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Six tips to tackle loneliness

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Social skills are no different from any other skill, they require daily practice in order to perfect. But, with the influx of social media dominating our lives, we are spending less and less time practising our conversational skills, causing many of us to lose confidence in our verbal communication. 

According to the Office for National Statistics, 2.4 million adult British residents suffer from chronic loneliness. Similarly, sex therapist, Dr Ruth Westheimer, has argued that the loneliness faced by millennials, in particular, is a result of our reliance on social media to communicate.

However, social media is supposed to be an opportunity for us to stay connected, not isolate ourselves. Therefore, here are six tips on how you can flex your social muscle, without ditching your mobile phone completely. 

Below are three tips on how to use social media consciously, and three tips on how to choose real life over social media. 

Social Media Awareness:

1. Use Snapchat to take videos of yourself talking, rather than typing out a conversation

Snapchat is renowned for its ten-second videos and disappearing messages, however, since updating the app to continue recording for up to a minute, it is the perfect way to stay in contact with friends and family. If you don't have time for a phone call, but want to practice your verbal skills, then this is a quick and easy way to do it.

There is still the safety-net of knowing you can delete the message and re-record it if you don't like it, but it still makes sure that you are practising your conversational skills. Plus, it is quicker than typing out a message, and just as fun as photos, due to Snapchat's selection of filters.

2. Exploit opportunities to make a phone or video call

As university students, many of us are lucky to have the responsibility of staying in touch with friends and family while away. Having weekly catch-ups is a great habit to get into, as it helps you feel connected to the life that you have temporarily left behind. However, another good habit to pick up is making phone calls, especially as an alternative to text messaging.

If you and a friend have been messaging consistently for over 5 minutes, then why not pick up the phone and continue the conversation that way? Much like video messages, it is quicker to communicate and provides a more direct form of human connection, even if the conversation only lasts a few minutes. 

3. Cleanse your social media accounts to avoid the FOMO

One of the worst consequences of social media is being exposed to everyone else's social lives. It causes major FOMO (fear of missing out) even in the most introverted of individuals, and so it is worth putting some thought into what you are consuming on social media.

This is a case-by-case issue, so whether you need to delete Snapchat because seeing people's stories that show what everyone is doing now is negatively affecting your self-worth, or if you need to mute some friends on Facebook that cover their timeline in photos of their club nights - anything is acceptable as long as it is benefitting you. 

Social Media Avoidance:

4. Keep your phone in your bag.

Get into the habit of tucking your phone away inside your bag, rather than shoving it in your pocket. This will make it more inconvenient to whip out in short bursts of time, such as waiting at a bus stop, where you could instead have spontaneous conversations with strangers.

If you have fallen into the depths of your phone, then those around you are unlikely to interrupt your scrolling. However, if you are present in the real world, you might just accidentally make eye contact with a stranger who will ask you about the weather. It is a tiny thing, but it will add up to make you feel less alone - the perfect mood booster. 

5. Buy items in shops, not online. 

The internet has made it infinitely easier to buy anything that you need without having to leave the house. Everything from clothes, to books, to food can be delivered straight to your door - but the ease of not leaving the house can lower your interaction with people. To tackle this, take a trip into town and spend time browsing the aisles - loneliness doesn't have to prevent you from enjoying your own company, and getting out the house will decrease that feeling of cabin fever that so often accompanies loneliness.

Similarly, continue this effort to surround yourself with people by making small changes, such as choosing to study in the library rather than your bedroom, as that will make a huge difference. 

6. Choose socialising over Netflix - always!

This advice is coming from a very introverted individual, but I still stand by it. It is easy for us all to make a quick excuse over text to avoid a social event and then snuggle down to continue binge-watching something on Netflix. It can become an almost automatic reaction, and you convince yourself that you prefer Netflix over people anyway... Unsurprisingly, this is an unhealthy thought process!

Netflix will still be there in a few days time, whereas this particular event will not be, and we need social interaction in order to maintain good mental health. Therefore, if it has been more than a couple of days since you last spent time with your friends or peers, then go! Even if you only stay for an hour or two, your body will appreciate it. Choosing real life over fiction is always going to work in your favour. 

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