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No, I'm not talking about the coronavirus. I'm talking about another epidemic that 3 out of 5 Americans suffer from every day. The problem is worse among older Americans: 43% claim they are suffering.
What is this epidemic? Loneliness.
Connected Yet Isolated
Ironically, as technology has become more connected than ever we seem to be feeling disconnected and isolated. As we get older, we also seem to become more isolated than ever. Experts say that loneliness and social isolation have been estimated to shorten a person’s life by 15 years, equivalent in impact to being obese or smoking 15 cigarettes per day.
Loneliness and Depression: A Vicious Cycle
Depression and loneliness are often intertwined. One study found that loneliness functions as both a symptom of depression and a predictor of depression. Loneliness can trigger feelings of depression and depression can create feelings of isolation. As the time moves on, feelings of loneliness increase and symptoms of depression increase. Although this loop can feel impossible to break, there are some things you can do to get out of it.
Reach Out Even If It's Hard
Learning how to build stronger connections with others, how to communicate more effectively, and even how to see yourself in a more positive light can make a real difference.
The key is building real connections in person with real people. Having 200K friends on social media is not going to help. The best place to start is with the existing relationship you have now. It can be hard to to make the first move, especially if you've drifted away from people but making that effort will be worth it in the long run. Start with something easy, like an email or text just reaching out to say, "Hey, been thinking about you. Would love to get together sometime soon."
Talk About Loneliness: More People Should
The first step toward dealing with a problem is admitting that it's a problem. Hardly anyone talks about being lonely. That's because our society values the strong, individual willing to go it alone to be successful. But, we need people. We're wired that way. We need more people willing to go against the stigma that feeling lonely is weak or only something losers experience. I feel lonely many times being an entrepreneur working by myself. There, I said it. You can too.
Be Kind to Yourself
Getting rid of negative self-talk can go a long way toward combatting loneliness. Make an effort to catch negative thoughts and replace them with a positive message. By beating yourself up, you add fuel to fire because not only are you missing out on social connections you're also creating a hostile relationship with yourself. This takes practice, but it can significantly improve your life.
Do you feel lonely? What do you do to get out of it? I'd love to hear from you. And remind you that you're not alone. Many of us feel lonely too but we can get through it together.
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