The pink colored magazine, with a side view of a woman’s face jumped out from the shelf at me. I was sitting in the doctor’s waiting room. The headline called out how loneliness is the next big health crisis. Experts in the field are finding, as a society, we are not creating meaningful connections. I drew my own conclusions; we have so many ways to stay connected, yet many of us experience deep feelings of isolation. Technology and social media designed to bring us together is pushing us further apart. I believe we all experience bouts of loneliness and isolation; probably more than we want to admit.
I have found loneliness will have its seasons. Some seasons quite long. While there may be times I truly love my solitude, this same scenario for others could make them miserable. It is also hard on me when solitude is not what I am seeking at the time, or my choice. I am learning about having more alone time, as the activity level in the house has changed, it’s quiet, something I used to yearn for. It takes patience and understanding to unlock the mystery of why this can be such an uncomfortable place at times.
According to the article in the pink magazine, aka Psychology Today, “loneliness is a problem of epidemic proportions, affecting millions from all walks of life. But while its roots are complex, remedies may be within reach.” Like all problems that we are faced with, the tools required may force us out of our comfort zone.
Physically, loneliness can put us all at risk for an early death. “Insufficient social connection is a bigger risk factor than obesity and the equivalent of smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day,” the epidemic, states PT is only getting worse. According to a Brigham Young University professor, more than 42 million Americans over the age of 45 are estimated to suffer from “chronic loneliness.” BYU says this is a result of society becoming less socially connected. An interesting point the author makes in PT: the more people that we are around, the more isolated we can feel. We don’t have to be alone to feel alone.
What does it take to overcome loneliness and prevent ourselves from slipping further into its grips? I would like the answer to be a quick fix; but it isn’t. To go to battle with loneliness it is suggested we try the following:
Small Talk. Start a conversation with a stranger. According to the author chit-chat makes us happy.
Interesting conversation. It takes seven minutes for a conversation to go somewhere. It is recommended to hang in there at least seven minutes or more.
Face time. Having a face-to-face conversation, in-person or through Facetime builds our spirits.
Limit social media. Use it to make meaningful connections. Showing off will not allow you to connect authentically, according to the author.
How neighborly are you? The author suggests we all get to know those who live around us. This connects us. In fact, I have a neighbor I need to introduce myself to. On the to-do list this spring.
Creativity. Participate with like-minded people who are also creative and like the same things you do. I joined a vegan group through Meet Up. I loved it.
Don’t hold it in. Let those around you know how you are feeling and if more support is needed, seek out a qualified therapist to help you get through.
We know loneliness can make us feel bad inside. It can make us feel so bad we want to strike out at others. Because the pain is sometimes too great to hold in and we want to lash out. There are many types of loneliness that can cause us to react in different ways. Gaining greater understanding of how we got to this point and a strategy to get out of it, helps to put it behind us.
The good news is we are not alone in our suffering, but we do have to connect with others to pull out from under it and build a new tribe. We are social beings, with a need to belong and bond with others. This means going beyond Facebook messenger and conversations by text, as these engagements can make us feel even less connected.
Post script: Seniors can suffer terribly with loneliness. There are many great organizations for helping seniors. Contact local houses of worship or just Google some key words about volunteering or working with the elderly. Here is a helpful link: Click Here. Our veterans also suffer there are some wonderful and rewarding organizations that help. Here is a link to check out: Click here
When we help others, we help ourselves.