Feeling Lonely?

Returning to Uni after the Christmas break, with lots of people around you, you might not expect to feel lonely.  And yet, simply being in the midst of lots of people, doesn’t mean you won’t experience a ‘feeling’ of loneliness.

When asked about loneliness, people usually say it is caused by one of two things:    Either, being isolated – which might include not speaking to or seeing other people very often; or it’s the feeling that although you are with other people, it seems they aren’t concerned about you and that you aren’t really understood; Perhaps this is how you are feeling.

Feeling lonely can be something that you experience just for a day, or it can be longer-term.  If you have been feeling like this for a while, then perhaps it’s time to do something to help yourself, or to ask for help from others.

The mental health organisation Mind (http://www.mind.org.uk/) say you should think of loneliness as being a bit like hunger. Hunger is your body’s way of reminding you to eat. Loneliness is the mind’s way of letting you know that it wants to socialise. So what is socialising?  Socialising doesn’t just mean going to a bar or clubbing; it can mean watching a TV series with someone else, playing a board-game, or chatting and hanging out in one of your rooms or kitchen together. It’s all about making a connection with someone.

Simply being in the midst of lots of people doesn't mean you won't experience a 'feeling' of loneliness

Simply being in the midst of lots of people doesn’t mean you won’t experience a ‘feeling’ of loneliness

Try to make the most of other people’s company.  When you are in a crowd, sit still and listen. Most people are very keen on being listened to, so you’ll make a welcome addition to a group. Even though it might be hard to do, try to make eye-contact with the others so they know you’re interested and taking in what they’re saying.

If you aren’t sure what to talk about, try asking someone about themselves.  Most people are willing to open up on a neutral topic, and this can lead to finding out about each other. What are neutral topics? Very simple ones are what subject they’re studying and what made them choose it; Where they come from;  Do they have brothers and sisters?  What do they do in their spare time? Then, how about music preferences? Favourite TV shows? YouTube clips they’ve seen recently? Be prepared to share some of your own answers to these questions though, so it doesn’t just become a long list of questions!

It may be that you need some quiet time- we all do after a busy day.  However, sometimes you may notice that you feel like hiding from the world and others, by playing games on your phone. While this sometimes works in the short-term, helping you feel less awkward, in the long-term it cuts you off from contact with people around you, leading to a deeper feeling of isolation. Could you keep your phone in your pocket and know that it’s there, while trying to get to know people? Then you will seem more approachable, and it’s more likely that someone will respond and smile back at you.

Perhaps it feels like you have such a unique attitude to life that no-one else could understand how you feel. So although you know plenty of people, you miss feeling close to them because you assume they can’t empathise with you. But could you be mistaken?   Think about the others you live with. Who’s the most on your wave-length? On your course, who seems most similar in outlook? If you can find the courage to open up and tell them a bit about yourself, you could eventually build a friendship.

how about joining one of the sports groups or societies to meet new people

how about joining one of the sports groups or societies to meet new people

There are other ways to overcome loneliness:  If you missed joining a society or club at the start of the year, you could always try it now;  RUSU has a list of the clubs and societies who always welcome new members – whatever the time of year.

How about joining an online community that’s focused on an interest you have?  Remember to keep safe online. Take a look at our ‘Personal safety at university’ leaflet – It’s on the Essentials page under Support and Wellbeing.

Maybe you could consider some volunteering in your spare time? Charity shops are always grateful for an extra pair of hands, and you’ll meet people on the staff team, as well as customers.  If you don’t want a regular commitment, RUSU organise a number of volunteering events, including one-off events:  https://www.facebook.com/RUSUVolunteering

Or maybe you could get involved in volunteering as a student tutor in one of the local schools – just contact studenttutoring@reading.ac.uk for more information.

If you feel loneliness is impacting on you severely, Mind is a mental health charity that can provide online/phone support:

Mind’s Infoline:  9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday (except for bank holidays).

0300 123 3393
Text: 86463

Mind says: “Elefriends is a supportive online community where you can be yourself. We all know what it’s like to struggle sometimes, but now there’s a safe place to listen, share and be heard.” Elefriends.org.uk

Pick up our Reading Uni leaflet on “How to gain Social Confidence”, from the wall pockets in the first floor corridor of the Carrington building.

If you’re really struggling, don’t forget the Counselling Team is on campus. Come in to Carrington Building, room 106 and register any weekday between 10 – 4. We’ll contact you soon with an appointment to speak with a counsellor about how you are feeling.


How long did you keep your New Year resolution?

spring crocus

New Year is a time for resolutions – but how are you doing with keeping them?

Did you make a New Year resolution this year?  How are you doing with keeping it?  Not good?  Don’t worry – you aren’t alone!  While 75% of people manage to keep resolutions through the entire first week of January, in the longer term the numbers fall off alarmingly!

New Year Resolutions started many years ago.  In ancient times, the Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts – both good resolutions to make –  while the Romans made promises to the god ‘Janus’ after whom the month of January is named.  In the past, I too have made well intentioned resolutions at the start of a New Year.  Like many people I have had great ambitions to make changes to my life.  In a survey of the top 10 New Year Resolutions undertaken by an American university, Resolutions ranged from the more obvious – lose weight, getting organised, spending less and saving more  to  the slightly less usual such as ‘helping others in achieving their dreams’.

So what constitutes a good New Year’s resolution?  It’s all about trying to break bad habits and this is bound to be difficult isn’t it?  Perhaps the problem is that most people try to set too many resolutions or alternatively make ones which they are unlikely to achieve.


now you’re back for the spring term, new year resolutions might feel harder to keep

It might be that now you are back for the spring term, you are finding it hard to keep your own New Year resolutions – but don’t give up just yet.  Research shows that people in their 20’s are far better at achieving their resolution each year than people over the age of 50.  Possibly the problem is more to do with the difficult changes you are trying to make?   Perhaps you could do with a few tips to help you keep going?

I asked some of the Student Wellbeing staff if they had any helpful ideas for achieving positive change after the break.  I asked them to base their advice on the types of issues which they talk about with students coming in for Counselling and Wellbeing appointments.  Here are a few of their suggestions which you might like to try out:

  • Be modest in your ambitions – don’t set yourself unrealistic targets such as going to the gym three times a week if you’ve never set foot in one before! This is going to be disappointing if you can’t follow through.  Think instead about more realistic targets such as walking to town more often rather than catching the bus, using the stairs in the Oracle Shopping Centre rather than the escalator.

    why not try walking into town rather than taking the bus!

    why not try walking into town rather than taking the bus!

  • If you are struggling to keep going on your own, perhaps ask a mate to join with you – for example exercising together, stopping smoking together – it’s much easier to keep resolutions if they’re shared.
  • And if the resolution is falling by the wayside and you are starting to feel negative…one way of focusing on positive changes is to make a conscious effort to acknowledge the positive in your life every day. It’s very easy to reflect on negatives e.g. I should have gone to the gym, I shouldn’t have eaten all that pizza, why didn’t I say ‘no’?  Focus on what you can do next time to keep you going.  Try again.  Experiment by allocating a bit of time every day to notice positive things eg. it didn’t rain today, I had an alcohol-free day, my bank balance is looking healthy for a change!

All the best for the coming year and good luck with any resolutions you might have made.