Posted by: Take Flight | June 14, 2016

Lonely? Connection Cures.

Connect

We’ve all felt lonely at some time in our lives. Maybe when we moved to a new home and/or school or perhaps when we began a new job. For many this discomfort is temporary. For others loneliness can become a way of life due to a lack of connection with others.

We live in a shrinking world. In an instant we can reach out to someone across the globe with technology. With hundreds of social media platforms, mobile apps, and digital services to choose from to engage with others, how can we be lonely?

According to a Wall Street Journal article (June 4-5, 2016), “…85% of Americans have internet access and at least 26% say they feel deeply lonely…The rate of loneliness has increased from about 14% in the 1970s to more than 40% among middle-aged and older adults today.”

Why is this of major concern? The Wall Street Journal article (June 4-5, 2016) stated this health situation is riskier than smoking cigarettes or being obese. In spite of this, not much is being done by public health officials to address it.

 A comprehensive study which involved 3 million study participants by Brigham Young University concluded that the likelihood of death increased 26% for those who reported as lonely, 29% for those in social isolation, and 32% for those living alone. Lack of social connection negatively impacts one’s physical health. Their research shows that investing time to strengthen our relationships can help us better cope with stress, improve our immune systems, and also offer more meaning for our lives.

A study by the Oregon Health and Science University followed 11,000 adults over age 50 during a 7 year period for a national study on aging. Researchers found that only face-to-face interaction forestalled depression in older adults. Phone calls made a difference to some people with mood disorders and emails and texts had no effect on anyone. The findings were published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, October, 2015.

If you’re feeling lonely, the following are ideas to connect on a deeper level with yourself and others:

  • Psychology Today, January 28, 2014, suggests to not run away from the feeling of loneliness. Face it and notice how it feels in your body. If you need to cry, do so, it is a purifying experience and you’ll feel much better afterward. Don’t numb yourself with television, video games, alcohol, chores, or other distractions by “keeping busy” to avoid being lonely. Be with what you are experiencing and practice having compassion with yourself. Know that many people feel this way from time-to-time. By becoming aware and accepting your feeling of loneliness, it’s then easier to move through it.
  • Huffington Post, March 26, 2014 recommends resisting the urge to isolate. Put yourself out there. Show up at a meet-up event or other community activity. Meet a supportive friend or family member out for coffee/ tea or a walk. Volunteer for an event or a social cause. Take your laptop to Starbucks. Just show up!
  • Remember that being alone and lonely are not synonymous. You can enjoy solitude and connect deeper with yourself. Read a good book, go for a bike ride, go to a museum or art gallery, or explore a new part of your city on foot.
  • Go to the shelter and adopt a pet. Share your life with a 4 legged friend.
  • Join a gym and try some new work-out classes. See if you can carpool with someone on a regular basis. You might want to have a walking or running partner. Great way to connect with others and get fit too.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. Write down some things you appreciate each day. This helps put the attention on what is going well in your life.
  • Get out into nature. Go on a hike, walk around a park or the local zoo, stroll on the beach, or around the neighborhood. Join the Sierra Club and go on a group outing. Getting outside is nurturing.
  • Buy a sketchpad, some colors, paints or colored pencils (whatever you prefer). Have fun with it. It’s not about being an artist. Allow yourself some childlike play!

Lonely? Choosing to connect with yourself on a deeper level and also, reaching out to others can be your cure.

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