More people than ever have been feeling lonely in London, thanks to a particular pandemic. But the thing is, many Londoners were feeling it long before lockdown too. In fact, according to a Timeout City Index survey of 18 global cities in 2016-17, London ranked as the loneliest with 55% of Londoners saying it could feel lonely here sometimes.
To make things worse, the same survey showed only 7% of Londoners thought the city was a good place to make new friends, and a dismal 4% thought it was easy to find love in London. This is all pre-COVID times, mind you. Our current 2020-21 landscape (read: shit show) has done nothing to help in the loneliness department.
It’s inevitable that, at some point, you will feel lonely in London. We all do. But I think that can be true for everywhere in the world. Whether you’re in a city, in the countryside, at home or off travelling. And remember that loneliness doesn’t necessarily mean you’re physically alone. Sometimes you can be surrounded by people 24/7 and still feel lonely.
Emotional loneliness is real, because what we really crave from our relationships is an emotional connection. Not just the physical presence of other human beings.
It’s the perfect conundrum of living in a huge global city like London. Emotional loneliness is defined as ‘not having a significant emotional connection with at least one other person’. Though as Dr Curtis Peterson mentions in his great post about emotional loneliness, we all have different needs when it comes to how many emotional connections we require.
With all this in mind, I wanted to dive into a few ways to help overcome feeling lonely in London. Now, more than ever, some of us need a little extra push to put ourselves out there and prioritise our mental wellbeing. Here are a few places to start.
Do something for your community
The Timeout City Index survey reported that ‘Londoners were 24% less likely to have randomly bumped into a friend recently, reducing those chance encounters that can create a cosy feeling of community’. So if the community feels won’t come to you – it’s time to go out and find the community. Luckily, there are endless ways to get involved. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:
- Runners and joggers will love Good Gym, who combine getting fit with doing good things around the community.
- If you want to get back into nature, see if your local garden needs a helping hand. Or get in touch with the RHS.
- Sign up to a local Covid-19 Mutual Aid group to assist the most vulnerable in your area.
- Find a local food bank to help the fight against poverty and hunger.
- Explore ‘Reach’ who are the biggest volunteer source in the UK and join their community as a volunteer
Make your private hobby social
Turn your hobby in a social experience. Yes there are Covid restrictions at the moment, but there are still things you can do. Or at the very least, start planning for after lockdown. For example – going out jogging on your own every night, whilst great for the mind, isn’t exactly curing loneliness any time soon. Jogging with a run club though (while maintaining social distance obv) — now that’s a great way to turn a solo activity into a group one.
Try joining a local sports team. If you love drawing – find a weekly life drawing class (or an online version during lockdown). You’re into writing? Take an evening writing course and connect with others who have the same passion. Love to cook? Try a virtual cooking class so that once Covid restrictions ease, you can host a small Supper Club. Wine counts as a hobby imo – so if you also love sipping on a glass of red, sign up to your local wine shop’s tasting evenings. You see where I’m going with this.
Following your passions is one of the easiest way to connect with people because you instantly have something in common.
If you’re not sure how to turn your hobby into a social group event – try me. Leave a comment below and we’ll find something that works for you!
Expand your network
It’s easy to make a couple of good friends and get ‘complacent’, so when circumstances change, you may find yourself alone again. During my time in London, I did it over and over again. As someone who prefers a small, tight-knit group over a big circle of acquaintances, I crave deep connections from my friendships. So when they up and leave for another city, as is so often the case in the expat world, I’ve been left to start again from scratch.
What I’m trying to say is, try not to put all your eggs in one basket. The City Index research showed that 29% of Londoners met most of their current friends through work. But if your only social connections are through work, you may hit some strife if you have to leave your job. Same goes for only making friends with your partner’s friends, or your housemates. Make the effort to diversify your friendships! Just because you have a couple of great friends, doesn’t mean you should shut yourself off to meeting new people too. If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at this guide to making new friends in London.
Meet other London New Girls
London New Girl Facebook group was set up with exactly this in mind. To help women who are feeling lonely in London to connect with other women. It’s a place to go to for advice, to meet new friends and to make London a little less overwhelming. Whether you’ve just moved or have been here for years.
It’s unlike many other London Facebook groups because we really focus on putting our community first. It includes rules around things like self promotion and advertising that often clogs the feeds of other groups, to keep it relevant. We verify every member request to ensure no spammy accounts or creepy dudes are let in, and enforce a very strict no MLM rule to make sure the group is as safe and welcoming as possible for all London women.
I won’t lie – it’s a lot of work. I couldn’t do it without my incredible team of volunteer admins. But thanks to that, we’ve grown a brilliant community of women, making it a wonderful place to make those new connections.
Don’t give up on the first try
It’s all well and good pointing out a bunch of ways to get creative and be a little more social. Even amidst a pandemic. But what’s really important is that you also manage your expectations when you’re putting yourself out there. It’s completely normal to not meet anyone you click with on your first try. God knows I’ve been to my fair share of events where I’m so ready to meet my new groups of pals in a new city, only to walk away feeling even lonelier than when I got there. It’s all part of the process. If I’d given up after the first try, I wouldn’t have met any of the amazing people I have in my life now. Allow yourself to feel crap for an evening. Have a moan, then go out and do it again.
It’s normal to feel lonely in London, especially as a newcomer. Hell, even born and bred Londoners feel it too. Meeting new people as an adult is tricky business but all it takes is finding one person that you click with and before you know it, you’ll have a whole circle of like-minded pals to call on. Don’t give up!
Feeling Lonely in London doesn’t have to be your default
Living in such a huge global city, you’ll find times when you’re lonely – of course you will. You’re only human. But don’t let that become your default status. It’s easy to succumb to the feeling and accept it as your destiny – but it’s not. Only you can make a change and – annoyingly – that change takes effort. Which isn’t easy to find when you’re down in the dumps. But the moment you dig deep and make the effort to put yourself out there – even just a little – you’ll start building new connections and things will start to get easier.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with their mental health, you can find support and resources on mental health charity Mind’s website or see the NHS’ list of mental health helplines and organisations here.
For confidential support, you can also call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.