“The greatest gift you can give another is your time, your attention, your love, and your concern.” – Joel Osteen
According to a survey by health insurance company Cigna, three out of five Americans consider themselves lonely — that’s 61%. Loneliness is an American epidemic. As a therapist who works largely on attachments, I see this epidemic as the greatest threat to our mental health as a society.
In fact, it’s estimated that being isolated and feeling alone does the equivalent damage of smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness increases one’s susceptibility to stress, anxiety, and depression and raises the risks of cardiovascular problems.
Connection is the antidote to loneliness. This may sound corny, but what can you do today, this week, or this year to truly connect with another or others? To connect is to share a part of your authentic self and let yourself be seen as vulnerable, real and human.
Social media doesn’t count, and in fact, it’s superficial-ness can hurt. With social media people often create lives that look perfect, which can make people feel both left out and less than. In fact, according to Cigna’s Loneliness Index, “social media has a major impact on loneliness with very heavy social media users significantly more likely to feel alone, isolated, left out and without companionship.”
We have plenty of niceties, likes on Facebook, endless texts, and superficial conversations, but that’s not how you let others know that you value them, and that you value yourself.
Instead, reach out to people in your life that “get you” and are “attuned to you” and be that person for them. Ask others about their lives – you get what you give, and we need each other to fight this epidemic.
Practicing an attitude of abundance versus scarcity is another way to fight the negativity caused when feeling alone. How do I practice gratitude? Set your phone to remind you every day or throughout the day, and identify 3 specific things to be grateful for in your life. For example, I am grateful for the gentleman, who sat next to me on the bus this morning, because his coffee smelled amazing. Normally, the CTA bus is not the most pleasurable olfactory experience. Practicing gratitude is simple yet powerful.