“Under the shelter of each other, people survive.” ~ Old Irish saying
Loneliness is the new silent epidemic! It’s affecting young and old, rich and poor, educated or uneducated, married or single. It is a silent epidemic because much of it takes place behind the closed doors.
It remains one of the most undetected and misidentified public health concerns sweeping Western society right now, so much so that it’s been attributed as the number one reason for declining mortality rates and increased mental health problems.
A recent survey demonstrated that 40% of people don’t feel close to others at any given time and 15% had nobody to turn to or talk to. Loneliness is as harmful as diabetes, equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and twice as deadly as obesity.
Loneliness generally referred as an emotional state but it actually has a biological component. It is a bodily function, like hunger. Hunger makes you pay attention to your physical needs. Loneliness makes you pay attention to your social needs.
With the help of social media, we are connected (superficially) more than ever yet we’ve never been more disconnected from ourselves and each other. The truth is we cannot cope alone. We’ve been designed to interact with people face to face not just virtually. Our brains respond differently to seeing people in real life than endless scrolling feeds. We need human touch, we need human connection to survive.
The fascinating thing about loneliness is millions of people feeling alone and socially isolated but even in that we are together. We are experiencing the very same thing yet separation / isolation makes us feel even more alone. So in reality we are never alone but we are disconnected.
So what can we do about it? What is the cure?
The cure to is human connection. Not just connecting with each other but with ourselves and creating deep and meaningful relationships has never been more important than now.
So how do we create connection?
The first step is to accept how you feel and don’t make yourself guilty of feeling lonely. It is very important to be honest with yourself about your desire to have deep connections with people and quit repeating the same story that you don’t need/want people in your life or nobody cares. Because the truth is you do need people(we all do) and people do care. It’s perfectly OK to feel that way but you have the power to change it if you decide to do so.
It’s rather destructive to predict your future based on your past experiences. It’s equally destructive to generalise people ( there are 9 billion people in this world) based on a few people’s behaviour.
We find what we are looking for so if we are looking ways to prove ourselves how lonely we are then that’s what we are going to find it. So instead, we need to start to look for ways to prove ourselves that we always meet with likeminded people who are looking for connection too.
The last and most important step is taking small but consistent actions. Just like chronic loneliness didn’t built over night, reconnecting with people on a deeper level won’t happen overnight either. You need to give yourself time and start small if you are very fearful and anxious. Take a deep breath and reach out to a friend who used to make you feel best about being you and ask to meet for a coffee. Find out local meetings where you can find people who have similar interests. Attend a class or go to a workshop where you can connect with likeminded people.
And if you don’t suffer from loneliness but have noticed someone who is spending too much time alone please invite them for a coffee and start a conversation. Sometimes that might be all they need to reconnect with people.