In a world literally buzzing with on-line chatter and with most people appearing to connect on one social platform or another, recent research on loneliness has revealed some troubling results.  Not only do 1 in 8 adults feel they have no close friends, but younger people who are usually perceived to have active, busy social lives, are the ones more likely to report feeling lonely than older people. What`s more eye- opening is the number of people feeling lonely is on the increase.

You don't have to feel this way

You don't have to feel this way

There are multiple reasons why more people may be experiencing loneliness. Moving away from a close network of family and old friends for work or study can impact on a person. Feeling time poor because of life/work balance, or even finding the process of making friends challenging due to shyness or social anxiety.

Whatever the reasons are; healthy connections and good friends matter. Studies have shown that it is important for our mental wellbeing to connect in a meaningful way with other people.

The good news is that there is a lot that you can do to combat loneliness.

If you are not quite ready to join a group straight away, then try joining an online community where you can interact with like minded people.

Change your body language when you meet people.  Simply making eye contact and smiling at someone, not only boosts your mood, but becomes a shared positive interaction.

Sometimes meeting new people face-to-face can be a challenge. So how about joining something like a film club. This gets you out and about, but also takes the pressure off straight away.

Take a risk and be the first to invite a few people for coffee rather than waiting around for an invite from someone else.

Fake it to make it. When you join a new work place, neighbourhood or group, introduce yourself to others and just say “hello”. This helps you to connect with others very quickly and opens the door to more conversation.

Make a list of interests that you have, then look for local clubs that you can join. Whether you have always wanted to learn to sing or build furniture, there are a classes for almost anything. This will get you engaging in something you really enjoy and sharing the company of others.

Sign up to be a volunteer. Studies have shown that there are many positive benefits of volunteering that include: decreasing stress, increasing happiness, giving you a sense of purpose and yes-combating loneliness.

If you love exercise, but don`t want to join a gym, then joining something like Park run can be great. It`s free and attracts loads of local people. Not only does it get you out in the fresh air, but it gives you a natural high too.

If you have spent a long time bottling up how you feel, then maybe it is time to open up to close loved ones. Just starting up the conversation can be a huge relief.

If you are struggling with difficult feelings and don`t have anyone close to talk to, you can contact an organisation like Relate, who can help you work through whatever is that you might be struggling with in a non-judgmental safe environment.

Written by Relate Ambassador, Anjula Mutanda.