The current circumstances have taken a collective toll on our sense of well-being, with social distancing and lockdown measures causing a growing number of people to feel isolated, particularly among the elderly.
However, a study from the University of Cambridge has revealed ten ways that have been proven to help reduce loneliness, with mindfulness being among the most effective in helping reduce the sense of loneliness.
The key to many of these strategies is the realisation that we are not alone, and if you are struggling, an online therapist is available to help through times that are difficult for many of us.
Here are the top ten ways to help with loneliness.
The study connects this to the similar martial art tai chi as a way to promote relaxation and deep breathing, but both practices involve being aware of the moment and everything around you. As a result, both have proven benefits in helping with loneliness.
Robot Dogs (And Seals)
A pair of studies looked into whether the effects of emotional support animals could be replicated with robotic animals. Two studies, one involving a robot dog and another involving a robotic seal, significantly helped with loneliness.
Interestingly enough, a scheme involving live birds did not help nearly as much.
Often practised along with mindfulness and Tai Chi meditation, laughter therapies such as laughter meditation, exercises, deep breathing, playing games and singing songs loudly help to reduce loneliness, as well as the virtual or physical group setting these require.
Describing visual art such as paintings, and using your imagination to describe what a painting evokes as well as why and how it was made can help with social support.
Lessons which focused on health and well-being in general, as well as theories on loneliness and social integration specifically showed a decrease in loneliness in three out of the four studies which tried it.
Long stigmatised as a cause of social isolation, studies which involved playing games on the Nintendo Wii were found to have positive effects on reducing loneliness.
Whilst these studies were based around in-person group play, other studies and research into the topic suggest there are possible benefits to online play as well.
A structured exploration of different topics related to memories, feelings, life stories and positive goals proved to be beneficial in helping people feel less isolated.
Gardening, in general, has become incredibly popular in lockdown, but an indoor gardening programme in a nursing home helped to improve social connections within the home itself and reduced loneliness.
Getting To Know Neighbours
Many of the above activities are inherently social activities, but group meetings within a neighbourhood did help to reduce social isolation.
Weekly catchups with friends, family members and other important people in your life help reduce our loneliness and lets us know that we are not alone and can reach out to people who care about us and matter to us.