Loneliness: The Next Pandemic
"How you doin'?" thrown out to an acquaintance as one briskly walks the grocery store aisle... or ... "How was your morning?" launched at our friend before we began a tirade of how awful our day had been... all simply "courtesy queries" that deny our ability to form deep connections with others.
And within such interactions, we lose our chances for deeper connections. The connection that very well may be the only real chance at conversation for some of us living alone, and without a social support circle.
Loneliness is the next epidemic. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted this degrading human condition, but now with the world moving on to a new normal, many of us have either forgotten or gotten compassion fatigue from attending to the lonely (or our own loneliness). Forms of loneliness have existed since ancient times due to practices that promoted isolating people who were deemed as social outcastes, having medical or mental health issues, criminals, and rule breakers. As recent as 2021 it is reported that over half the population in the United States have 'felt lonely" (Sander, 2022). This includes people who have difficulty making social connections, who do not have friends or relatives they can depend on, and not having substantially authentic relationships. And the data is staggering when compared worldwide.
What can we do in our daily lives to address this? Here are some steps:
1. Slow down the pace of our lives.
2. Practice self-care strategies to address any personal loneliness.
3. Listen to podcasts or online materials if no other person is available.
4. Practice mindfulness.
5. Connect compassionately with others.
6. Practice conversations with others on a deeper level.
7. Form a community group that can reach out regularly to those who are
experiencing involuntary isolation.
So the next time you ask someone, "Hey, how are you?"... slow down a bit, look at their face, and open your ears and heart... and listen. You may just make their day brighter, and yours as well.
Sander, V. (reviewer). (August 23, 2022). Loneliness Statistics 2022: Demographics, USA & Worldwide. Social Self.