Loneliness and social isolation can have an impact on memory, mental and physical health. 45% of adults feel occasionally, sometimes or often lonely in England (Campaign to end lonliness). This equates to an estimate of 1.3 million people in Greater Manchester alone.
The COVID-19 outbreak has made it harder to be with others. Contact with family and friends continues to be limited, and social and leisure activities are restricted, which can cause feelings of loneliness – particularly if you are staying at home.
Most people spend part of every day surrounded by strangers, whether on their daily commute, sitting in a park or cafe, or visiting the supermarket. Yet many of us remain in self-imposed isolation, believing that reaching out to a stranger would make you both feel uncomfortable. These beliefs may be unwarranted. In fact, research suggests that we often underestimate the positive impact of connecting with others for both our own and others' wellbeing.
'Happy Benches’ encourage people to sit down and chat with strangers. On each bench is a clear sign-post that by sitting on the bench you don't mind a stranger coming to say hello.
Humans are inherently social animals, who are made happier and healthier when connected to others. Feeling isolated and lonely, in contrast, is a stress factor that poses a health risk comparable to smoking and obesity.
The project goal is to set up 5 "happy benches" across Greater Manchester, fostering 1000 conversations per month per bench. Over a year, the aim is to positively impact over 100,000 individuals from the Manchester community and support them in the fight against loneliness (2 people x 1000 conversations/ month x 12 months x 5 benches)