Lonely people: A growing pandemic.
Why are we so lonely?
It’s quite distressing to realise that 60% of Australians regularly feel lonely. Loneliness is rarely noticed yet has become an epidemic. On a recent Today telecast I watched a segment about “WHY ARE WE SO LONELY?” and it got my attention. It’s not something we like to talk about much, and I think it’s about time we did.
What’s created this widespread global loneliness?
In an era where job losses are more and more frequent, relationships break down, people with disabilities are often isolated and ignored, people in poor health and living alone, some are even lonely in their marriages and feel so disconnected and invisible.
A biggie that is emerging, feeling disconnected as a result of the high tech low touch on-line connection now so prolifically available. That in itself has been a game-changer in the way we predominantly communicate and market with ease to each other however, the fall-out has been felt deeply at a heart level. We often just don’t know how lonely we are and just don’t know what to do with it.
Why do most people not like to admit they are lonely?
People feel shame because they feel lonely. Why shame? It’s hard to admit they’re feeling lonely as they have felt perhaps criticism and judgement from others that they are perceived as being weak, needy, co-dependent, quiet and keeping to themselves, secretive, won’t socialize with anyone. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Are we willing to connect to our loneliness? There comes a time when we have to have the hard conversations. What is lying beneath the temper tantrums, the depression, the teariness, the despair, when people “act out”, hurt themselves and others?
Loneliness occurs in all walks of life, in all wealth brackets, in both men and women, children, teenagers, mums and dads, business owners, people with great responsibility and a heavy burden, the unemployed, the carers and the cared for. It’s astounding that 40% of people in nursing homes never receive a visitor in a whole year! That breaks my heart.
Elderly are lonely and disconnected from their families.
Young ones are on-line at home and at school, and the art of communication is becoming a dying art. The by-product of on-line exposure is that kids think it’s real life. It actually creates anxiety as they don’t know how to relate to each other in Real Life. Perhaps getting a life could be the way to go here. People just seem to be too busy to relate to each other in a human to human way, eye to eye, touch to touch, smile to smile. Even in a room full of people we can still feel lonely.
Loneliness is different from being alone, and being comfortable with your alone-ness and time out. We all need to have our own space and calm the farm, but long-term chronic isolation and loneliness is a mental health hazard.
Loneliness causes stress, anxiety, depression and compromises our immune system.
Suicide is on the rise. Not enough connection can make you feel ill. What do I mean by connection? Some may say “I’m overwhelmed with people around me everywhere, demanding my time and my energy. I want to be alone and have nothing to do with people. I want to go and live in a cave.” That’s a man feeling lonely and unsupported and disconnected. Having a long cuddle, no words are necessary, hold hands and going for a walk is connection.
When a baby watches his mothers face for eye contact, wanting connection as he doesn’t have the language to ask for what he wants. His brain lights up, when he experiences it as a baby and never stops all the way through his life, looking for that happy, contented, safe and secure connection.
Also, regrettably if they are a victim of abuse in any form, if they are the only ones who can see the truth, there is nothing more lonely than not be able to speak your truth without fear of reprisal, criticism or judgement.
Lonely people don’t care how much you know, they just want to know how much you care.
How do we fix it? Start with your family. Your partner, your loved ones, young and old. More high touch, low tech. More eye contact, conversation, touch, doing “coffee”, spending time not money, having a drink, drop by for a cuppa, showing interest, giving a hug, a hand shake, a smile, give recognition, ask a question, and LISTEN.
If you are the lonely one, and I think we all are even if for a short time, move your physiology, put your shoes on, walk around the house, down the street, smile, join groups, reach out to others online, do something every day to increase your confidence and take your life back.