A post on face book caught my eye today, a young woman wrote “Please excuse the silly question but how do I make friends with other adults? As a kid and teen I had lots of friends but now I have very few people in my life and I’m not sure how to change that, I know I need friends.”
An instagram post also catches my attention, a friend of mine bravely writes “you can interrupt me” she mentions that one in four people are lonely and says that you or anyone for that matter can interrupt her. She says that the amount of people she has been in contact with who have expressed that they are lonely is heart shattering.
In a time when our lives are filled with busyness, over goal setting and living our lives from behind our keyboards, I don’t know about you but I am seriously concerned. The loneliness epidemic is affecting people from all walks of life, it’s no longer just the silent killer of the elderly.
Mental health issues are on the rise, men’s suicide rates are at an alarming high and most people I know are too busy to have quality time with their own families let alone making new friends or opening their doors to peers and strangers who feel lonely.
I loved my friend’s instagram post, I read her words and cheered for her compassion and heart “you can interrupt me” in times like these those words are incredibly powerful.
Loneliness is increasingly being recognised around the world as a significant health and social issue. Anxiety about social interactions is also common. Meeting people at parties, talking to unfamiliar people, and speaking with someone in authority is reported to provoke the most anxiety.
Higher levels of loneliness are associated with higher levels of social interaction anxiety and psychological distress, less social interaction, and poorer quality of life.
In 2015, researchers at UCLA discovered that social isolation triggers cellular changes that result in chronic inflammation, predisposing the lonely to serious physical conditions like heart disease, stroke, metastatic cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease. The loneliness epidemic isn’t just breaking our hearts it’s killing us.
Let’s go back to the Facebook post from the young woman asking how to make adult friends. She is one of the brave, she is doing something about her loneliness by reaching out but the cold hard truth is that loneliness statistics are actually difficult to compile because loneliness still has a stigma attached to it and a measurement. If you are lonely and you are young you must be doing something wrong.
Where am I going with this? Well I am hoping you read this blog and feel stirred to do something about it. It’s been said that volunteering just two hours of your time a month will improve your well being out of sight. So why not volunteer some time to soothe the loneliness of others and if you feel too busy to do that please take a look at the statistics and the health issues related to loneliness.
Or you may want to post something like my friend did and let people know that they can interrupt you on any day not just on R U OK day? Which is a brilliant movement that goes straight to the heart of mental health and loneliness. You could start your own campaign or go and get some training in a skill that will allow you to bring others together.
I know that is why I started doing and teaching women’s and men’s circle. Which is a non-therapy group experience for sharing, creating and supporting each other.
Feel lonely? Here are some tips for beating the loneliness epidemic:
- Join a club
- Take up a group activity
- Invite people over to share a meal
- Open yourself up to in person connection (wish more people a nice day)
- Carve out designated social interaction time by attending a women’s or men’s circle
- Sign up for that workshop or class you’ve been eyeing off
- Don’t keep a tally with friends, if Fred or Jenny haven’t called you in six months, let it go and pick up the phone
- Visit family more often
- If you notice someone displaying signs of loneliness ask them to do something with you (Be a connection crusader!)
- Add a social interaction element to your business or workplace for clients or your peers
- Get out of your comfort zone and try new activities or meet up’s (remember pushing through the fear will be great for your health)
- Take up mindful practices or meditation both of these things will help you to be more present and more capable of quality social interaction
- Use the quality over quantity rule. Quality time with one other person is better than trying to fit in too much in with too many people and not really being present
- If you feel lonely reach out and ask for help and company, know that if you speak up you may just help one other person to release themselves from the stigma attached to loneliness