‘At university, you’ll make friends for life’. Lifelong friendships seem to be synonymous with the university experience, according to many previous students. This causes a subconscious pressure on students arriving at university to find these other students who are destined to be lifelong friends. Although this rather clichéd statement may ring true for many, it is not definitive. The idea of loneliness at university is somewhat of a stigma. Those who experience this consuming emotion are perhaps ashamed or disappointed to feel this way when they feel as though they should be having the time of their lives. With over 31,000 students at the University of Leeds and over 320 clubs and societies, it is perhaps surprising that so many students find themselves struggling with this issue.
Why is it then that students feel so lonely? Perhaps the most obvious reason is that university provides significantly fewer contact hours than at school. Equally difficult is the adjustment to lectures and seminars instead of small classes, not to mention the fact that students may find themselves with different people in each lecture. Joining societies seems like a straight-forward solution, however, many societies meet up just once a week. Given these issues, perseverance is key; it may take longer than you would hope but you will eventually make friends with students in your lectures and at your chosen societies.
In the meantime, what can you do to battle loneliness? If you do not immediately have a particular group of friends, try not to worry about it. As frustrating as it is, time is both your enemy and your enabler, so try to exercise patience. There are a variety of ways to combat loneliness and although it is completely subjective to the individual, here are some suggestions to help you along the way:
Get a sense of purpose
Sitting in your room with nothing but your four walls to keep you company will not help you in the slightest. Try structuring your day: make a timetable, however loose or rigid it may be, and follow it.
Get out of the house and get some fresh air. This is beneficial both for your mental and physical health and will also provide you with a sense of purpose – action and activity do not go hand in hand with loneliness!
Talk to someone
This may be an obvious suggestion, but don’t suffer in silence. The University of Leeds has a ‘Nightline’ available for you to talk to someone anonymously and in complete confidence. Additionally, don’t be afraid to reach out to your personal tutor. They are there to help you in all aspects of university life and they will be glad you sought them out.
If you do not feel like talking to someone you’re not well acquainted with, try calling your family. Students often forget that parents are adjusting to a new way of life too and don’t realise how much a call home means.
There are so many people willing to help, so let them.
Do something you love
What is something you really enjoyed doing in the past? Do it again.
Loneliness gets worse the more you think about it, so try your best not to. Distract yourself and pick up something you’ve previously enjoyed doing. Re-read all the Harry Potter books, go swimming, draw a picture. If it has made you happy before, why not do it again?
Get off social media
Social media like Instagram and Facebook is so second nature now that we don’t even realise how much it controls our lives.Looking at endless photos of groups of friends, family and celebrities may worsen your loneliness and make you feel detached.
It would be unreasonable to advise deleting social media, however, try and limit the time you spend on it. For example, try the old-fashioned approach; when walking to lectures keep your phone in your bag, look up and smile at people – happiness is contagious! When at home, listen to a podcast or an audiobook. Both are vastly underrated and listening to someone’s voice can really boost your mood.
Loneliness by its very essence is the feeling of being alone, but it is important to remember that it is not a unique nor permanent feeling. If you are experiencing loneliness it is essential to be proactive. Think positively and fight it!