CONNECTION – Fighting a Loneliness Epidemic

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Have you heard we are in the middle of a “Loneliness epidemic?” Yep, it ‘s true! The facts are the facts and research shows we are experiencing an epidemic in our country of people suffering from the effects of loneliness. So, what can we do to turn this around and prevent further pain and agony in our post-COVID world?

Why are people so lonely today and what has contributed to this situation? There are many factors that play a part to create a perfect storm of loneliness. One of the main culprits stems from the 2020 COVID pandemic that stopped the world as we knew it. Many people have not yet returned to their pre-pandemic routines, especially those centered around friends and socialization. The places where people used to enjoy fellowship and being with friends, such as services at their places of worship have reported many of their members no longer attend in person and some are attending online services instead. Some companies have gone to virtual or hybrid work environments as an option, and although this allows more flexibility, it also can contribute to employees feeling more isolated and lonely. Another factor that is being reported as playing a part in this epidemic, especially with the younger generations, is the use of social media for connection instead of face-to-face contact in real time.

We know our brains have been designed and wired for connection and when we honor that design by engaging in face-to-face connection, we get our biggest bang for the buck! Research has consistently shown that we live our healthiest, happiest, and LONGEST lives when we regularly socialize with friends and family. Since the pandemic people have gotten comfortable in their new habits of living more isolated routines and many have not returned to the social lives they participated in prior to 2020. The outcome of these new patterns is people are now reporting feelings of loneliness, depression and anxiety in very high numbers. Our world has shifted to a more online “normal” now and the people we used to see during our day-to-day routines at the grocery store, the bank, and our local favorite eateries have been replaced by drive-thru, delivery, or pick up lines at these places. These connections, although only at the “acquaintance level” still play a vital role in our social well-being and even at a superficial level give us a sense of friendship.

This year I have been on the road speaking to various professional groups and corporations about the merits of connection in the workplace. It is my passion to spread the good news of the merits of friendship as a way of helping to combat the spread of this loneliness epidemic. We all can do our part to make a difference, and as they say “it takes a village” to change the status quo. If you know someone that has become more isolated and cut off from friends and family, reach out to them and invite them to meet up with you. Maybe there is a friend who you have not connected with in person since the pandemic. I urge you to reach out to them and make a plan to have lunch or meet up soon. Checking in with our senior citizens often is important to help them feel relevant, valued, and connected. Frequently, it is these seniors who are the most lonely and isolated, and in our post-pandemic world many of them have not returned to their normal level of socialization. Our younger population is also now reporting high rates of loneliness and isolation. We all need to promote living “in person” again with our young people, and encourage them to get back to a social life that is not totally centered on social media around the clock. Using social media as an adjunct to real life connection is fine, but it does NOT replace the health benefits of being with our friends face-to-face the research studies have shown.

Who can you help to return to pre-pandemic normal connections? I encourage you to reach out today to someone who has drifted away or has been off the radar since the pandemic. Yes, we are not back yet to where we once were before COVID hijacked our world. But, with a focused and deliberate effort, we can move towards that goal! People around you may be suffering in silence, and you may be the bright light they need to find their way back again. It is up to each of us to do our part, to make a difference, and the time is NOW! Our rates of suicide, depression, and loneliness tell us we need to be warriors for CONNECTION today! LET’S GO!!!

Hugs and Blessings,

Connections, Fighting Loneliness Epidemic.

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