Loneliness can affect anyone at any time in their lives, but what we now know is that those dealing with sight loss experience more and more feelings of isolation.

It has been shown that over half of all those with a disability have experienced feelings of loneliness and isolation.

This could be for a variety of reasons; you could be feeling depressed and not in the mood to talk to anyone about how your feeling, but also because you can’t leave the house at present and have no opportunity to meet with others.

Signs of loneliness

The following are signs to look out for which may indicate that you are lonely:

  • Do you struggle to connect with family or friends?
  • Do you constantly feel isolated regardless of where you are and who’s around?
  • Do you always feel negative about yourself?
  • Are you having difficulty sleeping?
  • Are you experiencing hypervigilance (state of increased alertness)?
  • Are you finding that you are not going out as much and spending more and more of your time at home or by yourself?

Impact of loneliness on health

It’s known that if loneliness is experienced for a short period, the effect on an individual has less impact than if someone is experiencing loneliness over a longer period of time. It’s been proven that loneliness over a long period of time can result in higher levels of cortisol, the bodies primary stress hormone, which can influence your health in the short term.

Cortisol can impair cognitive performance, compromise the immune system, increase your risk of heart disease and even weight gain. Loneliness is also a risk factor for more serious mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety.

What you can do to help yourself

Acknowledge your feelings of loneliness

One of the first and most important things to do when you are feeling lonely is to acknowledge this feeling and think about the impact that loneliness is having on your life. This could mean that you talk to friends or family or maybe even a therapist about how you are feeling. A therapist will be able to help you with strategies and ways in which to combat feeling lonely and help you manage any feelings of loneliness you may be having. Find out more about talking to someone and therapy.

Volunteering

Finding an opportunity to volunteer could be a means to increasing your confidence, while at the same time contributing to a good cause. You don’t even have to leave the comfort of your own home to volunteer; there are volunteering opportunities that can fit into your life. Volunteering has been shown to ease stress and feelings of depression, and puts you in contact with others, which can help you to make friends and overall make you a happier person. A sense of happiness, fulfilment and connection to others is another way to ease the feelings of loneliness. RNIB has lots of volunteering opportunties.

Join a group or club

You may be able, to join a support group. Groups are a way for you to increase your social interaction. Our Talk and Support befriending groups are for adults with sight loss. Our groups help you to socialise in small groups by phone or online, for friendship and peer support. They are free and you don’t need any special equipment to take part. All you need is access to a phone or computer and somewhere quiet and comfortable to sit.

Other organisations that offer befriending include Age UK, which you can call on 0800 055 6112, and The Silver Line Befriending Service on 0800 470 8090.

Self-care

There are a lot of things that you can do by yourself to help you develop a more positive outlook. Some of the simplest are:

  • Sunshine – taking a walk in the sunshine can trigger the release of good hormones, which have a number of positive benefits.
  • A healthy diet – a better diet can help in your strategy to overcome your feeling of loneliness. Processed foods can have a negative impact on your general health and wellbeing.
  • Exercise – proven to trigger the release of endorphins (happy hormones) in the brain and due to their power to elevate mood, can make you feel better.
  • Sleep – the quality of your sleep is closely tied to your emotional health; poor sleep can aggravate feelings of loneliness and isolation and vice versa.

Loneliness can affect millions of us at any time; there are a lot of things you can do to try to overcome these feelings but realising how you are feeling and then working out the best strategy to combat it is the key.

This information is also available in Welsh: download Welsh PDF.