All of us no doubt has experienced loneliness every now and then. This feeling of loneliness, it can drain one of self-esteem, it can cause us even to become depressed, and it can lead us to take on unnatural behavioral tendencies or death.
And it’s sad. It’s sad to think there are many lonely people out there who will have to deal with loneliness over the periods that are known to exacerbate loneliness, such as Christmas time or Valentine’s Day.
Giving of yourself is one way how to deal with loneliness
Did you know that Britain has already appointed its first minister in the loneliness category – the Minister for Loneliness?
Their job is to take what the Prime Minister Theresa May has tagged as the “sad reality of modern life” and try and change things a bit.
It is also because studies have linked loneliness to huge medical problems such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and what about suicide?
And these are linked to astronomical medical bills.
If you are experiencing loneliness, there are some things you can do about it. Some people will just say, “pull yourself together and just get on with life”, but it’s not easy for the lonely person, and unfortunately, you are the only one who can make the decision to change it, if you really want to. Start with some of these:
Join a Class
Join a class in something that you love, like art, or music, or the outdoors. Join a club where you can expect to find like-minded people, where you will learn to share ideas and make new friends who are doing the same thing you love doing; something even to look forward to during the week.
Becoming a volunteer for a cause you believe in can do wonders. There are orphanages and old age homes and animal care shelters that are crying out for helpers. Why not join up and bring some joy to others and see how it will add meaning and joy to your life, as well as developing a sense of thankfulness for all the good things you have in your own life.
Because loneliness is a somewhat widespread issue, and on the increase, you will find many people online who are searching for other people to connect to. Always be careful though wish dishing out personal information.
Fortunately, there are many legit online sites where you can make new friends online. What about finding a Christian church where the people will draw you in and where you might be able to join solid single groups who participate in socials and hikes and all kinds of wonderful activities that will make you feel you belong.
Strengthen your existing relationships
You probably have people in your life already that you would love to get to know better. Call them up and go out more with them, finding ways to strengthen your existing relationships.
Get a pet (but not to give it away when your life improves)
Dogs and cats as companions are just that, wonderful and precious companions that will befriend you, no matter what. When you rescue a pet from a shelter to bring home, you will receive companionship. Just remember it works both ways and your pet will require what you are longing to find, - relief from loneliness. Don’t leave them alone for long and give them as much attention as you would like to get. That’s how it works with pets. Take your dog for walks and join dog walking groups, etc.
Speak to a therapist, or speak to God about it
Sometimes, getting out there and meeting people does not conquer the feelings of loneliness. Then it is comforting to know there are expert psychotherapists who can help you, particularly if you also feel depressed, and you have lost the enjoyment of life.
They will know how to help, with the right medications and advice to help you to face life better and to think more positively. You can conquer loneliness with God’s word too – see how many lonely people there were in Biblical times.
There are expert topics on loneliness to be found in the Bible - James 4:8 - Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.
Take the first step today.
It's well-documented that loneliness can cause depression and have negative effects on health and lifespans, equal to that of smoking. Explore why friends are good for your wellbeing, then invite them round for a catch up - it's important!
Our social connections can have a huge impact on our mental well-being and our ability to survive major challenges. The stories of support and mutual appreciation told by individuals nominating a friend for Radio 4’s ‘All in the Mind Awards’, and those featured in that station’s ‘Listening Project’ series, all attest to the healing power of friendship.
Whereas isolation and loneliness are a significant factor in triggering anxiety and depression and, perhaps surprisingly, can also have a negative effect on physical health and longevity equal to that of smoking or obesity, being part of a supportive social network can lead to better mental and physical health for many people.
If we accept that mental health is about having a sense of meaning and purpose in life, being reasonably in touch with reality, being able to cope with stresses and being able to enjoy life at least some of the time, what is it about relationships that promote this positive mental health? A number of studies have investigated the benefits of friendships for well-being and from these we can get an understanding of what seems to help.
5 reasons why friendships matter
- In friendships people share and check out their perceptions of what is going on for them. This can help them get any problems in proportion and to develop a stronger sense of meaning and direction in their lives.
- Knowing that support is available from a friend increases feelings of security and helps to protect against stress.
- Sharing difficulties with a friend can help reduce their emotional impact and can lead to new ideas about how to tackle those difficulties.
- Then there is the simple pleasure of being in company with other people that you like. This can often lead to laughter and to taking part in activities that raise the spirits and provide a distraction from the more serious side of life.
- The give and take between partners in a friendship is an important element in its pleasure. People enjoy doing something for someone they like and the reciprocity that exists in a relationship seems to be an important part of sustaining it.
So there are many positive impacts of a good social relationship. However, some people with mental health problems have experienced a loss of social connections or deterioration in the quality of their relationships. People who have experienced mental health problems are more likely to report feeling of loneliness than those who haven’t.
So what can be done to support those people who are feeling isolated?
If you are a friend or relative of someone who is struggling with mental health problems it is worth remembering the value of hanging on in there and knowing that your support can make a difference, even if it doesn’t seem so in the short-term.
For the person themselves their GP or local mental health advice centre may be able to point them in the direction of peer support groups, befriending schemes or drop-in day centres. In addition it is worth considering taking part in activities such as walking groups, singing groups, keep-fit classes, craft groups, etc. that have a social element to them.
Although the experience of mental health problems can disrupt existing friendships, the effort of rebuilding existing relationships and developing new ones can be repaid in the contribution that they can make to an individual’s recovery. And for all of us our relationships are a valuable resource that can sustain us through difficult times as well as bringing us happiness in our daily lives.
Allan, G. (2011) ‘Commentary: friendships and emotions.’ Sociological Research Online 16, 1, 15. www.socresonline.org.uk/16/1/15.html.
Cacioppo, J., and Cacioppo, S. (2014) ‘Social Relationships and Health: The Toxic Effects of Perceived Social Isolation.’ Social and Personality Psychology Compass 8, 2, 58-72.
Clift, S., and Morrison, I. (2011) ‘ Group singing fosters mental health and wellbeing: findings from the East Kent “singing for health” network project.’ Mental Health and Social Inclusion 15, 2, 88-97.
De Silva, M., McKenzie, K., Harpham, T., and Huttly, S. (2005) ‘Social capital and mental illness: a systematic review.’ Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health 59, 8, 619-627.
Leach, J. (2015) Improving Mental Health through Social Support: Building Positive and Empowering Relationships, London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers
Mind (2004) Not Alone? Isolation and Mental Distress. London: Mind.
Teo, A., Choi, H., and Valenstein, M. (2013) ‘Social Relationships and Depression: Ten-Year Follow-Up from a Nationally Representative Study.’ PloS one 8, 4, e62396.
South, J., Higgins, T., Woodall, J., and White, S. (2008) ‘Can social prescribing provide the missing link?.’ Primary Health Care Research and Development 9, 4, 310-318.
Reviewer: Queenie Lee Loneliness is an emotional state that we have when we’re feeling disconnected.
But our need for connection is ingrained in our DNA.
Loneliness is a signal, just like fight-or-flight, that something isn’t right.
Loneliness is a public health crisis.
But one in five Americans suffers from loneliness, which means if you haven’t personally suffered from loneliness, it’s almost guaranteed that somebody you know closely has.
It can cause depression, and it can even lead to premature death.
But now more than ever, we’re living alone, we’re spending more time online and less time making meaningful in-person connections.
So when emotional storms hit, things like losing a job, or going through a divorce, or death, instead of leaning in towards our communities, we’ve learned to suffer alone.
So today I’m going to offer one solution that will bring us more connection and can help cure the epidemic.
When I was a kid, I had a really hard time fitting in.
I wanted to do whatever I could to belong and to not feel lonely; all I wanted was to find a connection.
So my oh-so-wise adolescent self came up with a solution: I was going to be popular.
I carried this thought process throughout my teens.
But the problem was the more I wanted to be popular, the more it fueled my need for attention and approval.
And when I was 20 years old, as fate would have it, auditions for MTV’s reality show the Real World came into town.
Now, for a girl still starving for approval and attention, this was my ticket.
Now, for some of us when we think about reality TV, we don’t really have that strong of a reaction: never really watched it, don’t quite get what all the fuss is about.
But for others of us, we do have a strong reaction when we think about reality TV, and we generally fall into one of two camps.
The first camp is, like, you literally could not pay me enough to go on a reality TV show.
In fact, reality TV is everything that is wrong with our society today.
And then the second camp is, like, “Go on a reality TV show?
“Honey, I should have my own reality TV show. (Laughter)
I would be the next Snooki, for sure.” But with a history like mine, I’ll give you one guess which camp I fell into.
And at 21 years old, I moved to Brooklyn as part of “seven strangers picked to live in a house.”
I love this quote by Jim Carrey;
“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of, so they can see that it’s not the answer.”
But how many of you have gone after a goal based off of the feelings you thought you would feel once you accomplish that goal?
The Real World didn’t bring me a connection like I thought it would.
In fact, if anything, I was lonelier than I had ever been during those “15 minutes of fame.
” But this lesson propelled me into the work I do now: studying connection.
And whether it’s the events I produce or the show that I host, or the coaching sessions I have, everything exists to create a connection, because here I am now, my oh-so-wise adult self, searching for what actually creates the connection.
And here’s what I found.
In order to feel connected, we need to feel seen, heard, and valued.
You may have heard of Blue Zones.
Blue Zones are areas all over the world where researchers have found that people lived the longest and happiest lives.
So everybody does this differently.
Communities in, like,
- Loma Linda, California;
- Okinawa, Japan;
- Sardinia, Italy;
some pray together, while others, they walk together, and others simply spend more time nurturing relationships with their families.
But the one thing that they all do in common is they prioritize connection.
They focus on their relationships.
What I found is that these societies have created something that I call an “anchor of connection.
” An anchor is created simply by spending quality time with people who see, hear and value you.
But Baya, how do we create our own anchors of connection?
I’m so glad you asked. (Laughter)
The most powerful way to create an anchor is through ritual.
Now, I know when we think about ritual, we generally think about religion or sacred ceremony.
But today I want to redefine ritual as something that’s not necessarily religious or sacred but instead something that we’re already doing on a day-to-day basis.
The key to making ritual such a powerful tool for connection is that ritual is repeated action plus intention.
When you combine repeated action and intention, ritual becomes ingrained in you just like habits do.
The best places to find ritual are with your friends and families, in your intimate relationships, and within your communities.
Now, we’ve been gathering around fires forever to storytelling and connect.
For me and my girlfriends, our couches act as the metaphorical fire that we gather around.
Every Monday night we throw on our leggings, we head to one of our houses, we pour ourselves some rosé, we pile onto the couch, and we just talk.
We’ve ritualized Monday nights as a time where we come to connect and fill our tanks for the rest of the week.
And while plenty of Mondays, we’re coming and we’re talking about the things that are exciting and going well in our lives; but on lots of Mondays we come with our tanks empty, whether that’s the small storms that have built up, just daily wear and tear, or the bigger storms, like going through a divorce or a miscarriage.
But whether we’re grieving or celebrating, we’ve ritualized Monday nights as our anchor of connection.
After Monday nights I head over to my partner’s house, and we have a ritual that we’ve been doing for the past year or so, where before bed, we each say: the thing I love about you most today is. And then we both say something really kind about one another.
Now, easy enough to do when we’re feeling in love, not that easy to do when we’re in a fight.
In fact, when we first started this, and we were in a fight, and I would be angry, it would generally look like this.
“Hey babe, do you want to do the thing I love about you most?”
Do you want to just, like, try it?”
“Pssss, not right now.
I’m not in the mood.”
Maybe just, maybe just once.”
The thing I love about you most today is how your eyes sparkle when you’re wrong and I’m right.” (Laughter)
But what I could have never guessed this ritual would do is expand my capacity for kindness and compassion.
And now, when we’re in a fight, sometimes I even say the thing I love about him most, first. It’s this ritual that has carried us through our storms.
So when our fights could just as easily disconnect us and leave us both feeling lonely, instead, we’ve ritualized our anchor of connection.
You know, it’s interesting, now that I know what Blue Zones are, whenever I’m traveling, I’m always looking for Blue Zone qualities.
And recently, I took a trip to France with some of the same girlfriends who I spent Monday nights with.
Landing in Paris was amazing and exactly like you think it was if you’ve never been – the cobblestone streets, the shutters, the windowsills with the flowers, the bakeries whispering: “Screw you, gluten-free diet; you’re not welcome here.” (Laughter)
In France, meals are rituals.
So, dinners, for instance, they start later and last longer, and whether it’s two people or ten people, you sit down and you enjoy the meal for at least two hours, and usually three.
The food takes a long time, no phones are out.
And when the meal is over, you sit and you talk some more.
Day in and day out, the French go back to the table for their ritualized anchor of connection.
Our last stop in France was Nice.
We arrived 12 hours after the Bastille Day attack, where the truck driver drove through the fireworks celebration, tragically killing 84 people.
It would have been so easy for everybody to retreat, to disconnect, to suffer alone. But instead, what we saw were storefronts and restaurants opening their doors.
And even just 12 hours after a complete tragedy, people went back to the table.
They went back to their ritual.
We weren’t in the mood to go out that night.
So we went back to the apartment.
We put on our leggings, we poured ourselves some rosé, we piled onto the couch, and we just talked.
We went back to our ritual.
Because in the face of a storm, in the face of disaster, in the face of complete tragedy, ritual acts as your anchor of connection.
Now, my core desire to be liked and approved of, it might never go away, just like your core desires might not either.
But what I know now that I didn’t know when I was 20 years old, praying that the real world was my answer to loneliness and my ticket to connection, is that connection isn’t created by the things we go get.
A connection is created by the things we go back to.
So my invitation to you today is simple: Don’t do something new.
Find something you’re already doing with your friends and families, or in your intimate relationships, or within your communities.
And do that thing over and over and over again.
Do it with intention.
Do it during the good times and do it during the mundane.
So when the inevitable emotional storms hit, you have your ritual to go back to; you have your very own anchor of connection.
Thank you. (Applause) (Cheers) .
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