Doing Life Together

sad-2637841_1920During Jan’s recent check-up, she decided to tell her doctor that she was feeling lonely. Loneliness was eating away at her, stealing her joy and making it difficult to get up in the mornings. Jan is not alone and considered part of a new epidemic sweeping the country.

Recently, researchers at Brigham Young University conducted two meta-analysis studies on the impact of loneliness on health. Based on those studies, they made the determination that loneliness is at an epidemic rate and is associated with early death. In fact, social isolation, living alone and loneliness have more of an impact on health than high blood pressure, smoking, obesity and lack of exercise.

As we look for ways to help lonely people, we might think that simply surrounding ourselves with more people would be an answer. But loneliness is not the result of being alone. It is a feeling that is accompanied by a state of mind. You can be in the middle of a crowd of people and still feel alone.

The key to combatting loneliness is social connection. With all the changes in society, we have become more disconnected to each other. People no longer put down roots as they did in year past and families are more unstable. We don’t know our neighbors and spend more time on screens then on real-time relationships.

Loneliness is a feeling not a fact. You can change that feeling by doing several things:

  1. Volunteer. This has the benefit of altruism and often brings gratitude for what you have in your own life. Focus your attention on someone in need. This other-person focus will take your mind off of feeling lonely and will help you help someone else.
  2. Build friendships: Smile, make eye contact, invite people to your house, an outing, church, etc. Make efforts to stay connected with other people and take the time to make friends.
  3. Join a club or interest group. When you meet with others with like interests, you are bound to make friends. So look for a cooking class, a travel group, a painting course, etc.
  4. Find an exercise partner. Not only will exercise boost your mood but an exercise partner provides social support. This is a win-win.
  5. Get a pet. Consider a rescue. Animals are wonderful companions and help you connect to other people. The unconditional love will boost your spirit.
  6. Go to church. Studies show that church goers are less lonely so get involved. You can be lonely in church if you stay aloof so work in the nursery, sing in the choir, etc. Join a small group and get to know people.
  7. Strengthen your relationship with God. He promises to never leave or forsake you. You always have a friend in God. As cliche as that sounds, it is true. When we are lonely, we can turn to the one who can sympathize with our weaknesses. Jesus had many lonely moments, especially when he took our sin to the cross. He knows the feeling and can bring you peace.
  8. See a Christian counselor who can help you socially connect with others and work through whatever issues may be holding you back.

You don’t have to stay lonely. Find places to connect and do the hard work of making friends. Your life will improve in so many ways.

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