Loneliness is a very common experience – something most of us will feel from time to time. When we were creating this hub, ākonga (learners) said loneliness was one of the biggest challenges they were facing.
Loneliness is something you feel when you want to connect with others, but feel alone. You might literally be on your own, or you might have many people around you. Loneliness isn’t a reflection of how many people are physically present in your life.
Some people mentioned experiencing loneliness because they were online or distance learners. Some were work-based learners who were the only apprentice or trainee in their workplace. Some had disabilities and health challenges and were living inand lived in environments that didn’t enable them to fully participate. Some were going through a loss, a breakup, or had just moved to a new place. Some simply felt unsure about how to get to know their classmates.
Whatever brought you to this page, the one thing we can say for sure is that if you’re feeling a bit lonely, you’re not alone.
“In life, there are people whose voices will not get heard, such as those with disabilities or those for whom English isn’t a first language. Ask their opinion and give them time to answer. You will often find great ideas and different perspectives.”
Bachelor of Engineering (Civil)
Loneliness can make you feel unmotivated and trap you into a spiral of wanting to stay on your own but the best anecdote is to try to start connecting with other people again.
Here are some tips to help you get through
Loneliness is a signal from your mind that you’re in need of meaningful connection. Just noticing your feelings (and trying not to shame yourself about them) is a big step towards addressing them. Small Steps have a great tool to help you understand loneliness.
When you go out, smile and say “kia ora!” to the bus driver, check-out operators and shop assistants. These small interactions will boost your wellbeing and build your confidence. If you’re worried you’ll say the wrong thing, Just a Thought has an awesome guide to help you build confidence to have conversations.
Reach out to an old friend or a whānau member you’ve lost touch with. They might be feeling the same way you are. Research has shown we don’t realise how much the people in our lives appreciate hearing from us. Give it a try!
Whether you live near your whānau or hometown, have strong connections to your culture or it is something you’re still working on, that’s okay! Every effort is important and can bring more meaning to your life. Find someone you work or learn with who speaks the same language as you, or enrol in a language class! Cook your favourite meal from home to share with someone or reach out to that Aunty who has the best recipe! There may even be a cultural group you can join in your area. Connecting to your stories and your tūpuna will help remind you that you are never really alone.
Google “volunteer” + your location to find opportunities. It feels great to give, you’ll meet other people like you, and volunteering has been shown to help decrease feelings of loneliness.
Join a club, take a class, sign up for a student council. Being involved with a group of people might make you feel a bit uncomfortable at first, but it’s a wonderful way to form meaningful connections.
Studies have shown that feelings of loneliness decrease when you’re outside. Take a breather, soak up the world around you and for an extra boost, add some movement you enjoy.
Social media can be a positive source of connection but don’t compare yourself to other people and think everyone else is living a perfect, carefree life. Try to remember you’re usually only seeing what they want you to see.
If you’ve been spending a lot of time alone, you may have become quite critical of yourself. Try to replace negative thoughts with kinder, more compassionate ones.
Some people who feel lonely are surrounded by lots of people but don’t feel close to any of them. If that’s true for you, try sharing how you’re feeling with friends or whānau. Don’t feel comfortable? Check in with student wellbeing services or a helpline. Talking about how you’re feeling may really help.
“Talk to people, just say hi. You're always going to be nervous but saying hi isn't a big deal. If you say hi to someone who knows, you might learn a bit more about them and make some new friends along the way.”
Certificate in Fashion Design