleviates loneliness but has many other benefits, such as building confidence, enhancing wellbeing, learning new skills and creating a sense of belonging.
Views expressed in this article are the views of the writer and not necessarily the views of BACP. Publication does not imply endorsement of the writer’s views. Reasonable care has been taken to avoid errors but no liability will be accepted for any errors that may occur.