The theme for this year’s Loneliness Awareness Week is ‘connection matters’ but how can we truly connect with others?

This week is Loneliness Awareness Week and the theme this year is ‘connection matters’. Run by The Marmalade Trust, their campaign is encouraging everyone to harness moments of connection, no matter how small they may seem.

Everyday moments of connection matter. They can help us feel a little less lonely and, regardless of how small the interaction may seem, have the ability to make someone’s day. Whether it’s a quick chat with your local barista or a fellow dog walker, connection is so powerful.

What is loneliness?

Loneliness is defined as “a perceived mismatch between the quality or quantity of social connections that a person has and what they would like to have.” It’s completely natural to feel lonely at times. This is your body’s way of telling you that your social needs aren’t being fulfilled. It’s thought that loneliness only affects older people. While it is common for them to experience it, it’s most common in people aged between 16 and 24.

Remember, you don’t have to be alone to feel lonely. You may feel that you’re not being understood by those around you.

Loneliness can be caused by a number of factors, like moving away from home, a relationship breakdown or retirement. It can be felt differently by everyone, but long-term loneliness can start to impact physical and mental health. If you’re feeling lonely, it’s important to reach out and know that you are not alone.

Humans are hard-wired for social connection, so how do we get better connected?

How can I connect with others?

The Marmalade Trust outline a three-step approach. This is:

  • acknowledge loneliness in yourself or others
  • identify what you or they need
  • take appropriate action  

If you’ve recognised that you may be feeling lonely, it can feel incredibly daunting to reach out and connect with others. But, building a day-to-day community of people around you can be as simple as shopping locally and going to a manned till, rather than a self-checkout.

Forming connections might feel like taking a huge step outside of your comfort zone, but starting with small acts like this can help you to feel part of a community. If you feel ready to take a step further, you could join a local community group or take up a new hobby. This is a great way to meet new people and form friendships.

Think about what interests you. Do you like to unleash your creative side? Perhaps you enjoy a stroll in the countryside. Take the time to explore what’s on your doorstep — there are so many groups and courses available that you’re guaranteed to find yourself surrounded by your kind of people.

Volunteering is a wonderful way to connect with others, whilst also giving something back to the community. Not only does it increase your wellbeing, but you’ll be bringing happiness to those around you, too.

Find out more about the wellbeing benefits of volunteering.

There are a number of other ways you can connect with people, from sending voice notes and setting time aside to check in with your loved ones. In her article, Content Creator at Happiful, Kat, shares five ways to deepen social connection.

How do I harness the power of connection?

In order to fully embrace connection and reap its benefits, we first need to understand what connection truly means. It’s more than just a passing conversation. Connection is about really tuning in and paying attention to the other person, deepening the moment.

  • Have one meaningful conversation a day. The key here is to draw on your understanding. Put everything to one side and be fully present and attentive. Be there to offer an exchange.
  • Value people’s time. It can be frustrating when people show up late, whether that’s to a meeting at work or catching up with friends. Try to foster a culture where people’s time is valued.
  • Show up for people. Try to be there for people when and if you can. For example, joining them on an event that’s really important to them. Take an active interest and set limits to avoid being consumed by your phone or other distractions. If you take the time to be there for others, they’ll likely show up for you, too.
  • Bring people together. Create time to be present with one another. This allows the opportunity to have meaningful conversations.
  • Be your authentic self. True connection can only be achieved if we are honest and show up as our true selves, rather than pretending to be someone we’re not.

Social media can often be seen as a negative space, but it can be a great way to build communities and feel connected. If you’d like to get involved with The Marmalade Trust’s campaign, you can use the hashtags #LonelinessAwarenessWeek and #ConnectionMatters

And, of course, if you're struggling with feelings of loneliness and you’d like to talk to an unattached person in a non-judgemental space, you can connect with a counsellor or therapist on Happiful.