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It seems like loneliness and disconnection are rampant. What is it that’s driving us apart, making us feel alone and causing us to feel hopeless or despondent. Why it’s getting worse is not an easy answer.
As a coach for the past 10 years, this is a topic that keeps surfacing with clients. In the past year or so it feels like it’s getting worse. It’s not only clients who are sharing this vulnerable struggle, I now hear it from friends and others I meet in the course of daily life.
One of Brené Brown’s famous quotes is the phrase, “as human beings we are hardwired for connection.” If this is the case why is it that disconnection seems rampant in the world?
As a coach and a fellow human being, I am passionate about connection. I’ve felt it. With clients, friends, even strangers. That feeling that you are not alone, that someone understands you, sees you and will be there for you if you need them. Connection gives us the drive to keep moving forward, it creates hope.
This blog is not the first one to write about connection, or the lack of it, in our North American culture. From Johann Hari’s book, Lost Connections to Vivek H. Murthy, MD’s book Together, many more will write about it.
Without connection in our lives we become depressed. We turn to our doctors who in turn prescribe us antidepressants. What is not spoken about is, what are you doing or what belief do you need to question in order to get a different result?
In March of 2020 the world went into lockdown due to Covid 19 and the isolation began. Fear was installed in everyone that coming in contact with another human being, at times even in your own household, could potentially kill you. As the weeks and months dragged on this fear became ingrained in many.
When finally the threat around Covid 19 began to subside, sadly the fear and inability to connect with another human being after so many months in isolation or decreased social situations, had many struggling to remember just how to socialize.
But Covid wasn’t the only cause of isolation, it simply made an existing situation far worse.
THE LIST IS ENDLESS
There are so many things that have led us to the place we find ourselves now, constant and rampant loneliness.
– living in cities
– reliance on vehicles
– intolerance of others differences
– fear of rejection
– cell phones, the internet and headphones
– exhaustion of daily life
– apathy towards others
– individualist culture
We didn’t get here due to one single problem. And trying to solve it isn’t going to be a one and done solution.
In his book Lost Connections, Johan Hari states; “You are suffering from a social and spiritual imbalance in how we live. Much more than you’ve been told up to now, it’s not serotonin: it’s society.” I couldn’t agree with this statement more. In looking at the list above almost all of it is a part of our society.
CHANGING THE ENVIRONMENT
In my time as an expat in Panama my culture and society changed. Going from that of big city Alberta, where our houses were far apart, we got into our cars in the garage and came home via the garage, rarely if ever speaking to anyone on transit, or making eye contact, and spending anywhere from an hour to two hours of our day commuting, to one of community, parties, BBQ’s and getting stuck at the grocery store chatting with people who had just come to town. The society in which I had come from contained little that was conducive to making connections and dispelling loneliness.
Yet in Panama I became a part of a community. There were others there from different countries, as well as my own, with whom I was sharing experiences. Having those experiences in common helped to begin a conversation and hence connection. Suddenly I had more friends and social events than I had ever had in my life. Loneliness had been left behind in Alberta with the snow.
WHAT CAN I DO?
There’s one extremely important thing that every client learns when they work with a coach. The only thing they have control over changing is themselves. The change must begin with them. And, like any new skill you are going to have to do it over and over again. Possibly even for the rest of your life.
Here are a few ideas to get you started with dispelling some of that loneliness. Consider integrating some of these actions into your daily life.
– Say hello to someone on the street. Before we can make a friend the very first step is initiating contact with someone. If you don’t get a response or one you would like, keep trying.
– Make eye contact. Making eye contact lets someone know we are referring to them. To often we avert our eyes from others to avoid contact, the exact opposite of connection.
– Take a risk. Invite someone out for coffee. If you get a no don’t give up, keep trying with others. Don’t let a no prevent you from potentially making contact elsewhere.
– Get enough rest. If you’re not taking care of your mental and physical health by ensuring enough sleep then as a result you won’t have the energy or brain power to either reach out or respond to someone who may reach out to you.
– Consider moving towns, cities or even countries. If you’ve lived in one location for a very long time and still can’t seem to meet people or make connections consider how much your environment is playing into this. Many of us would consider moving for a new job but only a few pick up their lives and move to somewhere that will better feed their values, wishes and perhaps emotional needs.
– Spend more time chatting with those around you and less time buried in your cell phone. Not making that eye contact or always being plugged in won’t cure your loneliness, it only makes it worse.
WHAT WILL YOU CHOOSE?
Loneliness and disconnection are rampant. There are a few ways to potentially stop it from getting worse, but those ways begin with you. I’ve made two new friends in the past 2 months because I chose to say yes to someone who reached out to me. By working on who we are being when we interact out in the world what can we create?
What will you change in order to decrease your loneliness?