We experience loneliness at different points in our lives, regardless of age, stage in life or social situation. Loneliness is a sign that we need more or deeper social connections.
For many people, the feeling of loneliness can increase significantly during the winter months, when faced with shorter days and chillier weather. It can be easy to fall into ‘hibernate’ mode which for many of us will involve leaving the house for the bare minimum, such as work, going to the shops and other essentials only.
Building new social connections can not only improve feelings of loneliness but it can also lift your self-esteem and boost your mental well-being. Here are seven ways to make new connections this winter...
1. Keep Active
Staying active can improve and significantly benefit your mental health. There are many ways of keeping fit to suit all ages and abilities.
Meeting with a rambling group on a regular basis allows you to explore your local area. Gyms offer a range of exercise classes tailored for older people and are a great way to improve strength and flexibility. Why not consider meeting with a friend or neighbour and taking a crisp winter walk around your local park;, it can be a great way to boost your mood and get some fresh air. These are just some ways of keeping active, whilst socialising.
2. Join an Online Social Group
As wintery weather starts to take hold, you may not feel inclined or able to head outdoors to stay active. Online social groups have become increasingly popular, particularly since the pandemic.
An online social group can be a great way to build social connections with like-minded people. Think book clubs, writing, photography or knitting; sharing your interest with others is a fantastic conversation starter!
3. Keep in Touch
Loneliness is a completely natural human emotion that we can all feel from time to time. Contacting friends or family can help you to feel less lonely.
A phone call, text message or email helps us to keep in touch, especially with friends and family who don’t live nearby. But what can we do when we don’t have family or friends close by?
When you’re looking to widen your social circle and build your confidence safely, why not get involved and make new connections with Marmalade Companions which is a great way to make new connections and find social activities in your local area.
Intergenerational relationships have been proven to be highly beneficial for everyone involved and we can all learn a lot from people with different life experiences.
4. Exchange Letters with a Pen Pal
Although the digital age has made it easier for us to connect quickly, nothing really beats a traditional handwritten letter for a truly human touch. As well as being able to enjoy getting to know another person, you’ll experience the joy of anticipating the next letter to come through the letterbox.
5. Sing a Song
Singing improves our sense of happiness and well-being. Joining a choir is the perfect avenue for forging new social bonds – you’ll very quickly feel part of a community. Meeting regularly in person or online to make music is a great opportunity to meet new friends from all walks of life, many of whom you may not have come across through your day-to-day work or activities.
6. Give Something Back
When you’re experiencing loneliness, perhaps the last thing you feel like doing is volunteering. But giving something back to your local community is a wonderful way for you to refocus your energy on helping others, as well as improving your confidence as you share your own skills and knowledge.
Whether you choose to volunteer at a local charity shop, help schoolchildren with their reading, or join a crafting circle to make items for the local hospital, you’ll find volunteering a rewarding experience. You can read Duncan’s experience of volunteering for Marmalade Trust here and check out Marmalade Trust’s volunteer opportunities here.
7. Learn Something New
Learning new skills not only boosts your mental well-being but can be an opportunity to meet people with common interests.
As we get older, we often have more freedom to learn for pleasure, rather than learning to pass an exam or further our careers. The University of the Third Age (U3A) is a volunteer-led organisation where you can do something new just for you – no exams at all!
Build Your Connections
We all experience loneliness at some point in our lives, but winter can be more of a struggle. Try some (or all!) of these activities to build your connections, one person at a time.
Hannah Walters, November 2022