Loneliness Can Become a Public Health Issue or We Can Rethink Our Way of Life

The results from a study published by Time Magazine in 2015 says loneliness kills. The study done by Brigham Young University has researchers alarmed, they are sending out a warning that loneliness is the next number one public health issue along with obesity and substance abuse. Feelings of loneliness increases the risk of death by a whopping 26%.

We can become a statistic or we can make an effort to change our perception of life and do something on our own behalf.  In an article about loneliness for Psychology Today, Associate Director of the Motivation Science Center Heidi Grant, Ph.D, said, “More than anything else, the cure for persistent loneliness lies in breaking the negative cycle of thinking that created it in the first place.”

“The process of becoming unstuck requires tremendous bravery, because basically we are completely changing our way of perceiving reality, like changing our DNA. We are undoing a pattern that is not just our pattern. It’s the human pattern.” Pema Chodron

There is a big difference between being lonely and being alone: (I enjoy my alone time, I didn’t always feel that way, but now I treasure it.)

  • Being lonely is isolation that comes with unmet expectations and feelings un-returned, being alone is a feeling of freedom and enjoying solitude.
  • Being lonely is feeling empty and the inability to do simple daily tasks. Being alone is embracing your time alone whether you’re driving to work or just reading a book, being alone is a chosen time.
  • When you’re lonely you constantly seek distractions to help you avoid it, when you’re alone you’re okay with doing nothing and not needing someone around.
  • Loneliness is being disconnected and living with self blame, being alone is using that time to find ways to create a connection whether spiritually or with people and rising from victim-hood by taking responsibility for your own happiness.

I have been through times of loneliness myself, it was difficult and painful; my family was worried about me. But I wasn’t because I knew I would do something to pull myself out of it by seeking solutions.  I’ve used every one of the methods below very successfully. Because they’ve helped me, I am sure that even one of the suggestions can help you out of loneliness into feeling better and enjoying your life.

We cannot wait for the medical profession to acknowledge loneliness or create a pill for it. We have to do something about it ourselves, and we can. The first is to acknowledge it, then we have to rethink our way of life by helping ourselves to find ways to change our situation, consider the following ideas.

  1. Live with a Roommate – This isn’t for everyone but there are positive aspects to living with someone even if they are a total stranger. I’ve been doing it for the past several years and while it takes effort, it is beneficial to live with someone. Be careful, selective and choose who you will share a place with from your heart, that is what has worked for me and it can for you.
  2. Go on a solo date –  Go to the movies, out to dinner,  or to music concert, you don’t have to wait for anyone to decide what they want to eat and you get to go to any movie or concert you want without any conflicts. (Even though I have a good roommate, the fact that we have different interests doesn’t bother me.  I’ve done this for years, I have fun, I love my own company and I don’t let what others think or how they see me as a single stop me from enjoying myself.)
  3. Creatively Express Yourself  – Whatever creative outlet you enjoy, do it. Don’t stop yourself because you can’t draw or sing, none of that matters. Find what you enjoy and just start doing it. (I ‘ve always found creativity soothing and a great way to feel better. Creatively expressing myself has helped me to de-stress and feel good in the most difficult situations.)
  4. Attend Meetups – There are a variety of groups on just about any subject you can think of.  They are fun, a great way to meet new people and a way to spark your imagination. (I’ve joined several meetup groups where I’ve made friends that are still in my life, I’ve learned, had fun and become a much better person for it.)
  5. Mindful Meditation – A practice of calming the mind to achieve peace. Meditation induces a natural relaxation response which has been found to be instrumental in the treatment of conditions as wide-ranging as cardiac arrhythmias, asthma, allergies, herpes, diabetes, ulcers, hypertension, infertility, PMS, AIDS, and chronic pain.  (I’ve meditated for years, there is nothing like it and I am able to reduce my stress significantly especially if I meditate during the experience.)
  6. Volunteer – Helping others in service is a great way to extend yourself and to help those who are unable to help themselves.  (I volunteered for years, I loved it, it is so rewarding and whatever you chose to do not only benefits those you help, but it always benefits you.)
  7. Adopt a Pet – “Forget your troubles, come on get happy” is just what adopting a pet will do. Life is much happier and easier to get through with an animal companion. (I’ve had pets for years, I cannot imagine my life without them in it. They’ve become my best friend, a pair of ears that will listen to me unconditionally, a loving companion and a stress reliever.)
  8. Get Happy – You are in charge of how you feel, no one can do that for you. While it may sound to “Pollyanna”, it isn’t.  When you watch children they are happy just because, so we have to find a way to reach inside and find the child within us and allow ourselves to feel that kind of bliss, after all it is for our better health. (I am happy, I work at it and make sure I remember how blessed I am, gratitude daily is a great way to remind myself to see the bright side of my life.)
  9. Look Through Photo Albums – This is a hidden gem.  Whenever the holidays come, even though there are stories of the immense sadness and isolation, I choose to celebrate my way and part of that includes pulling out photo albums and going through them. I feel great just looking through them and better overall, it is well worth it, it makes what may be a difficult time easier to go through.
  10. Read a Good Book – Books are a way to enjoy being somewhere else, or learning about people or places or how you can be a better person. There is a world of wonder in reading a good book, no matter which type you are passionate about. (My library is different than most, it includes many books by spiritual teachers that I admire. So this one method is a big help for me.)
  11. Get a Camera – Seeing the world through a camera lens can range from silly to serious.  You can take photos with your cell phone or get a DSLR camera with more options and you can use photo editing apps to enhance the images or create a work of art, photography is a great way to change the direction of your thoughts and lift your spirits. (I‘ve had a camera for as long as I can remember, it has been like a best friend. When I’ve gone through life challenges, it has been a healing mechanism that I am so thankful for and it is a form of creativity that anyone can do.)

You can be highly social and have lots of people around you and still be lonely. Loneliness from whatever you’re living through is not the end of the world, it is the end of that part of your life. Finally, for me, I never feel lonely anymore because I am spiritually connected, something I never made the effort to be before. While that might not be suitable for everyone, whatever way you choose, it is up to you to take action on your own behalf.

Let the loneliness you feel turn into compassion for other lonely people, and then decide to do something about it!  Joyce Meyer

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