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Alleviating Loneliness: Steps to Nurture a Support System

Now is a good time to nurture and develop supportive, lasting, relationships.

Key points

  • Loneliness stems from a lack of closeness with others, one may feel lonely even when sequestered to a house full of people.
  • Loneliness has reportedly increased from 20% to 35% over the past 20 years and affects all age groups.
  • Changing communication habits and reaching out regularly to confide in a trusted person can help deepen social connections.
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Loneliness is defined as sadness because one has no friends or company; the fact of being without companions; solitariness; the quality of being unfrequented and remote; isolation. Loneliness was an epidemic in the United States even before the Pandemic came. Ordinary loneliness was amplified by the necessary orders to shelter in place all over the world. We have been stressed in many ways with all the changes we were required to make, and for some of us, handling loneliness is one of our big challenges. Many people have been feeling so overwhelmed, that they may not have articulated it even to themselves that they are feeling lonely.

So, I am asking you right now:

*Are you feeling lonely?

*Do you feel that you have people that you can reach out to by phone, skype, and zoom to talk to about how you are being impacted by the virus and sheltering in place?

*Are you reaching out to them on a frequent enough basis?

*Do you speak with them about the things that really matter?

To reassure you that you are not alone if your answers reveal your loneliness. Even before the pandemic hit, it was a sociological trend documented by the researchers that have been following the decline in connections for decades. People have been reporting a severe drop in having confidants. according to the American Sociological Review. A confidant is a person with whom one shares a secret or private matter, trusting them not to repeat it to others.

Loneliness is not just a manifestation of not being with other people. The sadness comes from a lack of closeness with others. So, you may be sequestered in a house full of people and still be lonely, because you don’t feel connected to them. Loneliness is not only bad for your mental health, it’s bad for your physical health and longevity. Loneliness puts us at higher risk for health problems and even death more so than smoking, alcoholism, and obesity.

AARP magazine did a study in 2010 and found widespread loneliness. The people in the study weren’t even that old. The lower age group started with 45. To the question on the survey “Do you experience chronic loneliness?” the amount of people who answered yes was a whopping 35% as opposed to when they did the study in the 80’s when it was only 20%. The Mental Health Foundation says it’s not just older people who are reporting loneliness, it’s all ages.

Divorce Mediation Survey asking large numbers of people why they divorce, 80% report “We grew apart.” Only 25% reported an affair. They felt lonely in their relationship.

The Remedy

*Start by telling the truth to yourself about how deprived you feel and if you are suffering.

*Find courage and determination to reach out to others

*Commit to getting close

*Increase your understanding of each other

*Increase your investment in their well-being

*Have a clear intention to create a strong bond.

*Draw up a Dialing for Dollars List with names, phone numbers, email and skype addresses. This is your real wealth in life. Use it often.

*Talk some risky talk. Go deeper than superficial relating.

*Speak of your feelings, needs, values to show them your inner world.

*After you share, pause to allow them to disclose to you.

*Ask questions of them that demonstrate your interest and caring.

*Listen well and don’t give advice.

*Empathize with their experience.

*If and when conflict arises make every effort to have an intention to learn from it.

*Lead by example by being positive and optimistic.

*Avoid talking victim talk yourself about the past and present and future so you have a leg to stand on to discourage it in the other person.

*Express fondness, affection, and appreciation, and gratitude.

*Repeat the process many times.

For everyone, it is difficult to change our habits. To reach out to connect demands a lot of us. But now that our lives have been shaken up by the pandemic, there is an even bigger opportunity than normal to make changes. There is a chance of creating a healthier lifestyle rich in deep relationships and more confidants. Wouldn’t more and closer friendships be a great bonus coming out of this difficult time? I hope that you will take the challenge to find your tribe, increase your network, and deepen your connections. And I do hope that you will enjoy the process!