Loneliness and isolation

Loneliness and isolation

Friday, 16 July 2021

We are social creatures and need to feel we belong.

Being lonely is like being hungry or thirsty. It’s our bodies telling us we’re not getting the basic human need of social interaction. We’ve had a strange few years, and physical interaction can still relatively difficult and unfamiliar to us.

To help during this time this article covers:

Icon for speech bubble
Icon for speech bubble

Jigsaw Live Chat

If you have been experiencing feelings of loneliness or isolation, you're not alone. Talk to one of our clinicians online 1:1 through our text-based webchat.

Live chat

What is loneliness?

Loneliness is a lack of connection and communication with others. It’s often considered a big problem with elderly people, but many young people coming to Jigsaw feel lonely too.

Being alone vs. being lonely

No matter what age you are, being lonely isn’t good for your health.

Remember there’s a difference between being alone and being lonely. Some people are happy spending big chunks of time on their own. They might work alone or prefer solitary sports like running instead of team sports.

A single blue balloon on a string

Feeling lonely

It can happen even if you have lots of people in your life, but don’t feel like they ‘get’ you.

Craving interaction

When we crave friendships or interactions with others and don’t get them, it leads to feelings of isolation.

It can happen even if you have lots of people in your life, but don’t feel like they ‘get’ you. You may have hundreds of Instagram followers but still feel like you have no-one to rely on, or really talk to.

Experiencing loneliness can be difficult to talk about. We can feel ashamed or embarrassed we have no one to sit with at lunch. Or have no one to talk to.

If this sounds familiar, know that you won’t always feel this way. You can talk about coping with loneliness and isolation via our 1:1 Live Chats with the Jigsaw team. The first step is to see what might be contributing to this feeling of loneliness.

Jigsaw Clinician
Quite often in Jigsaw we'd see people coming with experience of struggling in social situations

Why do I feel lonely?

Being lonely isn’t anything to do with who you are. Certain things happen in life that can increase the chance of feeling loneliness.

See if you can relate to any of these:

  • Moving to a new city or country
  • Starting university or a new school
  • Falling out with friends, or just growing apart
  • Relationship break up
  • Someone close to you died
  • Providing care for a family member.

These can be tricky situations that are difficult for most of us to adjust to. Life changes like these can mean someone you used to rely on isn’t available anymore. Or you don’t feel you have much in common with the people around you.

Fitting in

Fitting in may be difficult because you feel different. You might have a different life experience to those around which you feel sets you apart.

Caring for someone means you may have a lot of responsibilities. It can feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders and it’s hard for your friends to understand.

Another reason we might feel lonely is when we have friends but don’t quite trust them. If we’ve been hurt in the past we might find it hard to feel relaxed around other people.

Share passions

Figure out who would share the same interests as you. Friendships naturally form over shared passions.

Yelloe blue green and red spray cans

Being social with social media

Social media is a part of all our lives. However, it’s OK to take a step back and ask how it makes you feel. Do you feel more connected to people after going on Instagram or Snapchat? Or do they increase feelings of loneliness?

Social media can be a way to make connections, meet new people and others who share our interests and passions. But liking other people’s posts and updates isn’t a replacement for face-to-face chat. If you are feeling lonely, be mindful that social media can make you feel more isolated.

Take control over the actions that make you feel bad. If social media is getting you down, as it seems everyone else is having a great time, give yourself permission to take a break from it.

What you can do if you feel lonely

Think about whether you want more time with friends or family. Or whether you actually want to meet new people you have more in common with.

Here are some ways to get started.

Find your tribe

Figure out who would share the same interests as you. Friendships naturally form over shared passions.

You might have to do some digging around first. Consider evening classes, programming clubs like Coder Dojo, sports clubs like running, walking and swimming, and community events. If you’re not sure, Ireland’s biggest youth club Foróige is a great place to start.

Find your tribe abstract animation


Sharing your time and skills for a cause you believe in is a fantastic way to make friends. You’ll meet like-minded people and find volunteering very satisfying.

Check out volunteer roles in Ireland here. Many of them now offer virtual or at-distance opportunities.

Join a team

Team sports can introduce you to an instant social circle. These clubs are really handy to tap into if you move city or country and don’t know anyone.

They’re often full of other people wanting to connect with people from home. Just look at all the GAA clubs thriving in places like Hong Kong, Bahrain and Vancouver.

Although this one may still be difficult with the remnants of the pandemic, keep your eye on opportunities regardless.

Spend time with animals

Animals are great for dispelling our loneliness when we do have to spend time alone.

Take a dog for a walk and you’ll see how easy it is to make chit-chat with other dog-owners. If you don’t have a pet and your living situation doesn’t allow for it, offer to walk a friend or neighbour’s dog.

How to talk to yourself if you’re feeling lonely

Feeling lonely can get us down and eat away at our self-esteem. It can be daunting to walk into a room of strangers in a new club, class or team.

Here are some tips to tackle that.

Challenge yourself to make conversation

Start with small steps, it can be difficult to put yourself out there. Remember it’s OK to feel uncomfortable at first. Make small talk with people you might have seen around in work or school, but haven’t spoken to.

Ask have they seen or heard a news story that day, or something going on locally. Then ask about them. People love talking about themselves. And if you’re curious about them, it can be the beginning of a friendship.

Watch Eimear and Conor talk about how to start a conversation.

Believe in yourself

Feeling isolated or lonely has a negative impact on our sense of ourselves. So be kind to yourself.

When you talk to yourself, say positive things like ‘you can do this’ or ‘I’ll just give this a go’. Try writing down one good thing that happens each day. You’ll look back months later and be amazed at your progress.

You may also like