I listened to a program about loneliness and was struck by how much of it there is in society today. We’ve become isolated by the very technology that was designed to connect us.
We can also be isolated because of family constellations spreading out across the globe, rather than remaining in their childhood communities, or family nearby who sadly are locked into their mobile phones and think that is the new way of ‘connecting.’
The program focused mainly on aging in England. In a country of approximately 53 million people, a heartbreaking statistic that came from a study is that fully 200,000 older residents reported they went 30 or more days with no meaningful communication between themselves and loved ones or friends.
A nod from the postman or grocer or a medical check-up was about all they got. Chances are, because some may be embarrassed to admit they are lonely, 200,000 lonely folks may be far below the actual number touched by loneliness.
In a previous post I wrote about the five key pieces for lifelong wellness. Number four is thinking positively and surrounding yourself with positive people, which hopefully is synonymous with loved ones with whom we have deep and playful conversations.
It needs to be a regular part of life, connecting physically and emotionally with others. We know infants cannot survive without touch, and it seems likely that none of us can for any length of time.
Loneliness Harms Your Health
This latest study suggests that loneliness has serious health implications. The researchers determined that chronic loneliness is a greater risk to health than smoking 15 cigarettes every day!
It is also dangerous than obesity. Dying from a broken heart is not just an expression – it is a true health risk to feel alone and disconnected.
What Can We Do?
Whether you are feeling lonely or know someone you suspect may be lonely, something as simple as a shared pot of soup can work miracles. As a woman living by myself, I’ve always said that eating by myself is one of my least favorite things to do.
I make a point to share meals with friends and family on a regular basis and love to make simple meals for them. I’m also blessed to have close connections with my clients where a sense of mutual respect and trust exists.
Other Ways of Connecting
Remembering that some people may be embarrassed to admit they are lonely, look around and invite someone in for a cup of tea and keep it simple. If you are the one who is feeling lonely and are able to get out and about, visit your local library or neighborhood grocery store.
Once again, being aware of how technology can isolate you from others, pass by the automated book check outs and go up and say hello to the librarian. Ask for recommendations on new books or check out the library’s event listings.
Go through the grocery aisle that has a human, and talk with them. You’ll make their day happier too. More research shows that even these simple engagements with local shopkeepers or librarians can lift the spirit and add some spice to your day.
Another way to overcome loneliness is by volunteering to do something that you find rewarding. It may be holding newborns in an intensive care nursery, bringing a talent you have to a retirement home, or helping out at an animal shelter. It’s a wonderful way to lift your spirits and make a positive difference.
The Sixty and Me community, while an online form of connecting, also gives us all an opportunity for sharing our ideas and thoughts. It’s a safe place for interaction, and the large number of women who join the conversation says it does us all a tremendous service.
My Favorite Soup for a Gathering
A slow cooker makes it easy to prepare a shared meal, as does a big pot of soup. A very easy to make, delicious bowl of Tuscan Bean soup is always a crowd pleaser, and very easy to make. If you’re not one to soak your beans overnight, choosing a few cans of organic beans will do just fine. Head on over to my blog post for the recipe and give it a try.
Do you think loneliness is a problem in your community? How have you been touched by loneliness? What are some of the ways you deal with it? Please share your tips and join the conversation!